ROGER HERTOG: Good evening. Could we all be seated? Good evening. I'm Roger Hertog. And behalf, on behalf of our chairman, thank you. On behalf of our chairman, Dick Weissman, welcome to our Fourth Annual Alexander Hamilton Dinner. As you've read in the program, my role this evening is Master of Ceremony. To assure that I was up to this complex task, I scoured my Webster's Dictionary, only to find ceremony described, and I quote, as "an action performed with no deep significance." I promise to work hard not to disappoint any of you.
Now the deep dark secret lurking below the surface of these kinds of elegant events, is that most of us would rather be home having a quiet dinner, watching American Idol, or Survivor. Or if you're a social bore like me, reruns of the Watergate hearings on C-SPAN 2.
Nonetheless, we all have social obligations to our friends, to whom we have a tacit bargain, which was best articulated by the great Yankee catcher, Yogi Bera, who said, "If you don't go to their funeral, they won't go to yours." But the truth is, this event is unique. It guarantees a room full of the most interesting people in the greatest city in the world, an evening of substance, which celebrates the men of ideas. After all the inspiration for this dinner is Alexander Hamilton, a giant intellectual who was also a man of action, dedicated to the principles on which our nation country was founded, an 18th-century immigrant who became the quintessential New Yorker, who was the architect of modern America, the prophet of its capitalist revolution, author of the majority of the federalist papers, creator of our nation's budget and tax system, founder of the Bank of New York and the New York Post, and if that wasn't enough, he could have founded the New York Sun. And if that wasn't enough, a major general in Washington's Army. For those who are interested in learning more about Hamilton, we have our own special party favor for you. It's an autographed copy of Ron Chernow's just published Magisterial Biography, which each couple may take home this evening, for this alone, I'm sure, you would all agree, it was worth missing American Idol. But let us get on with the ceremony. Tonight we honor three great New Yorkers. Those who embody the values of the Hamiltoline tradition. Now when you say Bartley, Buckley, and Flanagan, it sounds more like a name of your favorite saloon, rather than three great intellectuals. If we had added a Shapiro or a Goldberg to our roster, it would have the sound of a nice mid-sized law firm, with our guy hired to do the books. But Peter Flanagan, William F. Buckley Jr., and Robert Bartley epitomize the spirit in which this award is given. What ties these men together is their devotion to words, their love of ideas, and their understanding of the inextricable bond between ideas and action. Whether expressed in newspaper editorials, columns, books, or conveyed to children in inner city schools, their work is essential to the workings of our great democracy. And for this, we honor them this evening.
Our distinguished honorees will be introduced by celebrated journalists. Paul Gigot for Bob Bartley, David Brooks for Bill Buckley, and John Stostle for Peter Flanagan. But before I cede the podium over the course of this evening to these luminaries, while you're still digesting your lobster salad with mango and salsa, let me present a brief commercial from our sponsor the Manhattan Institute. Two thousand four marks the 25th anniversary. Ours. We tried to step back and reflect how we've done over this quarter of a century in achieving our objectives to enhance the life of our city and our nation. I hope you find this video interesting. Could we close the curtains, turn down the lights?
MI 25th ANNIVERSARY VIDEO
MR. PAUL GIGOT: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Paul Gigot. I'm here to talk about Bob Bartley. Now we all miss Bob very much. But we are privileged tonight to have Bob's wife Edith here as well as their three daughters. Beth, Suzanne, and Catherine, would you please stand up, and, thank you.
I want to begin by pointing out the indisputable historical fact that four days after Bob Bartley died, last December, Saddam Hussein was captured. Coincidence? I don't think so. I assume that upon his arrival in heaven, Bob wasted no time telling God what he had to get done.
No one deserves a prize named for Alexander Hamilton more than Bob Bartley. When you think about it, Hamilton and Bartley were the two most influential Treasury Secretaries in American history. Bob may never have formally held the title, but why quibble about a technicality like Senate confirmation, when everyone knows he had more influence over economic policy than any mere Cabinet member? Some of us are old enough to recall what the world was like in the 1970s when Bob became editor of the Journal. Amid rising prices, gasoline lines, and what everyone called stagflation. I happened to be fresh out of college, working at National Review for Bill Buckley. And by the way, tonight we are honoring the two greatest editors of the last 50 years, and David Brooks and I got to work for both of them. How's that for luck? You may have noticed that I didn't say greatest conservative editors, I said greatest editors.
