The ICAS Lectures


Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Edwin J Feulner

ICAS Liberty Award Dinner

Cannon Caucus Room
United States Congress
Capitol Hill, Washington, DC

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

Biographic sketch & Links: Edwin J Feulner

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Edwin J Feulner
The Heritage Foundation

Thank you, Sang Joo and Synja for this honor.

My dear friends, Elaine Chao, Becky Dunlop, David Hoppe and Ed Meese, your words of praise and appreciation are meaningful to me, and I am grateful for them.

I am honored to receive this ICAS Liberty Award for 2015.

I have appreciated the fine work of ICAS over many years.

For more than 40 years The Institute for Corean-American Studies has been dedicated to enhanced cooperation and to preserving peace and prosperity throughout the Pacific region. Its distinguished panel of academic and policy fellows brings broad knowledge to the organization and to all who are influenced by its works.

The ICAS Liberty Award, over the years, has been given to a diverse group of freedom fighters. Some from Universities - Presidents Martin Meyerson and Jim Laney; military leaders - Generals Tillelli and B.B. Bell; government officials - Secretary Chao and Assistant Secretaries Kelly and Campbell; and to my Heritage colleague Becky Norton Dunlop.

They, and so many others, are all leaders in their own fields and I am honored to join their ranks.

Thank you, our friends at ICAS, for continuing to inspire individuals to fight for freedom in so many different areas.

About a week ago, our distinguished host, and my long-time friend, Sang Joo, sent me an email and said that he would like my remarks tonight to be entitled "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

Sang Joo had previously told me that I would have a total of seven minutes to give my remarks.

I thought "even Thomas Jefferson himself could not cover this subject in seven minutes!"

"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…"

When I started thinking about this phrase and what it means to all of us Americans, I did some reading about it. We all know that it is from our own founding document the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson. I was reminded that the first version by Mr. Jefferson, before it was rewritten by a committee, was for "the preservation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

And that is what we should be about, my friends. It is what we must be about We must preserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, not simply for us, but for future generations.

One of the underlying and yet often overlooked principles undergirding our Nation is civil society. It is a notion to which we have committed our institution in a major way.

So, let me say a word about civil society.

We don’t all have to be full time politicians or (perish the thought!) lawyers to contribute to the advancement of civil society.

Most of you know of Alexis De Tocqueville, the young French aristocrat who visited the United States about two centuries ago and wrote extensively on what he saw and learned.

The unique characteristic of America that Tocqueville wrote about was the large number of voluntary associations that had been formed by local citizens to tackle problems at the local level, without the involvement of the government.

That very concept is the heart of what we mean by "civil society."

Today, civil society remains critically important to our whole social structure.

It is central to what America truly is.

And at this time in our Nation’s history, we are in desperate need for more and stronger organizations in our civil society that Tocqueville so admired.

In my 37 years as President of The Heritage Foundation, I always argued that "ideas have consequences."

And I believe that through the concepts of expanded freedom, of expanded opportunity in education, of increased involvement in entrepreneurial activity, and of active participation in our free political process, we are all contributing to an expanded and invigorated civil society.

Think about what we are able to do in this the land of the free and the home of the brave. And then recommit yourself to doing even more and doing it even better.

We here tonight know that, in President Abraham Lincoln’s phrase, "America is the last, best hope of earth." Yet in today’s world we are challenged on so many fronts that face us as citizens of the world’s freest society.

We Americans do not have the luxury to take our freedom, our faith, our friends, or even our security for granted.

As Ronald Reagan reminded all of us, we must advance the cause and understanding of liberty to our children and grandchildren--the successor generations.

We must teach the young what it means to live in a free society. President Reagan told us that this understanding is not transmitted from one generation to the next in our blood stream. We must teach it!

Freedom means so much to so many.

As we discuss the exciting political situation that faces us today, we should be reminded that in America we believe that we have the capacity to govern ourselves.

This was a new idea in the history of mankind. This is still the American model for the world today and for every day. It’s so fundamental, and so important to remind ourselves how fortunate we are.

We must share our enthusiasm for "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" with our friends, our children and our grandchildren.

It is the challenge that we must embrace for our individual futures and for our shared future as a nation.

Each of us, in our own way, must add and multiply our particular strengths as we take up this challenge.

We must not subtract and divide ourselves over trivial and ultimately minor or irrelevant questions. Freedom is too important for that.

And that addition and multiplication must expand true freedom throughout our land and among our people.

Tonight I am honored to join the esteemed group of prominent Americans who have received this ICAS Liberty Award.

I sincerely appreciate your faith in The Heritage Foundation and your friendship over all these years.

I thank all of you most sincerely for this award and for sharing this evening with Linda and me.

This page last updated December 11, 2015 jdb