Thirty years ago, the Goldwater Institute was established to advance the principles of limited government, economic freedom, and individual liberty. As we celebrate 30 years of defending liberty, we reflect on one of the Goldwater Institute’s highlights in 2017—honoring former world chess champion and political activist Garry Kasparov, as featured in our “Liberty in Action: 30th Anniversary Edition.”
When you ask former world chess champion Garry Kasparov why freedom is worth defending, his answer is simple. “I cannot imagine my life without being free. Because if you belong to someone else, if you are not free to make your own choices, if you are limited in your movements, how can you be creative?”
Born in the Soviet Union, Kasparov attained international fame for his incredible career in chess, including being ranked the world’s top-rated player for 20 consecutive years, breaking Bobby Fischer’s rating record in 1990, and famously taking on the IBM super-computer Deep Blue in the 1990s. But since retiring from chess in 2005, he has taken on a new mission: fighting for freedom around the world.
The Goldwater Institute honored Kasparov at our Annual Dinner in Scottsdale last October, naming him the recipient of our 2017 Freedom Award.
His leadership as an advocate for liberty around the world is truly remarkable, and the Goldwater Institute was pleased to recognize him. In an interview with the Goldwater Institute, Kasparov spoke about why it is so critical to be a vigilant defender of freedom today.
“I was a professional chess player, someone who always viewed creativity as a vital element of my life. And I think that only free people can come up with great inventions. They can move the world and human civilization further. And if you want to be free, you have to fight for that. Because unfortunately, what I discovered in my life, from my earliest days in the Soviet Union to my life now in exile, in my position as chairman of the Human Rights Foundation who is helping dissidents around the world, is that freedom is a very tempting target for dictators and autocrats because they can strengthen their political power by taking away people’s freedom.”
Kasparov has seen firsthand the consequences of repressive governments—and he has been an outspoken advocate for democracy. He was one of the first prominent Soviets to call for democratic and market reforms and was an early supporter of Boris Yeltsin’s push to break up the Soviet Union. Recently, he has been a strong critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In reflecting on his award from the Goldwater Institute, Kasparov remarked on how Barry Goldwater was viewed in the Soviet Union and what Goldwater means to him today.
“I grew up in a country where Barry Goldwater was even more a boogeyman than Ronald Reagan. To me, Goldwater is the founding father of the freedom movement of the 20th century. And his ideas are still very valuable because he didn’t talk about abstract values, and that’s my problem with listening to many politicians. They just use words without recognizing that these values, they’re not floating in the background.
“It’s about leading by those values and recognizing that without freedom, you cannot be creative. Without creativity, there’s no innovations. So freedom is an essential element of the success of free society, of capitalism, of the free market. And the way Goldwater described this in his many eloquent speeches and his great book With No Apologies, it’s still very timely because it’s the values that he has been standing for that counts.”