Larry Salzman is the Director of Litigation for the Pacific Legal Foundation, a national public interest law firm. He delivered the Linked Narrative speech below at a company retreat in 2021.
Note that while Larry scripted his remarks, he delivered them from the heart rather than memorizing or reading each word.
I have a memory from about age 14, riding my bike the four and a half miles from my home to a construction site where my parents were constructing a new building for our family business—an auto repair shop.
It had a strong emotional impact. Something about a building rising out of the ground where there was nothing before, containing a dream of our family’s economic future—I had the feeling, if not the words that this—entrepreneurship, creating, building—is something to admire, it was important.
It is the origin of my fascination with land use and property rights.
The business went well. Here’s a photo six or seven years later with my dad and me, and the 30 or so employees that earned a living there.
Fast forward a few more years, the store was taken by eminent domain and bulldozed. It was a messy legal process that closed the business and bankrupted my parents at about age 60.
I was left wondering, who is on the side of the builders, of independent people who create things? It certainly wasn’t the government.
A few years on, my dad and I started another business. It prospered. And again, the government came knocking—this time an administrative agency, the California Public Utilities Commission. They thought we were selling phone services for which we didn’t have the proper license. They were wrong, but there was a long investigation and hearings before administrative law judges. Just getting the matter dismissed cost enough that it would have ruined many small businesses.
As I sat alone at my desk writing the last check to the attorneys who helped us, that question came to mind again: who is on the side of creators, builders, entrepreneurs?
The experience set me on a path to return to PLF. A part of me enjoyed business. But a larger part wanted to spend my time protecting the kind of people I admired against government overreach.
And that’s my relationship to all of you. Together, we are standing up for creators, builders, and entrepreneurs. For independent and productive people. We are moving the law to protect them and their individual rights.
And in the last few years I’ve had the privilege of sitting second chair to Christina at the Michigan State Supreme Court, getting Uri Rafaeli’s home back.
I watched Joshua, Wen, Chris, Damien and lots of others here defend the entrepreneurs at Cedar Point and Fowler Packing against harassing regulations.
I see us standing up for clients like Ursula, or Arty Vogt, or Mark Shirley, who just wants to sell good barbecue from a truck without government getting in the way.
I could give you a dozen other examples of other cases, or from other departments showing Rachel, or Kate, or Jaclyn, or Joseph, or Daniel Dew, or Elizabeth, or Sam or Linda doing great work and more than they need to, in the service of our shared values. It makes me grateful I did make my way here.
But more importantly, each of you have your own experiences like this with each other.
These are the things we do together because we all chose to join PLF.
We go into court; sometimes into legislatures; often into the media, standing up for independent, productive Americans when government wrongs them.
The emotional reaction I had to seeing a building going up when I was 14 reflected an idea of America in which our government protects rather than attacks the creators, builders, and entrepreneurs.
That America is at risk by a rising specter of collectivism. Our three major programs–separation of powers, property rights, and equality and opportunity are striking back for individual rights and justice.
They also represent the most audacious goals in constitutional law that I believe we can win in this generation. The “we” in this room, together, today.
I am confident we can win for three reasons that boil down to: opportunity, talent, and money.
On the issues outlined by Steve, Robert, and Anastasia, we have the most promising Supreme Court we’ve had in our lifetimes. That’s opportunity.
We have the best talent we’ve had in PLF’s history. That’s not to denigrate the people who came before us. We’ve always had great people at PLF—it’s why we’ve achieved so much in 45 years. It’s a legacy to be proud of. But today we are recruiting from a deeper pool of talent and pulling in the best from every corner of the freedom movement. We have never been more capable.
And we have more money than we dared imagine a decade ago. We are blessed with financial contributors who understand our work. It allows us to take on any strategically important case we must do. We are not constrained the way we were 5 or 10 or 20 years ago.
Opportunity. Talent. Money.
The country I imagined at 14 is still here, even if under assault. It will be here, protecting individual rights for future generations, if we succeed.
So, I urge you to reflect on your reasons for coming to PLF. Tap that idealism. And let’s use the opportunity, talent, and money to fight.
The builders, creators, and entrepreneurs that we admire need us.