A Supporter’s Legacy: To Preserve Freedom and Free Enterprise for Future Generations
By Jason Barbour, Director of Development
| Dale Phelon spends time with his wife, Debra, and one of their Andalusian horses in 2012.
In Young America's Foundation's daily efforts to help patriotic Americans achieve their philanthropic goals, our team meets with amazing people who love this country and understand the importance of educating the next generation.
In the spring of 2002, I met one such person whom I will never forget. His name was Dale Phelon, and we first met when he was visiting Ronald Reagan’s Rancho del Cielo in Santa Barbara, California.
During that day with him, it became clear that Dale greatly admired President Reagan and all that he stood for: limited government, free enterprise, and individual freedom. It was also evident that he had a heart for educating young people. As Dale has said on countless occasions, “Young people are our future.”
This passion for freedom and educating our youth was most clearly demonstrated, not only in what he said, but also in what he did.
Dale was an ardent defender of America’s freedom and our precious liberty. He knew that we could not just expect freedom to be miraculously passed down to future generations. Dale promoted his conservative vision for the future of our country through his generous terminal illness. Although the health-related news of the call was devastating to hear, I was amazed by Dale’s focus in our discussion. He did not want to talk about himself and his personal challenges; he wanted to talk about doing something for others. He reiterated that he supported many different causes, support of endeavors, programs, and non-profit organizations Dale Phelon spends time with his wife, Debra, and one of their Andalusian horses in 2012. nationwide. We may never know how many lives Dale inspired, touched, educated, and changed by his thoughtful philanthropy, but we know his impact is felt today and will continue to be in the years ahead.
Over the past decade, our team has witnessed the amazing generosity and passion Dale had for educating young people through his support of Young America’s Foundation, but what he did over the last year was truly amazing. It started with an unexpected phone call last November when Dale informed me that he had been diagnosed with a but reaching young people was of the utmost importance for the future of our country. He was eager to meet at the headquarters of his successful company in Aiken, South Carolina, to discuss ways to educate as many students as possible in the very near term.
In the visits and discussions that followed, Dale and his wife, Debra, decided to sponsor Young America’s Foundation’s 2012 Freedom Conference Initiative, a strategic series of four regional student conferences in North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
Dale explained his goals for these programs in a letter to the Foundation:
It is vital that our young people understand the conservative principles of individual freedom, limited government, and free enterprise. Our country is in peril. Our leaders have failed to responsibly honor and uphold a fundamental component of American strength and prosperity: the free enterprise system. If we do nothing, American business[es], government, and families will be led by people with little regard for free enterprise—a system which contributes so vitally to America’s progress and success. I know Young America’s Foundation recognizes this threat, and with this gift, I hope you may begin an aggressive but thoughtfully considered approach to right this threatening trend.
Unfortunately, Dale passed away three days before the start of the first Freedom Conference in North Carolina in March, but his legacy continued there and at the most recent Freedom Conference in Wisconsin.
The impact of Dale Phelon’s selfless sacrifice can best be described by a thank you letter written to Debra Phelon by a student who attended the Freedom Conference in Wisconsin:
Words cannot adequately describe my appreciation for your unbelievable generosity. This conference has been, without a shred of doubt, one of the greatest events in my life. I will forever cherish the precious experience I’ve received from the conference, and I give you my solemn vow that I will never stop fighting for liberty until the day I’m called home to meet my Lord. History will forever remember your monetary sacrifice in the name of liberty and conservatism. You may not be remembered in a book, but you will be in my heart, and the hearts of everyone who attended the conference. God Bless You.
— Alexander Hagen, Ripon College
In the time of his greatest challenge in life, Dale was thinking of his country’s future and students like Alexander more than himself. What a tremendous legacy and example he leaves for us all!
In early March, I was with Dale for the last time—fittingly, at the place we first met, Ronald Reagan’s ranch in California. He wanted to visit one more time with his beloved wife, Debra, and a small group of his close friends.
Two weeks after that visit, Dale sent Young America’s Foundation his final letter, in which he quoted his hero, Ronald Reagan:
You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, as least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.
Dale did all that he could do for our country. We will continue to see the dividends of his investment in young Americans in the days and years ahead, as these impressionable young people become our nation’s future leaders.