My friend left us today. I don’t know what to say, or what one is supposed to say, to make any of it better. I’m sure I’d screw it up anyway. What I will do is give him what I owe him: “thank you” from the bottom of my heart for what I witnessed with my own two eyes.
Shem Kellogg was one of the early giants in the New Hampshire liberty movement. I’ve heard he did a lot for the Ron Paul campaign. I know him from the Free State Project. When I was still living in Phoenix and wanted to acquire FSP literature to pass out, he was my point of contact. When I went to a Young Americans for Liberty conference in California in early 2013 to promote the FSP, Andrew Vermiglio, who has since joined us in New Hampshire, was there too, with a bunch of flyers Shem had shipped out to him. When I finally met Shem later that year, it was through going to conferences to promote the FSP.
Some of the best memories of my life were going with Shem and Carla to conferences to get signers to move to New Hampshire. Those two were insane workhorses for liberty. In fact, when you’d see the pie charts of signer sources, a large chunk came from Shem and Carla. That’s right, just two people doing their best for liberty got to be their own major category; in close competition with even Free Talk Live, with its constant barrage of the liberty message through radio stations across America. They were just that driven, just that good. I still remember dressing in my best suit from my DC days, giving my most professional and polished speech to a prospective signer, and just looking over at Shem, with his stubble and half tucked-in shirt, getting way more than me with his charmingly relaxed “Dude we’re just like trying to get people to move to New Hampshire for liberty I guess” approach.
The biggest bummer of the last few years was living far away from Shem. I’d only see him every month or so at some event, but I always made a beeline for him whenever he’d show up somewhere. Most people did. He was such a fun and chill guy with such a great sense of humor. One of those rare ones who you’re never mad at or bored with, who no one ever disliked (and if someone did, you knew that person was a monster). For me, he was one of those people I could count on half a hand who I always felt I could talk to and come to for help. And if he thought I was wrong about something, I would doubt myself before doubting him. He was always good to me without fail, but never held back from telling me when he thought I was full of it. He stuck up for me when people talked bad about me behind my back. Everyone says stuff like “Oh he was the best friend one could wish for” at times like these, only this time it’s actually true. If you would have asked me when he was healthy I would have told you the exact same thing.
The best thing about Shem is how much he was able to do while being so humble. He wasn’t this genius inventor, didn’t have a business empire, or lead an army of activists. He was just some guy. Shem and Carla were just a couple of really sweet people with day jobs, who just kept doing what they could for the cause of liberty in little meaningful ways. Turns out, all that added up. Every donation, every extra hour volunteering. Every vacation spent working to get more signers. Every hour getting involved in politics, every day taken off work to go be a state rep and fight for liberty in the legislature. This guy’s endless humility, patience, and quiet contributions of pieces of his life really make me feel like a bad person for not being on his level. I’m sure he made a lot of us feel that way.
The truth is, nothing lasts forever. We’re all on our way out. The moment our precious little baby eyes crack open the stopwatch starts, and we don’t get to try again if we mess it up. It’s just a mad sprint to make the most of your time here. While my heart is broken over Shem, I’m happy for him. I’m happy that he did such an awesome job in all areas of life, and in record time. Think about it: no one has to fake being sad. No one has to pretend to have thought he was an amazing human being. I don’t have that. If I passed tomorrow, some people would have to fake being bummed. I’m really proud of you, buddy.
When at first I received the news of Shem’s sickness, I made sure to tell him all the progress the Free State Project had made recently. He did more than anyone to see the Project through to its completion, and I’m glad he got to see us reach 20,000 signers and trigger the move. We are his legacy. I am his legacy. Every year on his birthday, I’m going to report to him all I’ve done over the last year to advance the cause he cared about, the cause of human liberty… and I just couldn’t bear the shame of showing up one year empty-handed.
I miss you. We miss you. We’ll do you proud. Promise.