This year will mark Acton Institute’s 30th anniversary. We have several exciting events planned that we’ll be unveiling in the upcoming months, and while we are all excited for the future, it’s important to reflect on the past and remember how we began.
The Acton Institute was founded in May 1990, named in honor of John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton (1834-1902), 1st Baron Acton of Aldenham. Lord Acton made the history of liberty his life’s work. Upon Acton Institute’s founding, it was a time of triumph. The Berlin Wall had fallen the year before. The Warsaw Pact was beginning to unravel, and the full collapse of the Soviet Union was barely a year away. Communism was dying around the globe, and people began to realize that the socialist ideas that had served as the foundation of these countries was the cause of the human suffering that had led to their collapse.
While some thought socialism was vanquished from the world, never to rise again, unfortunately, these collectivist ideas made their way from Europe and took up residence in the offices of bureaucrats, in the halls of universities and on the altars of seminaries. Socialism was not dead. It had slowly begun to infect every aspect of life in America. Rev. Robert Sirico and Kris Alan Mauren, the co-founders of the Acton Institute, knew better. They understood that ideas are powerful and the only way socialist ideas could be combated was through an even greater articulation of human dignity, free markets and faith.
And so, Fr. Sirico and Mr. Mauren began the monumental task of convincing the world of the evils of socialism and since 1990 have gained invaluable knowledge in how these malevolent ideas are best refuted. They have been personally supported and encouraged in their defense of freedom and human justice by world leaders like John Paul II and Ronald Reagan, eminent intellectuals like Russell Kirk and William F. Buckley, and Nobel Laureates like Milton Friedman and Vernon Smith. These prominent figures passed the torch to a new generation of defenders of liberty.
As reports continue to emerge which note the growing popularity of socialism, especially among the millennial generation, it’s clear that our work is needed now more than ever.
To quote Rev. Sirico, Acton will “continue to do its part in articulating this important historical truth. This is the truth that is made so clear when we watch news clips recounting the fall of the Berlin wall or see images of Hong Kong police firing tear gas into crowds of peaceful student protestors: socialism has never provided a nation peace, prosperity or equality.”
And so, Acton will work diligently this year and the years ahead, but we rely on the partnership of many like-minded individuals. If our mission, building a free and virtuous society, resonates with you, we ask that you would support our work to ensure 2020, our 30th anniversary, is our best year yet.
“Liberty is the delicate fruit of a mature civilization.” –Lord Acton