December 17, 2010
Ayn Rand Institute: The Year Just Ended—and the Challenge Ahead
We would like to share with you the following message to ARI donors from Yaron Brook.
Dear ARI Contributor:
At a time when our mission has never been more important, and our message never more urgently needed, the Ayn Rand Institute has enjoyed unparalleled successes and achieved critical new milestones in fiscal year 2010.
Atlas Shrugged continues to inspire Americans. It has become a favorite read, as you know, among many Tea Party activists and other independent-minded people alarmed about our nation’s future.
Media mentions of Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged continue to surge. For example just last month in his keynote address at an event held by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, syndicated columnist George Will saluted Atlas Shrugged. And a recent Zogby national online survey indicated that 29 percent of the 2,100 adult respondents have read Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged and nearly half responded that the novel had impacted their thinking on political or ethical issues.
To support the continued public interest in Atlas Shrugged, the Institute launched a new design and content for the website atlasshrugged.com, which among other features presents a four-minute teaser of a documentary “Is Atlas Shrugging” by filmmaker Chris Mortensen (scheduled for release in mid-2011). The site also includes a video contest on Atlas Shrugged (which has attracted more than 100 entrants as of this writing), as well as a host of new social-networking features.
In September our second annual Atlas Shrugged Revolution dinner attracted some 150 attendees (a 20 percent increase over last year’s inaugural dinner) and raised more than $400,000 to support ARI and ARC programs.
As I wrote to you last year at this time, we set for ourselves the goal of capitalizing on the upsurge in interest in Ayn Rand, and particularly Atlas Shrugged, that began in early 2009—while continuing to work to lay the foundation for future intellectual activism.
I believe that we have done just that, thanks to your support, and thus I am very pleased to report the highlights of our 2010 accomplishments to you in this letter.
Our educational programs continued to increase their reach and scope in introducing young people and educators to Ayn Rand’s writings and philosophy in 2010.
- ARI shipped 320,000 Ayn Rand novels to high school teachers across North America during the 2009–10 school year. The total number of books distributed to classrooms now exceeds 1.8 million. We estimate that more than five million students have read one or more of the novels during their high school years as a result of this program.
- In anticipation of its 75th anniversary in 2011, this year we added We the Living to our Free Books to Teachers program. The 20,000 books that we were able to buy were spoken for almost immediately: in fact, we recently announced an effort to raise funds to supply copies to the additional teachers who would like to participate. This waiting list is now more than 10,000 books and growing.
- We received a total of nearly 25,000 entries for the Anthem, Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged essay contests. The total lifetime number of essays received for our contests surpassed the 250,000 mark this year, a significant milestone.
- ARI provided speakers for 62 campus events at colleges and universities, with attendance totaling more than 5,100 people.
The major educational news of the year was the funding of the Ayn Rand Campus program with a dedicated, multiyear grant of $5 million—the single largest contribution ever made to ARI.
Ayn Rand Campus will vastly increase our ability to educate people of all ages in the fundamentals and application of Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy. We anticipate that, ultimately, dozens of courses will be available, accessible by thousands of students anywhere, anytime, around the world.
While this marks the beginning of a new era for ARI, all of our other advanced training programs for students and professors continued to provide Objectivist education, support and training to current and future intellectuals.
- More than 140 students are participating in ARI’s premier learning program in Objectivism, the Objectivist Academic Center. Thirty-three new students, selected from 98 applicants, began their studies this past fall in the OAC. Ten OAC students graduated in July.
- The OAC provided dissertation grants, travel grants and other support for Objectivists pursuing careers in Academia. We also provided individual advisers for the largest number of students in the OAC’s history. Finally, we worked closely with the Anthem Foundation to provide support for professors and universities engaged in serious scholarship based on Objectivism.
- ARI’s support for the 66 university programs sponsored by the BB&T Foundation continued into its fifth year. In June ARI co-hosted, with the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism, its fifth annual conference, with 65 BB&T professors participating.
- ARI increased its involvement in academic and professional conferences during the year. Our staff, sometimes in collaboration with the Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship, attended or presented at the American Economic Association Conference; the Philosophic Foundations of Freedom conference; three sessions and a debate at the Association of Private Enterprise Education; the Southern Economic Association; and the Mont Pelerin Society meeting in Australia this past October.
Several major successes on the publishing front were achieved in 2010.
- A project long supported by ARI came to fruition in July when David Harriman’s book The Logical Leap was published by Penguin USA. In his book, Harriman presents the collaboration between himself and Dr. Leonard Peikoff in applying Ayn Rand’s theory of concepts and inductive reasoning to physics.
- The long-awaited book 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand was published by Penguin USA in early November. A series of interviews with people who knew Ayn Rand during her lifetime, 100 Voices gives a new, more personal view into her life and many acquaintances.
- I was pleased to contribute to C. Bradley Thompson’s Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea, a comprehensive and devastating critique of neoconservatism and its philosophic underpinnings, which was published in May by Paradigm Publishers.