So, anyway, I began reading the review and outlook columns in the Wall Street Journal at that time, and I remember thinking, "Wow, this is amazing! Even more, this is fun!" Reading those columns, you could begin to see past the problems, the many problems of that day, to sunnier times. You could see that our problems had solutions. Now Bob was the straw that stirred that drink. As he was also the editor who brought the ideas of Robert Mundell and Art Laffer, Albert Wilstedder, and James Q. Wilson, and so many others to prominence. In awarding Bob the presidential medal of freedom last year, President Bush called him, quote, "One of the most influential journalists in American history," unquote. We're going to show alI agree. We're going to show a short tape of Bob talking about his own career. But first I want to mention what I think is an under appreciated part of Bob's legacy. That's his courage and tenacity.
Every journalist can throw a punch, we're very good at it. But one secret of Bob's success was how well he could take one. All of us who worked for Bob eventually had the experience of writing something that got us into trouble with an advertiser, a politician, or someone. And sure enough, Bob would saunter over, sit down, put his feet up on your desk, and say something like, "Okay, how do we escalate?" He never said this with any malice. He said it because he had firms convictions that he was not about to abandon at the first sign of resistance. He once told us that he figured it took 65 editorials on any one subject to really get something done. Bob was tough. And he had to be. Paul Greenberg wrote last year that Bob wasn't so much a conservative as he was a quote, "liberal counter revolutionary," unquote. In the 19th-century sense of that world liberal. Bob would have liked that.
Taking over the journal when he did in 1972, Bob had to fight a political and intellectual establishment that refused to acknowledge that it had lost its way. He fought lonely struggles arms control, Soviet Union, on economics, education and welfare, and on somebody other subjects. None of this made Bob popular. Certainly not at the time, or even after events would vindicate his views. His critics could never forgive him for being right. Never was this more true than in Bob's coverage of the Clinton presidency. It might seem easy for an editor of a major newspaper to criticize the ethics of a American President, but believe me, it isn't.
Ben Bradlee was celebrated and cheered after events vindicated what the Washington Post wrote about the Nixon White House. But Bob I don't think has ever received credit he deserves for being the first president to tell the truth, that presidential character was the biggest story of the Clinton years, a truth later validated by the difficulties of the Clintons' second term, by the election of 2000, and especially by is Falstaffian final days. As Bob once quipped, our readers weren't surprised by the Mark Rich [unintelligible]. Another great Bartley trait was his modesty. Bob was the least publicly known, most unassuming powerful person in America. He rarely did television, except at the end of his career when he helped to develop the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board show that ran for a while on CNBC. We happen to have a clip from one of those shows that was taped after Bob gave his valedictory speech as journal editor in November of 2002. Let's run the tape and hear from Bob himself.
MALE VOICE: This week he made his valedictory speech to America's movers and shakers. Here's how he concluded his remarks.
BOB BARTLEY: What I think I've learned over three decades is that in this society, rationality wins out, progress happens, and problems do have solutions. This, I like to think, is what happens when a society incorporates the traditional editorial credo of my newspaper, free markets, and free people, and that kind of society, my three decades is there to testify, optimism pays.
INTERVIEWER: You are indeed an optimist, are you not?
BOB BARTLEY: I think, I think maybe people are born that way.
INTERVIEWER: But you think this is an optimistic, positive, go-forward country.
BOB BARTLEY: Oh absolutely. Very, I mean, we, I have, in that speech I sketched out all the problems we had back in 1972 when I took over. I mean the Soviets were on the march, the economy was about to come apart, we were about to get into this terrible decade of the '70s, the inflation, malaise, energy, and we overcame all that. And here we are today, the Berlin Wall has fallen. The economy has some problems at the moment, but we resolved that terrible thing in the '30s, and, you know, I think I had some little part to play in that.
