The mat at Kathy Gornik's front door reads "Liberty."
But motorists driving by her Georgetown Road home have a more overt clue about how seriously Gornik takes the idea of freedom. That's because she has a big sign in her yard that cites the 800th anniversary Monday of the Magna Carta, a document that instilled the idea of limited government in the minds of America's founders.
"I just so deeply appreciate life in America, the protection of individual rights and limited government, and what that means to ordinary people like myself," Gornik said. "The peace and the prosperity we enjoy is unprecedented in the history of the world."
On June 15, 1215, in a field at Runnymede, England, King John affixed his seal to the Magna Carta, or "Great Charter." Confronted by 40 rebellious barons, the king consented to their demands to avoid civil war.
Thus the idea was put into writing that no one, not even the king, is above the law.
"America's traditions of individual sovereignty, the property rights of people, the limits on power via the Constitution go back to the Magna Carta and before," Gornik said.
Gornik, 68, mentors fledgling businesses through her company, Aperture Consulting. Before that, she was a co-founder of Thiel Audio Products Co., the Lexington manufacturer of high-performance loudspeakers. The company was sold in 2012 and now operates in Tennessee.
Gornik said all four of her grandparents fled communist rule from a region that was once part of Yugoslavia and now is the independent country of Slovenia in Europe.
"They abandoned everything that they had — families and property — and got on boats and sailed to an unknown place," she said. "And I feel a great sense of gratitude to them."
Gornik had the Magna Carta sign put up in March when, as a Donovan Scholar at the University of Kentucky, she took a class on world philosophy. Part of the required reading was Inventing Freedom, a 2013 book about America's founding principles, including those enshrined in the Magna Carta.
So Gornik decided to draw attention to that history and had the sign printed by a friend. Motorists probably can't see the background of the sign, but it depicts the Latin text from the Magna Carta. A 1297 version of the document can be seen in the U.S. National Archives in Washington.
The Magna Carta contained two principles that resonate to this day:
First, "No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned ... outlawed, banished or in any way destroyed, nor will we proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land."
Second, "To no one will we sell, to none will we deny or delay, right or justice."
These words inspired and justified the American Revolution. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall ... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law") is a direct descendent of the Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the law of the land.
"It is one of the documents, among others, that provide the foundation for our Constitution," said Joshua Douglas, a professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law.
"Eight hundred years ago, the king himself basically agreed to limit his own powers," Douglas said. "And he had to, because otherwise he was going to have an uprising against him. So to hold on to his powers, he agreed in the document that he would have somewhat limited powers. And that's a principle that carries forth through the U.S. Constitution and to this day. We're not ruled by a single executive."
For Gornik, "the Magna Carta symbolizes the institution of the rule of law, which humanity had not had. (Before) ... whoever had the power could pretty much make whatever law they wanted.
"We can only look to North Korea to see where power runs amok. Those people have no recourse. They don't have a parliament. They don't have a system of justice."
Gornik planned to attend a "Magna Carta party" on Sunday with a gathering of friends in Bath County. They were to have a potluck picnic and have a reading of parts of the Magna Carta.
"We have an arms expert coming out with us and we're going to do some target shooting with our guns," Gornik said. "That's kind of a fun thing to do to mark our freedom."