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Commentary By Reihan Salam, Paul Singer

2024 Alexander Hamilton Awards: Reihan Salam and Paul Singer

The following is an edited transcript of remarks delivered by Reihan Salam and Paul Singer at the 2024 Hamilton Award Dinner.

Reihan Salam: Good evening, everyone, and thank you for joining us for the 24th Annual Alexander Hamilton Award ceremony. We at the Manhattan Institute celebrate Alexander Hamilton, not just for the pivotal role he played in securing our nation's independence. We celebrate his vision for the American future. Hamilton dreamed of great cities teeming with the innovative and ambitious, people who would make America the most prosperous and powerful republic the world has ever known. The Hamilton Awards recognize distinguished individuals who have helped make his dream a reality. Tonight we are honoring journalist and author Douglas Murray, a fearless champion of Western civilization, and Ross Perot Jr., a 21st-century Hamilton who, as an air force veteran, entrepreneur and philanthropist, has proudly served his country and worked to build free, dynamic, and thriving urban centers in his home state of Texas. I'm so glad you'll be hearing from them later tonight.

We're gathering in a fraught moment in our nation's history. Just a short subway ride away, protesters recently seized control of Columbia University's Hamilton Hall, a building named in honor of the school's most distinguished alumnus. The protesters' aim was to intimidate the university into taking up the cause of a terrorist organization that seeks the elimination of the Jewish people. These demonstrators had every reason to believe they could get away with tormenting their classmates, obstructing teaching and learning, and smashing a few stained-glass windows for good measure. After all, they had seen professors and administrators repeatedly indulge, and even reward, their hateful rhetoric. It should thus come as no surprise that these agitators felt betrayed when they learned the university dining halls wouldn't hand deliver sack lunches to keep them comfortable and well-fed. Columbia's administrators should clearly have known that nothing works up a good appetite like chanting "Death to America."

We have seen this entitled attitude across the country, among protesters whining that what they are doing is sacrificial and hard. But the truth is that sowing hate and destruction is easy. The preferred tactics of today's radical left—shouting down interlocutors, using intimidation and physical force to muscle aside opponents, holding communal spaces hostage as a way to assert their will—are all just versions of “might makes right,” the crudest governing principle known to man. What is hard, what really requires sacrifice, is to take the higher road. It is hard to persuade through acts and reason, to exhibit self-discipline and self-restraint, to engage with intellect rather than untempered passions. It is hard to rise above class and tribe to embrace pluralism and assert transcendent truths. It is hard to build, create, and sustain. It is harder still to do these things with dignity and equanimity. We call this hard work civilization.

Civilization is what the Manhattan Institute exists to preserve and enrich. It is the mission that animates our staff and our fellows. Every day our scholars and journalists work to provide the intellectual foundations for human flourishing and to meet the most pressing threats to our civilization today. They're combating the crisis of lawlessness, drug addiction, and disorder in our cities. They're developing sound alternatives to reckless fiscal and monetary policies that endanger our nation's economic future. They're demanding empirical rigor in medicine and honesty in scientific inquiry. They are ringing alarms about woke racialism and the threat it represents to colorblind equality and the pursuit of excellence. I am proud to work alongside such principled, courageous colleagues. They carry out their important mission undaunted, even as they regularly face intimidation, censorship, and threats of violence. Their critics are driven by the same realization that moves the people demonstrating in support of Hamas.

These wreckers understand the fundamental strength and vitality of our civilization. They know the only way they can defeat us is to instill self-hatred and self-doubt. This is why they cannot abide organizations like the Manhattan Institute and our optimism and confidence in the values that make our civilization great. None of this vital work would be possible without all of you in this room. If you're here tonight, you appreciate that the status quo need not be permanent, that pessimism and evil should never have the last word, and that one good idea can transform millions of lives. The Manhattan Institute has proven these truths over and over again and we are more committed to them now than ever. We could not be more grateful to have you alongside us. In that spirit, I'd first like to recognize our trustees who are with us tonight and to thank them for their friendship and encouragement: Ann Charters, Anthony Coles, Kathy Crow, Ravenel Curry, Betsy DeVos, Michael Fedak, Kenneth Gilman, Michael Kaufman, Roger Kimball, Joe Kristol, Susan Lebovitz-Edelman, Nick Ohnell, Russell Pennoyer, Robert Rosenkranz, Nathan Saint-Amand, Thomas W. Smith, and Paul Singer.

