Warren Stephens Accepts LIFE Award From Economics Arkansas

Warren Stephens Accepts LIFE Award From Economics Arkansas
Perry Wilson, chairman of the board of Economics Arkansas; Warren Stephens, CEO of Stephens Inc.; and Kathleen Lawson, executive director of Economics Arkansas. (Economics Arkansas)

Warren Stephens, chairman, president and CEO of Stephens Inc. of Little Rock, accepted the annual Leadership in Free Enterprise (LIFE) Award from Economics Arkansas at a luncheon Tuesday at the Little Rock Marriott.

Stephens thanked the organization for the award and for "the incredible work they do throughout the state. We're better off that they exist and work in our communities."

Stephens worked with the educational nonprofit to develop an umbrella pre-K-12 program focused on free enterprise education for schools and students across the state. The investment bank's multimedia educational series, "This is Capitalism," is a key component of the program. The series tells the story of some of the country's most successful capitalists, including Stephens Inc. founder Jack Stephens, Walmart Inc. founder Sam Walton, Madam C.J. Walker and others.

Accepting the award, Stephens talked about capitalism and its success in the United States.   

"Over the last few years, I've watched and been somewhat perplexed by the lack of understanding surrounding the benefits of a free market system. Capitalism has been paramount in the success of this great nation. It's one of the main reasons we are, as President Reagan described America, 'a shining city on a hill.' The capitalist free market system is distinctly American and allows for dreams that often cannot be obtained elsewhere.

"It, therefore, shouldn't come as a surprise that so many other countries try to emulate our economic model. I really don't see many people trying to emulate socialism/communism, and the ones that do wind up like Venezuela … Capitalism and free trade have lifted more people out of poverty than any other economic system in history. And it is because of this that I believe it is my duty and the duty of everyone in this room to be proponents of capitalism at a time when it and its basic tenets are clearly under attack."

William T. "Bill" Dillard II, chairman and chief executive officer of Dillard's Inc. of Little Rock, introduced Stephens. Joy Schultz and artist Daye Catherine Kwon of Episcopal Collegiate School presented the award to Stephens.

Stephens said that because of Economics Arkansas, the state is one of 22 that requires high school economics and one of 17 that requires personal finance classes. Only 16 require standardized testing for economics, and seven require it for personal finance, Stephens said. Arkansas is not one of those states, but Economics Arkansas is working toward those goals.

Also at the luncheon, state Rep. Jim Wooten, R-Beebe, was honored for 40 years of service to Economics Arkansas as a board member.

Board Chair Perry Wilson, managing member of Barber Law Firm PLLC in Little Rock, thanked Wooten for his service and gave him a box of letters written by those who donated more than $3,000 combined to the organization in Wooten's honor.

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