Jason Riley Rocks Minneapolis [Updated]

Today Center of the American Experiment, the think tank of which I am president, put on a lunch forum in downtown Minneapolis featuring Jason Riley of the Manhattan Institute and the Wall Street Journal. Jason talked about his blockbuster book, Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed. We interviewed Jason last night on the Power Line Show. If you haven’t listened to that interview, you should.

The topic of Jason’s speech was red hot, as was reflected in ticket sales. Initially we had a room that would seat 200, and we sold it out. Then the Hilton offered us a room on which they had a cancellation that seated 300. We sold that out, too. This photo shows most of the crowd at today’s event:


This photo, taken from a different perspective, shows part of the crowd:


For a while I was concerned about unforeseen complications: a minimum wage protest snarled traffic in the morning and seemed to be continuing into the lunch hour. Meanwhile, Joe Biden was in town, apparently at the same hotel where our event took place. The Hilton was surrounded by policemen and a number of adjacent streets were blocked off. But our determined crowd surmounted these obstacles and turned out in force.

The most striking thing about Riley’s speech was the rapt attention paid by the crowd. Can you really hear a pin drop in a room occupied by 300? I don’t know, but it seemed that way. Among many other things, Riley reviewed some of the statistics that indicate that African-Americans made more rapid educational and economic progress before the Civil Rights era and the dawn of affirmative action than they did after. This is a fact of which most people, sadly, are unaware. On a number of fronts, the data that Jason cites are unassailable, but not widely known.

The audience, which was pretty diverse by Minnesota standards, gave Jason two standing ovations. You would have cheered if you had been there, too.

I recommend that you buy Riley’s book if you haven’t yet read it. Meanwhile, from a personal perspective, I am delighted that the Center is back in the lunch forum business. Since I took the helm at American Experiment, several people have warned me that it is hard, these days, to attract a crowd to a noon event in Minneapolis. That certainly didn’t prove true today. Our plan is to sponsor three more lunch forums in 2016, all on the theme of how liberal policies hurt the middle class, low wage earners and minorities. Jason Riley launched the series with a bang today; we can only hope that the remaining programs attain the same standard.

The Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, which means that contributions are tax deductible. We are a grass roots organization that depends entirely on contributions from our supporters. So I would appreciate it if you would go to the American Experiment web site and hit the donate button. $20 will be appreciated, $50 would be fabulous. A couple of weeks ago a Power Line reader contributed $2,500. Who knows? It could happen again.

UPDATE: An entertaining coda to the story: as I wrote above, Joe Biden was at the Hilton at the same time we were, conducting a fundraiser. I had understood that we were able to get the larger, 300-person room because of a cancellation, but I found out today that wasn’t quite right. What happened was that Biden had reserved the larger room, but it turned out he wasn’t able to draw enough people to fill it. Therefore, Biden took the smaller room that my group had reserved for the Jason Riley event, and we moved up to the bigger room and sold another 100 tickets. A sign of the times, perhaps, in the dying days of the Obama administration.