Aerial Reconnaissance View of Liverpool, Great Britain during World War II.
Christine Crowner describes her life as ordinary in many ways. But over the course of it, she has experienced a lot of change, moving to a new country, finding a better husband and being called to a new religion. Her late husband, Robert, served on the Mackinac Center Board of Scholars and left a bold impact at the university level in his career, with publications on topics ranging from pork barrel spending to the distinction between macroevolution and microevolution.
Growing up poor on a one-acre subsistence farm outside of Liverpool, England, is an upbringing Crowner counts as a tremendous blessing. When the Nazis dropped a bomb that landed in the family garden, they were evacuated and separated for the remainder of the war. The bomb did not detonate, but the experience ignited a vigor and passion for fighting for liberty. “Thank God for the Americans” was a sentiment she recalls her mother expressing in those trying times — a sentiment she adopted.
Her mother instilled in her a love for people — even if it meant finding happiness in avenues contrary to the mainstream of the world. “The Kindness Diaries,” now available on Netflix, is a new series on giving that has prompted Crowner to share with her granddaughters that the happiest children in the world are rarely the most privileged. Her mother was a teacher and could have easily surpassed her husband in terms of income but chose to invest her time and energy into being a mother, a decision her daughter made a generation later.
After securing a successful career in the United States and entering into a healthy marriage, Crowner found herself searching for something more. She became a Christian and more intentional about giving time, energy and support to ideas that coincide with many Mackinac Center principles. She is always quick to call out — and rarely has time for — “twaddle.”
Crowner said that she and her husband were philosophically opposed to running for office themselves but were determined to find someone who would make a difference and translate their views into sound policy. That first “someone” was congressional candidate Cliff Taylor in the early 1970s. Though he did not win, he went on to be the chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court and is the chairman of the board of directors for the Mackinac Center. Bob delved into the nitty-gritty of budgets, while she made 4 x 8 signs with clever slogans for Taylor and Margaret O’Conner, who served in the state House from 1983-1992. O’Connor put together a book of state spending; Bob was the analyst for the first edition and Christine was the typist. Joe Lehman has referred to that book as the prototype for VoteSpotter. Naturally, the paths of Mackinac Center founder Larry Reed and the Crowners crossed and they became loyal supporters of the Center beginning in 1990.
Using object lessons is Crowner’s favorite method of teaching friends and young people, a method she is pleased to have in common with the Mackinac Center. If you get the chance, ask her about her candy wrapper kaleidoscope or Christian onions, which are two of her go-to object lessons to help others understand her worldview.
The price of freedom has always hit home for her. She recalled a conversation with a German immigrant friend in America after the war. Her friend said, “I never thought I would be Hitlerized in a democracy — but that was the vehicle to power Hitler chose.” The importance of sound public policy and living out and teaching our shared principles was evident as she shared the history and stories she has been a part of.
When Crowner isn’t leading a Bible study, helping a friend launch a new initiative to help orphans in Sierra Leone or teaching local friends and students how to beautifully paint dishware, you can find her making free-market disciples. As she remains an intellectually aligned and cheerful giver toward the Mackinac Center, she believes that the purposeful legacy she is creating could be emulated by the rest of us — provided we keep twaddle to a minimum.