- A new and expanded edition of Why Businessmen Need Philosophy, edited by Debi Ghate and Richard E. Ralston, including four articles contributed by ARI intellectuals, will be published by Penguin USA in the spring.
- Finally, it is worth noting that all of Ayn Rand’s novels are now available in e-book format—an independent development that will nevertheless provide us with future opportunities for promotion and outreach. Next year will also mark the 75th anniversary of We the Living and the 50th anniversary of For the New Intellectual. Special editions of each work will be issued to mark these anniversaries.
In the Ayn Rand Center’s first year we were thrust into the middle of the financial crisis and were immediately faced with the huge increase in the sales of Atlas Shrugged. These events presented both a challenge and an opportunity, which we managed successfully. Now positioned for further growth in our second full year of existence, ARC continues to work to change the economic and political world we face now and in the future.
- Throughout 2010 we focused on placing our opinion pieces in higher profile newspapers and online venues. We placed 26 different pieces in such outlets as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes.com, FoxNews.com, CNN.com, Christian Science Monitor, Yahoo! News, Investor’s Business Daily, Business Week and The Washington Examiner. These media outlets are among the most important in the culture; they are regularly read by, and influence, decision-makers in the worlds of politics and economics.
- Specific examples of our successes included “What’s Really Driving the Toyota Controversy?” in the Washington Examiner; “Person of the Year? How About Spinmeister of the Year?” on FoxNews.com; “Memo to Foes of Health Reform: Repudiate the Morality of Need,” in Investor’s Business Daily; and “Obama Follows Nixon on Oil Spills,” in the Wall Street Journal.
- As part of this intensified media effort, Don Watkins and I were engaged to write a regular column feature with Forbes.com. Pieces already published include “How to Succeed in Business: Really Try,” “The Guilt Pledge” and “The U.S. Anti-Business Epidemic.” We intend to expand such editorial placement to other venues in the future.
- We increased our electronic media appearances to an average of 15 per month, appearing frequently on Fox News Channel and CNBC, and appearing weekly on the Internet television website PJTV. Consistent appearances on specific media outlets are, of course, important to maximizing our overall media impact.
- John Allison, Brad Thompson and I were interviewed on John Stossel’s new Fox Business Network program last December on the relevance of Atlas Shrugged to America’s ongoing economic crisis. In the spring of 2010, Glenn Beck invited me to participate in a special broadcast of his program focused on Atlas Shrugged.
- With the sponsorship of several donors in Chicago, we launched the ARC Chicago Speaker Series in June. The three events held thus far had a combined attendance of 600 people, and the series continues this coming year with at least three more events. We also secured funding for a speaker series on health-care issues in 2010. The series, which begins in early 2011, will feature four events in different cities around the country.
- A group of New York-area businessmen, working with ARI, have established the New York Friends of the Ayn Rand Institute. This local group is working to increase ARI’s profile in the New York City area. Already, they have raised funds for a three-debate series between ARC and Demos, a progressive think tank in Manhattan, which will begin in 2011 and will be moderated by Brian Lehrer of WNYC.
- We continued our involvement with selected elements of the Tea Party movement through the year, distributing more than 10,000 pamphlets and Ayn Rand Samplers.
- Finally, in 2010 ARC’s Facebook page grew from 27,000 to 150,000 people. We are planning and implementing specific strategies for all our social media sites as well as for the Atlas Shrugged website.
The challenges of the political situation in Washington over the past two years have spawned opportunities for principled advocacy for liberty and capitalism. ARC proved able to take advantage of these opportunities, and to work in an unprecedented way to propel Ayn Rand’s ideas into an increasingly prominent place in the public debate.
As you have seen, ARI’s achievements in 2010 were many and varied. They build upon work that has been done over many years—and which you have helped to make possible through your financial support. We thank you again for making all of this possible.
Let me conclude by placing all of these achievements within a broader cultural context, particularly in the wake of the November elections.
Capitalism and freedom remain under assault as in no time in our history. Old means of defending the free-market system have not succeeded; what is needed now is a new approach to upholding capitalism. The public appears to appreciate this need for change; receptiveness to ARI’s message continues to be strong and growing. Recent election results also suggest a resistance to the statist onslaught of the past two years.
However, these relatively positive recent developments on the political scene remain tentative. The prospects for meaningful, enduring change must be regarded as fragile. This is because while there is evidence of a resurgence of public support for many of the values we uphold, the philosophic foundations of this activism remain inchoate. A resurgence of the historical, positive American sense of life is encouraging—alone, however, it is not enough.
In short, Ayn Rand’s philosophic defense of freedom and capitalism is more desperately needed today in the culture than ever before. People are searching for solutions, looking for answers—and, for the most part, not finding them. At the same time, the clock is ticking—our country is heading toward an economic and political disaster from which recovery may be very difficult.
What we have achieved to date, and especially in 2010, is the direct result of your commitment and generosity. Your continued support will be essential as we continue to promote Ayn Rand’s ideas throughout the culture.
Thank you very much for your consideration; and best wishes for a happy holiday season as well as a productive and prosperous 2011!
President and Executive Director
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