Steve Forbes Did What in Vegas?!

A few years ago, I asked Steve Forbes to speak at my big show, FreedomFest, which I hold every July in Las Vegas.

His secretary arranged for him to fly into Vegas in the morning, give his talk, sign a few books, and then fly back to New York in the afternoon. I was disappointed but understood. This kind of grueling schedule is typical of big-name celebrities.

I politely asked, “Wouldn’t Mr. Forbes like to stick around and enjoy the entire conference?”

She dismissed the idea. ”Sorry, that won’t be possible. Mr. Forbes’s schedule is very tight.” She pointed that that Mr. Forbes gives hundreds of speeches each year and never sticks around to hear other speakers. ”He’s too busy.”

Then, a miracle happened. The next week his secretary called back. She said, “Mr. Forbes has looked at your FreedomFest program and is so excited about the speakers and debates that he’s decided to attend the entire three-day event!”

I was in shock. Mr. Forbes took time out of his busy schedule to participate in what the Washington Post calls “the greatest libertarian show on earth.”

Attendees at the conference were amazed to see one of the wealthiest and most influential people in the world walking around the exhibit hall or sitting next to other folks in breakout sessions. One attendee told me, “I was shocked to see Steve Forbes sitting next to me in a session. We had a great time talking. I’ve never seen anything like it. At most conferences, the speakers are nowhere to be seen other than at the podium.”

Steve (as we now call him) had such a good time that he now attends FreedomFest every year. He told me, “I wouldn’t miss it for the world. FreedomFest is a fascinating, intellectually enriching experience with a host of stimulating speakers and dazzling debates on every subject imaginable.”

This year Steve Forbes has agreed to be our official ambassador, and will be giving our keynote address.

And at last year’s Saturday night banquet, he surprised everyone when he appeared in costume as the Father of our Country, George Washington, in a shortened version of the musical, “1776”! (See photo.)  The audience loved his humor and wisdom. They roared their approval and gave him a standing ovation.

The Steve Forbes story reminds me of the true meaning of freedom. Freedom is more than making money and talking politics. It’s what you do with your free time that matters. Sure, we have major sessions on finance and geo-politics, but we also have seminars, panels and debates on music, art, literature, healthy living, science & technology, law, religion, history, and philosophy. We even have yoga in the mornings. That’s what attracted Steve Forbes — and thousands of others who attend every year.

Lee Edwards of the Heritage Foundation said after last year’s event, ”You libertarians know how to have a good time with dancing, skits, mock trials, magic acts, yoga, silver dollars, and fun debates, all in the world’s most laissez faire city. It was incredible.”

Another one of our speakers is John Mackey, the creative CEO of Whole Foods Market. He comes every year. ”I love FreedomFest,” he told me, “You have wonderfully interesting people and non-stop intellectual stimulation.  The debates are great–Keep doing them. I’m really looking forward to this year’s show.”

Why did I create FreedomFest, “the world’s largest gathering of free minds”? Because I thought something was missing in today’s conferences.  Many of the speakers and topics didn’t interest me, and I’d find myself outside the hall way talking to friends or making phone calls. At FreedomFest, we have 10 sessions going on simultaneously, all on different topics, so nobody is ever bored. (Attendees buy the audio tapes if they want to attend more than one breakout session.)

Psychology Prof. Clive Wynne (U of Florida) said it best: ”I think of Freedomfest every time I wake up at a conference — during a presentation — and think of the one conference where I never fell asleep in the middle of somebody’s presentation. And that despite the fact that I feel no particular closeness to the tenets of libertarianism.”

Robert Poole, Jr., the libertarian founder of Reason magazine, put it this way: ”FreedomFest is the most intense, rewarding, intellectual, create-your-own 3 day conference I’ve ever attended.”

I hope you will join me at this year’s extravaganza, set for July 14-16 at Bally’s/Paris Resort in Las Vegas. Speakers include Judge Andrew Napolitano, Steve Forbes, John Mackey, Steve Moore, David Boaz, Nick Gillespie, and hundreds of other notables. Take a few minutes and read what we have in store this year by clicking here.

It will change your life. I guarantee it.

As Jerry Cameron of St. Augustine, Florida, said, “I can’t remember an event in my life that was more gratifying than this convention. It was like having access to all the greatest intellectual food in the world and you just couldn’t eat fast enough to sample it all!”

In liberty, AEIOU,
Mark Skousen
Whiskey & Gunpowder

May 31, 2011