A “Little Rebellion,” a Great Man

(Note: The following is an edited version of a piece that was originally published in the Summer 2005 issue of Impact, the newsletter of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.)

On May 3, the Mackinac Center made a surprise presentation of its special Jefferson Award to Sheldon Rose. Rose’s unwavering allegiance to the ideals of individual liberty and limited government has led him to furnish generous financial support to free-market organizations, creating a bedrock for the freedom movement that recalls the actions of the courageous, unsung financial heroes of the American Revolution.

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But Rose has also moved quickly to the front lines when fundamental liberties are at stake. He is a general partner of a large Michigan-based apartment firm, and he chose to "rebel" in 1987 when the city of Lansing attempted to abrogate his property rights by using the power of eminent domain to give a politically well-connected cable company a right-of-way to provide TV services to more than 1,500 of his firm’s dwelling units. The tenants already had cable television, and the city’s offer of "compensation" was not just outrageously low, but lacking in provisions against property damage or inconvenience to his tenants. Rose, at tremendous financial cost, fought the city’s actions for a decade, finally winning a decisive victory for property rights in the Michigan Supreme Court.

On the evening Rose received the Jefferson Award, Mackinac Center President Lawrence W. Reed summed up Rose’s impact: "Sheldon Rose is one of liberty’s best friends in America. Generous, thoughtful, passionate and candid, he is a patriot of the first order who resists the blandishments of patronizing politicians and the intrusiveness of meddling bureaucrats. Among the many recipients of his faithful support is the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which gratefully acknowledges with this award his many contributions to its efforts, and to the larger cause of liberty and limited government."

Sheldon Rose is the living embodiment of the disposition to freedom articulated in the famous Thomas Jefferson quote that appears on the Center’s Jefferson Award: "The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it always to be kept alive. … I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere."


John E. Coonradt is vice president for advancement for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center are properly cited.