INTERVIEWER: What's the editorial of which you are most proud? Or which [unintelligible] had the most impact?
BOB BARTLEY: [interposing] Well, I don't. It's a little hard to say, I wrote so many of them. But, you know, at this meeting here the other night, Henry Kissinger spoke on my behalf, and we had a little bit of dialogue.
INTERVIEWER: [interposing] Mm-hmm.
BOB BARTLEY: Because back in the 1970's, I was beating on him pretty hard because he was giving away the store to the Russians I thought. And what he thought was that he was trying to get out of Vietnam. And I think we came pretty close together here the other night, saying that, you know, we had to do both, you know.
INTERVIEWER: One thing that has stayed constant throughout your 30 years in this, as editor. What is it? What stayed exactly the same? What changed?
BOB BARTLEY: Well, I think that hasn't changed is that on a personal basis is a curiosity. You know, I'm still very curious about how different parts of the world work. And I think in a way that's what's sustained me through this…
[END OF VIDEO PRESENTATION]
MR. PAUL GIGOT: Edith, would you like to come up and receive the Alexander Hamilton bust?
MS. EDITH BARTLEY: I came up on the wrong stairs. I must say thank you to Paul, I must say thank you to Roger. And I want to say just a couple of other things. As Paul alluded, Bob had a lot of fun. He always had a lot of fun. And the other thing I want to say is no matter your degree of courage, no matter how staunch your convictions, no matter how stiff your backbone, everybody needs friends. Colleagues, yes, but everybody needs friends. You here tonight were Bob's friends, and I thank you all.
MALE VOICE: We have a guest who needs no introduction. The mayor of the city of New York, Michael Bloomberg.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: Well, I may not need one, but that was one of the best I've ever had, actually. Thank you very much for having me. It's an honor to be here for the Manhattan Institute's fourth annual Alexander Hamilton Awards. And I want to say hello to, particularly to my old friend, Henry Kissinger, whose 30th wedding anniversary I just attended. I asked him the secret of a good marriage, and his answer was diplomacy. I told everybody that would work.
Tonight's awards honor those who helped revitalize our nation's cities. And this award couldn't have a better namesake than Alexander Hamilton because he really was a New Yorker for real New Yorkers. Hamilton has certainly been in the news lately. He managed to make a column today in the Sun, with a publication of a big new biography by Ron Chernow. I haven't had the chance to read it yet, but I figured Bill Buckley will cover about three-quarters of it during his remarks. I'll leave that to Bill. Now seriously, no matter where you're from, if you're a dreamer, if you're ambitious, if you have talent and drive to back it up, then there's only one place to go, I keep telling everybody, and it has the, as Henry would say, "It has the added advantage of being true." That place of course is New York City. For those of you that don't know, Hamilton was born not here, but in the West Indies. He was orphaned and broke by the time he was a teenager. And it didn't appear early on that Alexander Hamilton was destined for greatness. My mother said the same ting about me incidentally, so. Shows you some people [unintelligible]. Hamilton, his later political rival, John Adams, who's not alive anymore, even called him the bastard brat of a Scotch peddler. He did, he did. It's in the books. I'm sure Adams meant a Scottish peddler. Since anyone with a third grade education that didn't get socially promoted wouldn't, would know that the West Indian libation of choice was rum, not Scotch. Thank you, thank you. I heard that. But like so many people came before Hamilton and after, Hamilton pulled up his stakes and cast his lot with New York. And as we all know, his, he succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams. He was a graduate of King's College, or as it is known to through conservatives, or Columbia to you neocons co-founded the city's first local bank in the year 1784, the Bank of New York, and founded the New York Post. As a matter of fact, there are, it's true, he did. As a matter of fact, there are many mornings when I would borrow Mr. Adams's colorful language while reading the post. Most days I'm okay. Certainly, Hamilton thrived, but when the repaid, but then he repaid is debt to New York a million times over. His historic pact with Thomas Jefferson got the federal bureaucrats out of New York City before they could screw things up, and if you think about it, this really is true. By dividing our political capital from our commercial capital, he probably set the wheels in motion for New York's unprecedented commercial growth in finance, publishing, fashion, and the arts. And I think had the national government stayed here, that really would not have been possible. The national government is just so big, it takes over the whole town. Washington is a one company town for all practical