I would also like to recognize our presenter, patron and benefactor sponsors whose immense generosity has made this evening such a success. And I ask that you please hold your applause until the end because I'm happy to report that it's a long list: Laurel and Cliff Asness, the CBR Fund, Ann and Tom Charters, Ravenel Curry, the Edelman Family Foundation, Marilyn and Michael Fedak, Michael Kaufman, Sarah and Ross Perot Jr., Paul Singer, Betsy and Dick DeVos, the Ohnell Family Foundation, Warren Stephens, David Herro and Jay Franke, Daniel Loeb, Donna and Marvin Schwartz, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Smith. Please join me in giving them a round of applause.

Finally, I'm honored to introduce the Chairman of the Manhattan Institute Board of Trustees, Paul Singer. A masterful investor in financial markets. Paul is also renowned as a far-sighted investor in the institution's values and intellectual talent that undergird free societies at home and abroad. His thoughtful and principled leadership has been central to the Institute's success. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome our Chairman Mr. Paul Singer.

Paul Singer: Thank you, Reihan. We're very grateful to all of you for helping to raise $4.6 million to support the goals and the good works of the Manhattan Institute. This is a record raise for this event, so thank you. In my personal circle of trust, I have some modest chops as a funny guy. And normally my job is to warm up the crowd with my usual levity and wit. But tonight I want to make some more serious observations about this extraordinary moment.

In the days after the October 7th invasion, even before Israel had mounted a robust response, we already saw large mobs on the streets of major cities and on campuses across the United States and across the West. The mobsters, as you know, were not protesting against Hamas for the mass murder and rape of civilians. To those not paying close attention, the statements of solidarity with Israel from world leaders covered up the wave of anti-Jewish hate, which was gradually getting underway throughout the world. Now, with that solidarity turning out to be not so solid—my goodness, what a surprise—and when world leaders are doing their best to restrain Israel and to enable the mobs, it's worth remembering that this pressure campaign started long before Israel had launched any kind of ground offensive. In those days, and even more so today, you can look around and see very clearly who's on the side of civilization and who wants to tear it down.

The Manhattan Institute is not a foreign policy think tank, but the current broader fight is not just about foreign policy. It's a fight for law and order, for academic excellence and the virtues of merit and civil debate. And for common sense about how to live in a pluralistic society. So it should be no surprise that the scholarship of the Manhattan Institute has been more in demand than ever, and more impactful over these few months than ever before. I've never been prouder of, and more grateful for, the work of this institution and of the people in this room than I am today.

The stakes could not be more apparent. People who have eliminated all doubt about their support for barbarism and savagery, their buy-in to exterminationist ideology, the casual acceptance of the inversion of facts, are marauding through the toniest, elitist colleges and universities. They're supporting liars who would, if given half a chance, and do, murder people who are Jewish, not to mention any number of other minority groups. Moreover, these deluded, "useful idiots" are engaged in this marauding while wearing face masks, in some macabre tribute to the white-sheeted thugs of the Ku Klux Klan.

I note that many southern states banned public face coverings during the KKK's heyday. Maybe we could consider the same today, so we can see who are these cowardly protesters who are abusing the free speech that they dishonestly claim to champion, smack in the middle of the citadels and temples of so-called higher education. They are not only against the Jews and their tiny democracy, but they're also against the West and, of course, against the big Satan of America.

They're also masters of the head-spinning double standard exhibited every day in the world's supposedly morally superior institution, the United Nations, of which Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote a book called A Dangerous Place. One of the problems that we all—and this great institution, MI—have is that the other side in each of the policy slugfests in which MI steps into the ring is a purveyor of lies and dangerous stupid ideas. This institution whose work you so generously support is designed to come up with better ideas in language that can help spread those ideas around and devise roots for spreading those ideas to essential constituencies. Lawmakers, opinion leaders, citizens.

Notice I did not include professors. They are mostly hopeless beyond repair. The minuscule number of ones who are not radical left-wing dolts, clutching Mao's little red book, are huddled together in basements, whispering the truth while the thugs and deranged are upstairs on the quad, screaming at Jews. I'm heartened and grateful that the police forces in American cities are firmly on the side of truth, justice, America, and protecting citizens against mobs and against crime. We have some police here tonight. Thank you so much for standing up to the mob.

Of course, our main and more positive business tonight is to confer the Hamilton Award on our guests of honor, Ross Perot Jr. and Douglas Murray. Two warriors that I'm grateful to have on our side in this war against the West. Ross's career brings to mind the name of that helicopter he famously flew around the world, the Spirit of Texas. In the United States, the word patriotism fits so naturally with the name Perot. Bold action and love of country clearly run in the family. As chairman of the Perot Group, overseeing many different interests, Ross's calling card is an unshakable confidence in the possibilities of free enterprise to lift up communities and change lives for the better.

