Bernie Baltic, a one-time Heartland board member, long-time supporter, and good friend, passed away on Thursday, March 27. He was 71 years old … and he will be missed.
Those of you who knew him remember Bernie as smart, stubborn, absolutely hard-core libertarian, and generous to a fault with his time, advice, and money. He heard about Heartland shortly after our founding in 1984, joined the board, and helped us start Heartland Ohio. He invested countless hours trying to help the executive directors we recruited for the office; in retrospect, we should have tried harder to recruit a higher caliber of people for him to work with.
He supported ALL the libertarian think tanks. His home–a great condo overlooking Lake Erie–overflowed with books and policy studies and newsletters … he despaired at ever being able to read them, and he was a slow reader. The one time I asked him to edit something I had written, he came back with detailed line-by-line corrections and improvements that blew me away. The guy was a top-notch editor as well as a thinker. We should have taken advantage of that talent … another missed opportunity.
One of Bernie’s pet peeves in the last few years was urging libertarian groups to avoid giving politicians platforms at their events. It became the “Bernie Baltic Rule” here, enforced for our annual benefits though not for events aimed at elected officials. Bernie’s favorite target during the last few years was Kenneth Blackwell, the black Republican from Ohio who, as Secretary of State, pulled every dirty trick in the book to keep Libertarians off the ballot. Blackwell knows how to give a good speech to a libertarian audience, but Bernie collected a thick file of his ideological and professional indiscretions and made sure everyone knew about them.
Bernie was an inspiration, a friend, and a genuine hero for freedom. He changed my life and the lives of countless others. He helped lift the chains of oppression from millions of people, even if they never knew who their benefactor was. If we had a thousand Bernie Baltics–maybe even a hundred–freedom would be on the march, instead of seemingly cowering in the corner.
God bless you and welcome you home, Bernie.
Joseph Bast is president of The Heartland Institute.
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