Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman died today at age 94. His ideas about a free market economy changed the world. He also applied these concepts to the education system, as an advocate for school choice through the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation.
Through a project I have been a part of, I had the pleasure of seeing him and his wife Rose speak at two different occasions in the past year. The first was at a celebration of the 50th anniversary of his introduction of the idea of school vouchers as a way to minimize inefficient government spending and provide a better education for those stuck in the worst public schools. Milton and Rose — both about 5 feet tall and walking with assistance — spoke and answered questions with wit and passion. The years had not diminished their intellect in the least. The keynote speaker that evening was Arnold Schwarzenegger, who towered over the Friedmans when posing for a photo op. Schwarzenegger spoke about how when he was a new immigrant to the US starting his bodybuilding career, he turned on a television in his hotel room, which happened to be showing the groundbreaking series (and book) Free to Choose. He was captivated by the ideas Friedman talked about, which shaped his own political ideology.
Last May, I led a workshop on social marketing at a strategy meeting sponsored by the Friedman and Gleason Foundations, at which Milton and Rose were the dinnertime guest speakers. I was honored to see my name next to theirs on the program, but quite intimidated when I heard that Milton might come sit in on my session. I thought, “How could I teach Milton Friedman anything about marketing?” But it turned out that the traveling had been a little too hard on them to make it to my morning session. I never did go introduce myself to Milton and Rose — I was just a little too starstruck — but now I certainly wish I had.
My condolences go to Rose and her family, as well as everyone at the Friedman Foundation. Milton’s memory will certainly be remembered for a blessing.
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