Walter Williams on the Founding Fathers
As Americans celebrate Independence Day, there is renewed debate about the nature of that independence and of the men who declared it. The column below from the late Walter Williams…
Electronic communication is a wonderful thing, but mass communication has never been a substitute for personal contact.
We live in a world of cheap mass communication. At little or no cost, we can send thousands of emails. Digital ads can be placed on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. We can attract readers to a website, and we can text. We can use older forms of mass communication too, through radio and television ads and billboards.
American Experiment uses all of these modes of communication, including highly sophisticated, targeted electronic messaging. The challenge is that everyone else also uses these methods.
And today’s proliferation of easy electronic messaging places a premium on more tangible methods of communication. For example, consider Thinking Minnesota. We launched Thinking Minnesota without knowing whether there was still a place for a physical magazine in a digital world. We needn’t have worried, as this magazine has become one of our most important outlets. We often hear from readers how much they enjoy a magazine that they can hold in their hands.
But the most effective form of communication—now more than ever, in my opinion—is personal contact. This is why the Center places an ever-increasing emphasis on meeting with groups all across the State of Minnesota and emphasizes smaller and more diverse events alongside our Annual Dinner, Fall Briefing, and lunch forums.
The “Morning in Minnesota” series is a good example. In 2019, we sponsored breakfast meetings in Willmar, Grand Rapids, Mankato, Red Wing, St. Cloud and Alexandria. Our presence at Farmfest and our “night at the movies” pre-release screening of No Safe Spaces illustrate how we interact personally with groups of Minnesotans. Going forward, we intend to put on many more such events that cover a range of policy topics and experiment with times and venues.
Just as important are opportunities to speak on policy issues during programs hosted by others. We have found service clubs like Rotary and Kiwanis, local chambers of commerce, and politically-oriented organizations to be excellent avenues for getting our policy fellows in front of groups. There are many advantages to sharing our research, data and common-sense conservative ideas with a group of, say, 30 Minnesotans who appreciate the fact that we care enough to show up.
A great example is the effort that Policy Fellow Catrin Wigfall and Greater Minnesota Outreach Director Micah Olson made to attend a Red Lake Tribal Council meeting and share ideas about technical education and workforce development. At the Council’s invitation, Catrin and Micah spent eight hours in a car and stayed overnight in Bemidji. Catrin presented before the Council and Hereditary Chiefs on the Center’s Great Jobs project, after which she and Micah toured the tribe’s training facilities (see p. 18). No number of emails, texts or other mass communication can build a cooperative relationship like showing up in person.
Because we believe in-person contact is so important, we’re about to hire an events manager to produce the Center’s events and help get our policy fellows in front of service clubs, chambers, and other third-party groups.
Center policy fellows are available to speak on a broad range of issues, including Minnesota’s economy, taxes and spending, various aspects of education such as alternatives to four-year degrees, natural resource development (e.g., mining), energy and the environment, transportation and traffic congestion, and more. If you are involved with an organization that is interested in lining up one of our staff for a presentation, just give us a call at 612-338-3605.