Ross is a builder and a doer. You don't have to live in Texas to understand the respect that people feel for this man and his work. If Ross Perot Jr. is involved in a real-estate development or any other kind of philanthropic or political work, you know this much for sure: It's going to be done right, it's going to have an impact, and it's going to reflect credit on every person involved. As it happens, quite a few of those involved in Perot's endeavors are veterans of the United States military. A former fighter pilot himself, Ross seeks out fellow veterans to work in his companies. And like his father before him, he's a loyal supporter of Wounded Warriors and their families, along with many other veterans causes. This is a man who still lives out the spirit of the oath that he took as an airman all those years ago. We welcome him as one of the most accomplished and impressive leaders in America today.

We all know Douglas Murray as a master of words and today's most eloquent defender of the West, as well as the state of Israel, which faces detractors on many fronts, and few allies. To watch Douglas engaged in debate is to observe skill, calm, wit, and depth in the rarest of combinations. I wish good luck to anyone who finds himself on a stage contesting Douglas Murray. I'm sometimes even moved to pity—not really—for the hapless progressive who thinks he or she has a shot in a debate against Douglas. Isn't it old-fashioned to use the words he or she?

I apologize. I'm off track. You can imagine our affinity for the author of a book entitled The War on the West: How to Prevail in the Age of Unreason. Douglas Murray was one of the first to recognize the civilizational war that we're in and its many battlefields. This is a man who, since October 7th, has spent months closer to the actual battlefield in Israel and who was recently honored by the president of Israel for his fearless reporting and commentary on the war. Douglas has a way of distilling public controversies down to their essential realities, as when he said of Hamas, "If you choose to start a war, then don't complain when you start to lose it." In his writings and public appearances, Douglas not only speaks for the value of the West, he reflects them with his intellect and gentlemanly manner. America and Israel could use more warriors like him. I'm so glad that he could be with us tonight.

As chairman, I often marvel at the ability and tenacity of our people at MI. There's not a more formidable collection of writers and scholars anywhere. When it comes to challenging progressive dogmas and abuses of power, these men and women are fearless. Some think tanks are left to toil in scholarly isolation, rarely attracting the attention their causes might deserve. MI operates under a different model and when we find targets, the targets feel it. In challenging cultural decline, the war on meritocracy, threats to liberty, and the corrupting influence of identity politics, we do not consider ourselves on some lonely mission against the inevitable. We have decided to be a force in the debate. We're not just content to be on the right side. We're working to make it the winning side.

In gaining converts to our cause, we should commend the courage of lone voices on the political left, who stand athwart their party with common sense. I worry that me saying nice things about them will add to their headaches. But on the issues of Israel and the dangers of anti-Semitism, Senator John Fetterman from Pennsylvania and Congressman Ritchie Torres from the Bronx have my gratitude and respect. We need to find allies wherever we can. And sound policies and sensible arguments can still win the day.

I may be partial, but here's the reality: Currently, no policy group is breaking through more than the Manhattan Institute. Our writers and policy experts cover different beats from crime and education to economic policy and the federal budget. In a sense, everyone at MI is engaged in the same pursuit. We're standing against the manias of ideology that seek to drag our civilization down into the abyss. And in everything we do, we're defending the standards and institutions that the West has handed down to us. For this critical work, we're grateful not only to our scholars, but to the entire team at MI that makes these efforts possible.

To Ross and Douglas, thank you again for what you do to defend American values and the West. We must fight with everything we have against the sickness spreading across our societies today. Radical ideologies have insinuated themselves in all levels of government and across free society. More than ever in the lifetimes of everyone in this room, we risk losing what we, our friends, and ancestors sacrificed so much to build and preserve. I came into this event early and I walked through the room and on the sound system was Bach. And I said to myself, as I was walking through the room, there's this glorious music, this epitome of civilization and elegance. And I said to myself, 300 years later, Bach's country was among the most barbaric savages in world history, certainly in destruction and murder.

And the only other thing I said in connection with that is I sure hope that despite not knowing where this current nonsense and terrible stuff is going, I sure hope that we find a better way to learn from history and fight back and preserve this wonderful freedom that we have in the United States. And to our benefactors and guests, thank you for being here and for your support and friendship in these difficult and critical times.