CEI Annual Dinner 2019: Rebecca Dunn


The videos and transcripts are in from the the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s 35th Anniversary Dinner and Reception. One of the most moving moments of the evening was when longtime friend and supporter of CEI Rebecca Dunn took the stage to deliver a toast to our 35 years of research and advocacy. Rebecca and her husband Bill have been extremely generous and dedicated supporters of—and leaders in—the liberty movement for many years. Thanks, Rebecca!


Earlier today, I was thinking about this and I remembered that I also made a toast at CEI’s 20th anniversary. And then it hit me, 15 years later, I am still on stage drinking. I haven’t decided; is that good or bad? I’m gonna lean toward the good.

I would like to say good evening to everyone, but especially to my good friend, Fred Smith, who is back there. To all of you here tonight, if you were to describe yourself, would you say that you are a dreamer or a visionary?

Webster’s Dictionary describes vision as “the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom.” It is a mental image of what the future will or could be like. I would like to think that many of the people in this room are visionaries because people with vision are actually the ones who change things. We combine thinking with doing, a potent combination found throughout CEI’s successes.

I can assure you that CEI’s founder, Fred Smith, is a man of vision. The Competitive Enterprise Institute was Fred’s vision of an organization that would promote economic freedom by exposing and fighting excessive or unnecessary government regulation. An organization that would combine sound policy with the necessary litigation and activism for success. It was a bold vision and required bold and forward-thinking individuals.

CEI’s success also depended on Fred’s ability to share his vision with others. Fred absolutely did this when he assembled the CEI team. These individuals embrace a mission, not just a position. Furthermore, Fred continued sharing his vision for capitalism and a free society when he reached out to donors.

My husband, Bill Dunn, was one such person. I regret that Bill’s health prevents him from being here tonight for this wonderful celebration. Those of you who know Bill know that he is a man of few words. He was passionate about freedom. If you came to Bill, he could quickly give you his support or he could quickly show you the door. Fred’s vision excited Bill, and Bill embraced it. Bill has always loved a good fight. In 1994, Bill became a donor and later joined the CEI Board. He and Fred went on to become great friends.

I mention all of this because it goes back to vision. When donors can embrace an organization’s vision, they will usually become strong supporters. There has to be a vision not just a dream, and the organization needs to impart this vision to their donors.

CEI’s current president, Kent Lassman, has reached out to the Dunn Foundation Trustees to continue sharing CEI’s vision. I’ve watched Kent’s energy and enthusiasm to our shared values. He has kept our relationship to CEI alive and active.

Tonight, we pay tribute to 35 years of CEI’s vision. Vision by the founder, vision by the team members that CEI employed, and vision by its supporters and donors who are considered true partners. Many are here in this room tonight. All are vital and work together. All promote our belief in freedom, and we, in turn, are deeply grateful. It is a cause for celebration. Therefore, I ask that you please raise your glass in a toast to CEI’s amazing 35 years of vision and then please join me in watching a short film that honors that very special vision. Congratulations, Competitive Enterprise Institute.