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The Essence of Freedom

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This week an unspeakable tragedy happened in my home state of Arizona. My heart goes out to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her family as she battles for her life in an intensive care unit at the University of Arizona Medical Center and to the families and victims of this senseless act.

It's important to note that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was doing what politicians do in a free country. She was out in the open interacting with people from her district. She was not hiding behind an office or a staff. This I applaud.

Though there is much to criticize about our government and our country, there is also much to be proud of. Freedom of speech and access to our politicians—broken as that access often is—are things we hold dear as Americans.

There has been a lot of talk about the tragic events in Tucson being a reminder that public office comes with risk. While risk can be scary, to me it is the essence of freedom. The only way to limit risk is to limit freedom. And, unfortunately, all too often people are willing to give away freedom in exchange for safety, even if that safety equals a poor way of living.

Today, more information is coming out about the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner. According to Federal prosecutors, Loughner is a mentally disturbed yet competent enough person to methodically plan his attack. The motives are mostly personal it seems—he wrote of a perceived slight by Rep. Giffords at public event in 2007—intertwined with a personal obsession with fringe politics. He is being called a lone-wolf shooter.

All week long in the media, I've watched talking heads blame everything from today's political rhetoric to lax gun laws to the boy's parents for this assassination attempt. While any and all of these could play a part, the reality is that the only person responsible for this shooting is Jared Lee Loughner himself, and it is up to the justice system to make sure he faces his just due.

I've also heard much talk about gun laws and radically changing the way politicians interact with the public. That is talk at its core about reducing freedoms and access in exchange for safetey—or at least the illusion of it.

Americans have faced many challenges over the last few years, and though I don't have a crystal ball, I can assure you that many other challenges will come. Through each challenge, we have an option to either give up more freedoms and pass more blame, or to embrace the risk that comes with freedom and take on the mantle of personal responsibility.

This is true in life and in finances. At Rich Dad we've always preached that the fundamental difference between those who thrive and those who struggle is the spirit of personal responsibility.

Financial freedom is achieved by taking the small risk of financial education, of challenging the status quo rules of money, and taking the risk to put that financial education into practice. And while it is a risk to think differently and to put your knowledge into practice—it is a much smaller risk than giving up your freedom to think for yourself and trusting others to take care of you.

Again, today we keep the victims of Saturday's shooting in our thoughts and prayers. It is a tragedy and a sad day for all Americans.

We also pray that singular and senseless acts of violence such as this don't push us towards fear and despair but only strengthen our spirit to be a people of freedom—a people who don't run from risk but instead embrace it as the very essence of freedom.

Original publish date: January 11, 2011

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