purposes, and New York is exactly the reverse. New Yorkers is a place where you can come and really have great opportunity. Simply put, I think it's fair to say that Hamilton made New York what it is today, the world's greatest city. Thank you. Hamilton deserves our thanks, and I would like to congratulate the Manhattan Institute on recognizing his lofty place in American history and New York history. And let me also congratulate the Manhattan Institute on your 25th anniversary for a quarter of a century. You've championed many of the principles that have helped return our city to greatness. And I think these are principles that I have and my administration has. Responsibility, accountability, and economic freedom. And you have offered us, and particularly my administration, great policy guidance. And when we are slow to realize your wisdom, you offer us further guidance. Well disguised as criticism. Well, not always so well disguised, but that's okay. And I'm pleased to say that our administration has been able to build on Mayor Giuliani's legacy and accomplish some great things. Let me remind you that crime is down to historic lows. Another 17% down in the last three years alone. Our economy is growing. I was at an event in the Bronx today, and I looked at the numbers. Just think about this. The murder rate in the Bronx is down 50% in the last three years. It's really quite an amazing number. Our economy is growing. I know of no company that moved out of New York City after 9-11, in spite of all the doomsayers saying everybody was going to New Jersey. They downsized, but now they're starting to grow again. And they are growing right here in New York City. We have an unemployment rate that's just slipped below 8% for the first time since 2002. That is much too high. But is going in exactly the right direction. And we have a city where in all five boroughs, one of the biggest problems is over development. You go of state, you go around the rest of this country, big cities have deserted buildings and vacant lots. People in empty stores. That's not the problem here. This problem, this city has a higher occupancy rate than any other big city in this country. We have the fewest people on public assistance since 1965. Think about what that means given the economy. We have a housing boom that is continuing. We have neighborhoods where people are fighting to buy housing and 20 years ago, nobody wanted to live there. And most importantly, we really are going down the right path and making a difference in improving our public school system. We've ended social promotion, we are creating new classrooms for less money, we are building schools. I'll give you one number. We used to build schools for $425 a square foot. The last three schools, the contracts came in at $300 a square foot. That's an enormous improvement. We will improve our schools. It is not gonna be easy. Everybody wants change, but nobody can ever agree on change. I can tell you I was not elected to look at the polls. I was elected to make some decisions and put the best people in place. I think we're doing that, and I think the city shows that. And then, those are some people that are having some discussions about our school system, I'm sure. And then for sustenance and inspiration, we have Alexander Hamilton. And our children and those yet to come here deserve the same chance he had. And he was a graduate of school system here, and we're going to give everybody that opportunity. So congratulations tonight to Bill and Peter Flanagan, and to the late Robert Bartley, who of all major vendors contributions to New York. And I think it says an awful lot about the character of this distinguished group that they are receiving an award named after one of New York's greatest citizens. Hamilton came here, learned, prospered, debated, and created. Enemies who called him a bastard. Those were simpler at times. I had to pay $75 million for the privilege. Thought that would work. I'm finishing up, for those of you that want to talk. The late great Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was also a past Hamilton award winner. And I was honored to get to know the Senator, and I appointed him to the Penn Station redevelopment Corporation before he died, and his last like everything else Moynihan did, he had a life devoted to public service, and he did everything he could to help the city. I'll leave you with a thought. Moynihan was once asked what New York would look like in 100 years, and he said, "Different, better, magnificent." And with the spirit of Hamilton, with the ideas of groups like the Manhattan Institute, and with the hard work and commitment of every New Yorker once again, I think history is going to prove him right. Congratulations to everybody, and thank you.
MR. DAVID BROOKS: Ladies and gentlemen. First of all, I want to say greetings from the New York Times. On behalf of the writers and editors of the Times, I'd like to salute the three great Americans. On behalf of some of the readers of the New York Times, I like to say "Go to hell you Republican Fascists."
