When Jess Yescalis was a child growing up in Pennsylvania, he had two great passions. The first was politics, and in particular, the freedom movement. The second was travel and adventure. Jess found a way to combine his two passions by spending part of his time fundraising for free-market policy objectives and the rest training political parties around the world on how to advance freedom and human rights.
On the fundraising front, Jess has raised close to $200 million from around the country. The work of the Mackinac Center ranks high on his list of preferred causes, so much so that he’s also a donor. Jess explains this by saying that the freedom infrastructure the Mackinac Center has built has helped turn a strong union state into a right-to-work one. He cites the workers’ freedom initiative, which has helped hundreds of thousands of American workers escape union dues. This allows families to keep more money in their pockets and reduces the amount of money unions spend to promote policies that are antithetical to free markets.
Jess has thousands of stories from the 168 countries he has visited, but one story from Myanmar (sometimes called Burma) holds a special place in his heart. “I will never forget working with the leaders of Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party, the NLD, in advance of her release from house arrest in 2010,” says Jess. “Political parties were still banned in Myanmar and military generals ruled the country, so we met in a small house on the other side of the border with blankets nailed to the windows.” As they worked on a message of freedom to deliver to voters, Jess was reminded that regardless of the issues we face in the United States, we are blessed beyond measure to live in a land that believes in liberty.
When pressed about what he thinks is the biggest issue facing our country, Jess advises diligence. “The freedom, opportunity and prosperity that we enjoy as Americans are the envy of the world, but they are not ours by inheritance alone. If we want to keep them, we will need to fight. Which is why organizations like the Mackinac Center are so important. Mackinac is on the front line of the fight for freedom, and I am proud to be part of that work!”