May 3, 2013

Freedom Works

If the collective history of civilization and humankind teaches us anything, it is this: Freedom works.

When left free of arbitrary outside forces, human beings generally choose the greater good in pursuit of their own objectives. And in so doing, their actions create benefits, particularly in the form of new and better opportunities for everyone else. Last week on Thursday April 25, former U.S. President George W. Bush was joined by all our living presidents—Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama—to dedicate the new Presidential Library and Museum bearing his name, reminding us of this very important and timeless fact.

As you may know, I’m not one to quote politicians on a regular basis, especially given the polarizing nature of today’s politics, but we all do well to reflect on the key elements of former President Bush’s message, especially those of us whose mission is to bring the Northwood Idea to the world:

In democracy the purpose of public office is not to fulfill personal ambition. Elected officials must serve a cause greater than themselves. The political winds blow left and right. Polls rise and fall. Supporters come and go. But in the end, leaders are defined by the convictions they hold.

And my deepest conviction…the guiding principle of the administration, is that the United States of America must strive to expand the reach of freedom. I believe that freedom is a gift from God and the hope of every human heart. Freedom inspired our founders and preserved our union through civil war and secured the promise of civil rights. Freedom sustains dissidents bound by chains, believers huddled in underground churches and voters who risk their lives to cast their ballots. Freedom unleashes creativity, rewards innovation and replaces poverty with prosperity. And ultimately, freedom lights the path to peace.

Freedom brings responsibility. Independence from the state does not mean isolation from each other. A free society thrives when neighbors help neighbors and the strong protect the weak and public policies promote private compassion.

He went on to recognize, and as each of us can attest, acting on these principles is not always easy and is certainly not always popular. But it’s the right thing to do because it brings to life our very nature as people who are called in turn to create new and better opportunities for all.

This is the heart of The Northwood Idea, a timeless message that knows no bounds of any kind. It is universal in nature, something upon which most of us can agree, and work together to achieve. In fact, as President Bush observed, “One of the benefits of freedom is that people can disagree.”

He is right. Disagreeing is something we can, and often times should do. Without freedom, we cannot enjoy the very things we cherish and prize most, including civil disagreement. So as we are reminded countless times each day, freedom works.

Have a great weekend!


Keith A. Pretty, J.D.
President and CEO
Northwood University
4000 Whiting Drive
Midland, MI 48640