It's an honor to me to be here to link two heroes of mine, Alexander Hamilton and Bill Buckley. In Ron Chernow's biography, he says of Hamilton, that is entire life was a lesson in the profitable use of time. Well, if there's a living human being today whose life is a lesson in that profitable use of time, surely, it's Bill Buckley. I was trying to imagine sharing a vacation beach house with Hamilton and Buckley. Where you wake up at 10 a.m., Buckley's written six spy novels. Hamilton's started the Department of the Treasury. As many of you know, Buckley's literary career actually began in the period between conception and birth. He wrote three volumes which are known as the fetal essays. There was first The World Before Buckley, covering all of human history leading up to his conception, Up From The Cell, his fetal development, and then Learning to Sail: My Journey across the Amniotic Fluid, which was his sort of lighthearted romp through the birthing process. He was born I think in 1925, if memory serves. Matriculated at Yale the next day. Majored in everything. And taught his own courses, remarkably. As many of you know, he edited the Yale Daily News. It was the only period in the University's history where the YDN came out in Latin. And he's also quite a popular student. A good friend. He's the only student in this dorm with a harpsichord in the room. His ability to turn water into wine added to his popularity at Yale. Then he graduated and began his career with some controversial books. God and Me at Yale. God and Me at Home. God and Me Go to the Movies. After Yale, he became the nation's most important columnist. Founded the preeminent conservative magazine. Actually, he started two. One called The National Buckley and The Buckley Review, which he merged to call The Buckley Buckley. He hosted one of the nation's most important television talk shows, and beat the crap out of Gorbidal [phonetic] on national TV. So. There are to my mind, three essential people in the rise of the American Conservative Movement. Ronald Reagan, Milton Friedman, and Bill Buckley. One of the things we don't recall, or maybe younger people don't recall, is that conservatism before Buckley was a group of a few brilliant but extremely odd human beings. There were monarchists, medievalists, anarchists. It was a debate between John Birch and Francisco Franco a lot of the time. And what Bill did was, he made conservatism American. Created an intellectual tradition. Which was deeply American, and I truly believe, no Buckley, no Reagan, none of us here today.
Buckley also made conservatism cool. There's a picture in one of the biographies of he and Pat at the Stork Club in the '50s or so. And they looked so cool, sitting there in the Stork Club. It's like they were our rat pack. He also made conservatism pleasurable. And this may be his greatest contribution. Walter Batchet [phonetic] had a great quotation, where he said if you want to spread your ideas, write a dull policy tracks, it will give your movement a certain dignity. But if you want to really spread your ideas, experience and exhibit your pleasures. The pleasures of good music, a good party, a good dinner. And as many, many people have noticed, Bill's greatest talent is his talent for friendship. For cultivating friendship, for keeping friendship, and for inspiring friendship. And for these reasons, I think his influence shaped the nation's life every single day. For those of us who came after, and indeed like me who were discovered by Bill, it's made our lives so much easier to have him being the ice breaker, and us trailing along behind. And yet he still keeps going. He's got a new book on the Berlin Wall. Speaking to Linda Bridges a few minutes ago. He's got another book in Galleys. So, keep working all the rest of you. He's got his column going. And so he continues to be a force and an inspiration, and someone about whom you can really say he did change history. So it's an honor for me to say to Bill Buckley, I'd you to meet from one founding father, Alexander Hamilton, I'd like you, to introduce you to you, another founding father of a different political movement. Thanks for your service so far. Thank you.
MR. BILL BUCKLEY: Well, Mr. Chairman, David. I'm glad that I was able, as host of that evening three years ago to record wholeheartedly my admiration for Robert Bartley. And my confidence in his successor. Just after Bartley stepped down as editor of the Wall Street Journal. When I heard the awful news of his death, my impulse was that of George Aide, when he saw on the bulletin board of his club in Indianapolis, the notice that a dear friend had died. He scrolled over. It's always the wrong person who dies. Which reminds us that possibly, Peter Flanagan, who says the evening with Bob Bartley and me is also immortal.
