The Mackinac Center’s 25th anniversary gala, held Oct. 7 in East Lansing, was a celebration of several major policy victories — right-to-work chief among them — but the theme of the evening was clear: let’s keep moving forward.

“We are here in part to celebrate that success, but not as a stopping point,” President Joseph G. Lehman told the sold-out crowd assembled at the Kellogg Center on the campus of Michigan State University. “It’s only a milestone on the way to freedom across the board.” 

John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods, was the keynote speaker and was introduced by Attorney General Bill Schuette.

“We are rapidly ending poverty on this planet and it is due to capitalism,” Mackey said. “Business is good because it is the biggest value creator in the world. And it is ethical because it is not based on coercion; it is based on voluntary exchange. No one is forced to trade. They trade because it is in their best interest to do so.”

Clifford W. Taylor, former chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court and current chairman of the Center’s Board of Directors, served as emcee for the evening. Also in attendance were several legislators and Michigan Supreme Court Justices Robert Young, Stephen Markman and Bridget Mary McCormack. The evening began with the Thirkell Elementary School choir performing “American the Beautiful.” Thirkell — which the Michigan Department of Education’s “Top-to-Bottom” list ranks in the bottom 1 percent of schools statewide — was named the best elementary school in Michigan on the Center’s Context and Performance report card. The Center’s report card is superior to the state’s TTB ranking because it takes the socio-economic backgrounds of students into account when assessing a school’s performance. 

D. Joseph Olson, one of the founders of the Center and long-time board chair, was honored for his years of service and dedication. He shared the story of how his late wife, Teri, came up with the Center’s name, which was originally called the Michigan Research Institute. “She said she couldn’t think of anything that was more uniquely Michigan than ‘Mackinac.’”

The Mackinac Center’s “Champions of Freedom” award was given to two long-time supporters of the Center that night — for in this hallmark year, the share of the credit was widespread for our great policy victories. The award was created to honor donors dedicated to entrepreneurialism, liberty and free markets.

Robert and Patricia Haynes were given the “Lives, Fortunes and Sacred Honor” award. The parents of two adult children with cerebral palsy, the Hayneses were the public face of the Center’s lengthy battle to end the SEIU’s “dues skim” and stealth unionization scheme that took $35 million away from Michigan’s Medicaid recipients.

“I’m declaring that we’re not settling for what some might say is our best effort for the next 25 years,” Lehman said. “We’re trying to establish, and re-establish, the greatest earthly principles a government was ever organized around, in the greatest country in the world — starting in Michigan.”