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Acton Notes - March 2008

From Acton Conference to University Doctorate

In 2001, Fr. Kestutis Kevalas, a newly-ordained Catholic priest from Lithuania, attended an Acton Free and Virtuous Society conference in Prague, Czech Republic. The event was life changing. As Fr. Kevalas wrote to Acton president, Fr. Robert Sirico,

I was so thrilled by what I heard from you and from other speakers during that conference, that my perception of Catholic Social Teaching and the ways it can be presented was changed. I understood that what links Christian theology, the free market and the free and virtuous society is the truth about man, and that it is an area requiring enormous exploration.

Fr. Kevalas credits Acton with leading him towards doctoral work on Catholic ethics and free-market ideas. Fr. Kevalas contacted Elly Barnette (now Acton’s development director) to ask her if she thought Acton’s research director, Dr. Samuel Gregg, would be willing to act as Fr. Kevalas’s doctoral supervisor. The doctorate was to be undertaken at Vytautas Magnus University, one of Lithuania’s oldest universities. To cite Dr. Gregg: “I had met Fr. Kevalas at the Prague conference and subsequent events. I knew that Fr. Kevalas was a very promising priest with scholarly talent. It took me about five seconds to agree to supervise him.”

Over the next three years, Fr. Kevalas worked under Dr. Gregg’s guidance, and he defended his doctoral thesis on January 18, 2008. The room in which Fr. Kevalas’ examination occurred was packed with clergy and businessmen. As Fr. Kevalas said, “I understood that people are very interested in this theme of the free economy” and its relationship to Christian ethics. During the examination, one examiner—an economist—commented that he “found no contradiction with the logic of economic science.”

Reflecting on Fr. Kevalas being awarded his doctorate, Dr. Gregg commented: “This is an example of the long-term impact of Acton’s work. Fr. Kevalas lives in a country that maintained its religious identity despite fifty one years of enslavement to atheistic communism. He’s now equipped to teach the principles of the free and virtuous society, showing young Lithuanians the importance of economic liberty in sustaining human dignity. It’s a beautiful story that Acton’s generous supporters should know about.”

Call of the Entrepreneur Is Available on PBS

The Call of the Entrepreneur is available for broadcast by public television stations. Starting at 9:00 PM on Saturday, February 16, 2008, one of public TV’s major content providers, the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA), will make The Call of the Entrepreneur available by satellite to PBS affiliates around the country. Each PBS affiliate is free to decide whether to download the master from the NETA satellite feed and air the documentary. You can help influence local PBS stations to broadcast the documentary even after the February 16 date has passed. PBS affiliates will have the license to air the documentary for three years beyond the date of February 16, 2008. If you would like to contact your local PBS affiliate go to their website www.pbs.org/stationfinder/index.html and enter your zip code.

To increase the likelihood of the documentary being aired, please take the time to contact your public broadcasting stations so as many viewers as possible can see an in-depth and countering view of the entrepreneur and their role in society and the world.

Call of the Entrepreneur Premiere Popular in Guatemala

On January 25, the premiere for The Call of the Entrepreneur took place at the Milton Friedman Auditorium of Francisco Marroquín University in Guatemala City, Guatemala. The premiere in the city was sold out and about 250 attendees packed the main auditorium. An adjacent room had to be opened to seat all the guests who wanted to view the premiere. Viewers were also treated to a lively discussion with four panelists who discussed and commented on the film. The panelists at the event were Dr. Armando de la Torre, who is the director of political studies and international relations at Francisco Marroquín University, and Dr. Rodolfo Paiz, who is the former finance minister and entrepreneur. The two other panelists were Rodrigo Callejas, who is an attorney and Acton alumnus, and Juan Carlos Eggenburger who is an entrepreneur and director to several private nonprofit organizations.

When Callejas, another dear friend of Acton, shared his thoughts on the premiere.

The documentary’s premiere in Guatemala opened up a new kind of dialogue regarding business. On the one hand, it helped to establish the moral importance of the entrepreneur in society and also to begin questioning traditional business paradigms in Latin America. It posed a challenge for both the opponents of business, but also a challenge to traditional business people and academics that only viewed business through a purely materialistic lens.

Another heavily attended premiere of The Call took place in Columbus, Ohio, on January 31. The premiere was sponsored by Capital University and had over 300 people in attendance. While the numbers of recent premieres are too many to list individually, the Acton Institute would like to thank all of the organizers and attendees personally for their dedication and excitement concerning the success of The Call of the Entrepreneur.

Acton and You

Sirico to address on “The Rise (and Eventual Downfall) of the New Religous Left”

Rev. Robert Sirico will present “The Rise (and Eventual Downfall) of the New Religious Left” at the March Acton Lecture Series. A new coalition of the religious left is organizing with other anti-free-market foes to squelch any return to the principles of limited government, while continuing their support to further the cause of big government. Rev. Sirico asks, “Can anybody stop them?” To learn more about the coalitions who make up the new religious left and about their rise in popularity, please make plans to join us. This lecture will take place on March 13, 12pm, at the St. Cecilia Music Center in downtown Grand Rapids. Also, join us on April 10 for Grace Marie Turner’s lecture titled “Can We Repair What’s Wrong with our Health Care System through Christian Principles?” Grace Marie Turner is the founder and president of the Galen Institute, a public policy research organization that promotes informed debate of free-market ideas for health reform.