The death nail for him sounded one year ago when my 20-year-old sloop Patito defeated his boat in our annual race across Long Island sound. Now Patito having then nothing further to prove, I sold it. I recall that Thoreau refined his pencil factory until it had produced the perfect pencil. Then he sold it. Patito and David Brooks, young and brilliant members of our fraternity are dear friends, and sometimes apprentices at National Review.
I'm reminded that the Manhattan Institute reciting with justified pride its achievements over 25 years, calls to our attention that the Institute is substantially responsible for welfare reform for supply side economics, and for school choice. Up against that, what can I say or do. All that National Review did was discover America. Time passes and there are always setbacks. I think of this hotel, when entering its hospitable quarters, of having passed by it in November, 1968, the floor that was set aside for Richard Nixon, who had just been elected president of United States, and would be plotting his administration in this building. No hotel floors here or anywhere, were set aside for him when he ended his term of office, which calls to mind that Richard Nixon had weaknesses, in his case finally disabling. This I think, inside of Manhattan Institute the weaknesses of the human race are always sad, sometimes mortal, and forever needing of a public alert to the political implications of those weaknesses.
On the matter of such weaknesses, I recall that Bishop Joseph Butler in the 18th-century deliberating the imperfections of life, acknowledged that if he had created the world, things would have been simply better. Those weaknesses propel us, and in this, the Manhattan Institute, is a luminous guide to devise and to stand by institutions and habits of mine that seek to limit misguided social expressions of such weaknesses. Even as the police constrain those who give in to their weaknesses in murder and mayhem. The central political weakness of modern times is the temptation to cope with weaknesses or compensate for them, by aggrandizing the statement, multiplying its responsibilities, and deciding to it that the missions which are beyond its capacities, these commissions are organically aggressive, and demand a complicity by everyone. Yes, everyone has to pay taxes to support schools, even for schooling they would prefer to replace. The Manhattan Institute established to the satisfaction even of Congress that some of what had got by as welfare relief had evolved rather toward the stabilization of weaknesses. What is bilingual education is not a subsidy of weaknesses. Such weaknesses are of course reflections of individual imperfections, but they rise to collective levels, as we are seeing the Middle East. It is too early to say that we are face-to-face with a collective Iraqi struggle against freedom and self-rule in the entire nation, but, we are certainly contending against collective knots of men and women who everyday show their willingness to fight even to the death, especially the death of others, to resist basic liberal reforms. The challenge of our coalition in Iraq is to awaken and to stimulate the desire for ordered freedom, to replace the hypnotic transiencies of totalitarian and theocratic rule. Grandfather, what long words you use. While the pier hotel goes on, as princes rise and fall, yet we are confident of the survival of the ideals we celebrate, so resourcefully expounded by the Manhattan Institute in its continuing labors for right reason. I'm honored to be in your company, and I am myself weak enough to be moved by the kind words of David Brooks, and the author of the notes about me in the program. Good night, and thank you.
MR. JOHN STOSSEL: …can't improve much. Kids need freedom to choose a school. So he created student sponsor partners, which help people like me mentor a kid. We pay the tuition. I pay the $5,000, I pay for some other people can afford to pay the 5,000, and you can be as involved as much or as little in your student's life as you want. Some just call up when the report card comes in. I'm on my third student now. Two have done well. But thanks to Peter Flanagan, thousands of kids in New York City have been lifted out of the government school of prisons. They've been given opportunity. Because he, one man, had an idea. And he fought for it. He made it happen. Peter Flanagan. I should say while he's coming up, I have now joined the board of his organization, I am new to boards, and there all these hotshot young investment bankers they're making these decisions. Peter is now 80 years old. And he attends the meetings. And at some point in the meeting, he will say, "What's this on page 3, Subsection 6?" Everyone shuts up and the rest of the meeting, it's determined that that was the key that had to be addressed, and Peter does that.
