(This article first appeared in the Winter 2003 issue of the Mackinac Center newsletter Impact.)

A former Marine officer, I witnessed something on the “drill field” — the place where recruits are trained — that I have never forgotten. Early in one training cycle I saw a recruit whom I now call the “Small Private.” At about 5’3” and 120 pounds, he looked too small to have gotten past the recruiters — much less succeed in boot camp. As I mentally “cursed” the recruiters for sending a kid who would surely fail, a drill instructor summoned the recruit and bellowed, “Private, you look too small to be here, how tall are you and how much do you weigh?”

Unfazed, and as if born to it, the recruit stood firmly at attention and boldly stated, “Sir, this private is 6’2” and 200 pounds of rock-solid muscle!” It was truly an inspiring, humorous and memorable moment. This kid wasn’t worried about doubters or obstacles because he believed in what he was doing and knew that, irrespective of the challenge, he would succeed. Needless to say, he excelled and graduated from recruit training with a meritorious promotion and was named platoon honor man.

In the struggle for liberty and free enterprise the Mackinac Center for Public Policy confronts some powerful foes. Our staff of policy professionals may be small in number compared to the hordes who would expand the state at your expense, but our impact on policy has been significant and enduring beyond proportion to our size.

Much like the “Small Private,” those who don’t look closely may not see the proverbial “stuff” of which this place is made. In the end, the power of ideas matters far more than the influence of the adversaries — and people respond powerfully to the ideas the Center advances. They are drawn to the ideal of a civil society where people are truly free to create wealth and solve problems, rather than a political society where the government gives and takes according to power or popularity.

As we begin our 15th year and consider our blessings, we are thankful for the many people who support our work. If you have not supported the Mackinac Center recently please send a year-end gift. As Mackinac Center President Lawrence W. Reed often says, some tremendous opportunities lie before us — but we need your help to capture them.