Remembering the Late, Great Mike Melillo

As seen in Real Clear Markets

If you clicked on this write-up, odds are you did because you knew Mike. Which in a very real sense is too bad. The view here is that everyone should know about the late, great Mike Melillo, who passed away on Tuesday night.

Up front, his death can’t be called a tragedy. Thank goodness. He was in his 80s. But it was very sad. That’s why it’s hoped that more people take the time to learn about Mike.

Every successful organization has someone like Mike Melillo. He worked at FreedomWorks, but it’s more useful to say that Mike embodied FreedomWorks’ mission. What is the mission?

FreedomWorks exists to build, educate, and mobilize the largest network of activists advocating the principles of smaller government, lower taxes, free markets, personal liberty and the rule of law.

FreedomWorks is where I spend my days as Vice President, and some will say the above description is self-serving, or an advertisement for where I work. In truth, it’s worthwhile to describe the mission of FreedomWorks to help people understand just how fundamental Mike was to it.

Please keep in mind yet again that he was in his 80s. Mike didn’t financially need the excellent work he did for FreedomWorks as much as he couldn’t not do the work. Mike was extraordinarily committed to smaller government, lower taxes, free markets, personal liberty and the rule of law, which means he was always working.

To be clear about Mike’s work, “grit” didn’t define it. It’s worth adding that the word “work” arguably insults what he did. Mike was the epitome of Happy Warrior. As my FreedomWorks colleague Noah Wall described it, “Most people hate pounding the phones – Mike loved talking with people. Most people hate going door to door – Mike was a pro.” All of which hopefully explains why Mike was so fundamental to FreedomWorks’ mission. He loved doing, and once again couldn’t not do, what gives FreedomWorks a reason to exist.

While some organizations very honorably aim to change Washington, D.C. from within, the view at FreedomWorks is that change can only come from outside the nation’s capital. The thinking is that politicians respond to incentives just like anyone else, and the only way to steer them toward smaller government and liberty is to change the minds of the people.

That’s what Mike did every day. And it can’t be stressed enough that he did it with joy. Please think about that. There are no doubt many people reading this remembrance who believe as deeply as Mike did about the importance of limited government, but the number willing to make phone calls and knock on doors in support of their passion would shrink. And this truth in no way insults those for whom calling complete strangers and/or greeting complete strangers from their doorsteps sounds horrifying.

At the same time it ideally helps readers understand why Mike was so special. He could have chosen pickleball, or reading great books, or simply vacationing in his well-earned golden years, but instead Mike showed up at FreedomWorks each day to work the phones, and then routinely knocked on doors during the week and on weekends. Again, the embodiment of what FreedomWorks was all about.

Mike died on Tuesday night after a medical emergency outside FreedomWorks’ headquarters earlier in the day. He was heading home after another productive, surely happy day, and also one that in a sense was just beginning. As Noah Wall noted in his eulogy, Mike likely “knocked on more doors in Northern Virginia for candidates than anyone else has.”

Which probably means Mike Melillo was heading home in giddy anticipation of the evening ahead. In case readers have forgotten, the mid-term elections are nearing, which meant Mike’s long hours were growing longer. FreedomWorks lost a great one.