PETER FLANIGAN: Thank you John, for that very fulsome introduction. And thank you, ladies and gentlemen, friends of Manhattan Institute et al, for being with us. I couldn't help wondering, and I'm sure you're wondering how I came to be included in such illustrious company on this platform. Bob Bartley was a very dear friend. But more than that, an intellectual mentor. For 30 years, his Wall Street Journal educational page instructed us on how to think about national issues, on how freedom is best defended at home and abroad, and why free markets and private property are the moral expression of man's God-given economic creativity. So Edith, Bob's wisdom and his memory will always be cherished at the Manhattan Institute.
Bill Buckley is another very dear friend and mentor. How many of us classical liberals were stimulated and educated and nourished as young conservatives, at his national reviews? Me. Well, with me, that stimulation continues at regular luncheons and sailing adventures from Nova Scotia to the Bahamas. But on the latter, Bill doesn't engage in full disclosure. Now, this is one picture of about 600 that he's taken on our sailing adventures. He in the Patito and me in the Estrella [phonetic]. It's the only one in which the Estrella is behind his Patito. In fact, the race at which he described, was the sixth in a, this annual series, was the first one he won, and he sold the boat, so there'd be no rematch. But Bill, may these adventures, intellectual and otherwise, long continue.
But the question remains, how did I get up here? Perhaps the reason is that I learned well from Bob Bartley and Bill Buckley about the need to fight for and defend freedom. The battleground that I chose for myself in this fight for freedom is education. Most of America's children are free. But tragically, many of the most needy and vulnerable children remain in educational bondage. Dick Gilder, the Hamilton Award recipient in 2002 does not exaggerate when he says that 150 years ago, we freed our Afro-American citizens, physically. Forty years ago, with the Voting Rights Act, we freed them politically. And now to give them the opportunity to fully participate in our wonderful society, we must free them educationally. I'd venture that virtually everyone in this room went into a school, either public or private, chosen by your parents. None of you were trapped in a dysfunctional school. Yet for our inner city, largely minority, poor children, that is precisely the fate to which we as a society condemn them. They must go to schools that all too many cases they know, simply do not educate. How do we change it? For 20 years as John Stostle says, we've been trying to do with money. In New York City, per capita, constant dollar spending has increased dramatically. Now we have this court-mandated program to increase the city's already enormous budget from $12 billion to $18 billion. And John, if you divide that by a million kids, that's $18,000 per student. And that's only for operations. It doesn't include capital expenses. And yet, with all that money, inner city test scores and inner city graduation rates have not budged. What we have not tried, is freedom. Freedom for poor parents to choose the schools that they think best for their children. And freedom for those schools that are not chosen to close. Seif Legal [phonetic], who's here, was the first staff member of the Manhattan Institute Center for Educational Innovation. And he started the move to freedom when 25 years ago, he allowed intra-district, public school choice in New York City's district four. Sister Josephine and father Victor and Tom Smith, sitting here, run an elementary school in East Harlem. One of Dr. Hickeys, who's over there, 102 parochial schools, which every parent has chosen for his or her child. Expenditures per child are less than a third of what the city spends. But their students outperform the public school students in the same school districts on the New York State test by an enormous margin. The children are the same. Their teachers are paid less. Could not, is not the difference in outcomes a reflection of one system being based on freedom, and the other system being based on government diktat?
The student sponsor partners which John mentioned and which Chris O'Malley sitting over there runs, has had the same dramatic success with 4,000 poor inner city high school kids, who shows to move from high-spending public high schools to inner city private schools, spending one-half as much per student. And his success, measuring, measured against comparable public by school students, has been validated by a study by the Rand Corporation. Again, freedom. That same parental freedom to choose is what distinguishes the two excellent, beginning with children charter schools, started by Joe and Carol Rich, right over there. Their first school was born after severe labor pains as a regular public school. But when the public school bureaucracy and regulations and labor contracts made success almost impossible, they converted it to a public charter school and they started their second school as a charter school from the beginning. Mary Grace Epin [phonetic] and Kristen Kearns, two exceptional young women, who cut their educational teeth running the Student Sponsor Partners several years ago, sitting there, and having learned the magic of freedom, have also founded charter schools. Kristen's Bronx Preparatory School, after only four years, is moving into a brand new building this fall. And Mary Grace, has just chosen, by lottery, her first 100 students from 300 applications, for the Bronx School of Excellence. Eternal vigilance, as we know, being the price of freedom, they and we need to be eternally vigilant that the political forces do not encroach on the essential freedom of charter public schools. Be assured, those forces are trying. Our battle for educational freedom has moved us from New York City to New York State to the nation at large. With Manhattan Institute friends like Roger Hertog and Bruce Cuvner, Russ Cardens, Tom Tish, and others, we're engaged across the country through the school choice alliance, which is dedicated to the proposition that parents should be free to choose their children's schools. So perhaps I'm before you tonight because I listened well to Bob Bartley and Bill Buckley as they taught the blessings of freedom. Being a dutiful student, I've tried with the help of so many of you in this room, to apply their teaching of freedom to educational freedom, particularly to the education of our most needy children. I found that in this endeavor, as in all endeavors, freedom works. So I thank you for this honor and invite all of you to continue joining us in the battle for educational freedom. Thank you.
DICK WEISSMAN: Okay. I'll give them to you. Good evening. I'm Dick Weissman, chairman of the Manhattan Institute. And I'm extremely happy and in fact extremely proud, listening to what I've heard tonight and what you-all have heard tonight, to be here to end this illustrious and successful evening with a brief thank you and a farewell. The purpose of this annual event is first, to pay tribute to Alexander Hamilton, a great man and a great New Yorker, who in his incandescent lifetime of less than 50 years, conceived and nurtured many of the financial and other building blocks that enable our present successful and dynamic society. And as you, I was about to say, you have to read the book, but now you have the book, so you really have to read about the book. Ron Chernow's riveting account of Hamilton's life, I've only read about a quarter of it-is incredible. We have also convened here tonight to acknowledge and honor three great contemporary New Yorkers whom you've heard speak tonight and being honored tonight. Bill Buckley, Peter Flanagan, and the late Bob Bartley. Each has made an enormous contribution to the intellectual and civil life of this great city and beyond. We are most grateful to David Brooks, John Stostle, and Paul Gigot, for their presence, and eloquence, permitting us to justly and brightly celebrate the achievements of these three incredible man.
I also know that in assembling here for this momentous occasion, we should acknowledge and celebrate the Manhattan Institute, as many you have already done in your comments tonight. But I regard this as really a unique organization. And I think it's all come out tonight. It's a powerhouse in effect. It's a galvanic collection of fellows, trustees, and supporters that has extended its influence in so many ways. Far beyond its relatively modest size and budget. For this, we owe thanks to a host of talented and dedicated and generous individuals. Too many to enumerate at this time, but deserving of our boundless gratitude. One of them standing right here to my right. I will however, single out our most able president, Larry Mohn, and two of our most distinguished and best friends, who sadly, for reasons of health cannot be with us tonight. Walter Mintz, for many years our esteemed vice chairman and Walter Riston, our trustee and perhaps the wisest man in New York. And that's a pretty tough thing to say in a crowd I'm in now. It was Walter Riston, it was Walter Riston who expressed the Manhattan Institute's core operating philosophy the best in my view. He said, we try to keep our staff small, our ideas big, and the overhead low. Amen.
And now to all of you, and especially to the Pfizer Corporation, Chuck Hardwick, who's gave us so much support, and you all have given us tremendous support. You have made this in fact, made this evening a record for the Manhattan Institute. It has not only been intellectual success, which is very nice, and a gustatory success, and our food was very nice, but it's been a huge financial success.
We took in $1,300,000 tonight. And we thank you all very much for that. So having said that, I'll say thank you for being here, thank you for supporting us, and just thank you and have a good night and a safe drive home. Good night.
The Alexander Hamilton Award was created to honor those individuals helping to foster the revitalization of our nation’s cities. We chose to name the award after Hamilton because, like the Manhattan Institute, he was a fervent proponent of commerce and civic life. Through the years, we have expanded the scope of the prize to celebrate leaders not just on the local level, but also at the state and federal levels, who have made remarkable things happen in the realms of public policy, culture, and philanthropy. We hope our celebration of these awardees encourages replication of their efforts.