2023 Baron Award to Alejandro Chafuen
Annual BARON AWARD Presentation
Spring Meeting, The Philadelphia Society, The Westin Indianapolis – April 1, 2023
This year it is my great honor to be with you and to be privileged to present this year’s Baron Award to an esteemed member of our august conclave.
The Baron was a friend and mentor to many in this room and many more throughout the conservative movement and it is perfectly and poetically fitting that the recipients of this award named in his honor have exemplified this spirit of mentorship. This is typified beautifully by the club’s previously awarded men…and women (trailblazing spitfire Diana Denman broke yet another glass ceiling last year as the first female recipient of this great award). I can speak first-hand of their generosity of spirit as mentors in their mentorship of yours truly in this my 10th year of attending these meetings- 40 years after my father was on the board of this Society.
Previous awardees whom we all know and love, beyond our Queen, Diana Denman, include Ken Cribb, David Stuhr, Morton Blackwell, Dan Hales, and the inaugural awardee- Jameson Campaigne.
Today I am blessed to be able to add to this list in presenting this award to one of the mentors in this movement who has added so much to my own personal growth as a think tank activist, journalist, political rabble rouser, economic philosopher, and in my own continued efforts to be a man of principle: Dr. Alejandro Antonio Chafuen- or as we ubiquitously refer to him: simply, without airs, Alex.
Alex is an esteemed think tank leader and economist. He may even be our foremost expert in the conceptual framework of what a think tank in the conservative movement is and does- having penned Forbes columns on this subject for years. Alex is a classically trained economist holding a doctorate and lecturing widely including at and as a member of the prestigious (and Philly Soc linked) Mont Pelerin Society. He has been present at the launch of many of the great conservative/classical liberal think tanks that are important to our present-day intellectual environment in the culture wars and the battle of ideas. He knew and learned from many greats such as Milton Friedman and Sir Antony Fisher and was unofficially schooled by them in both the art and the science of propagating ideas and using data to do so. His affiliations are many and his relationships run deep. He is deeply involved as an alum of Grove City College- one of the few bastions of academic sanity and conservatism in American higher education.
Alex is one of the stalwart champions of our movement globally and his intellectual rigor and passion in marrying Big C cultural conservatism, anchored in the Judeo-Christian values set, with classical economic liberalism- “free markets and free minds”- has helped shape many of us.
I first met Alex over a decade ago when he was Chairman of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation- and my first memory of him is indelibly imprinted in my mind. It was at the Atlas annual gala that concluded that organization’s multi-day conference in New York- which was in fact my first conservative movement conference altogether. Before everyone was seated for the gala dinner, he went around to every single table, to welcome all the attendees from all over the world. At some dinners that is not too arduous a task- but at the Atlas event there were 800 people or so in attendance which made for nearly 100 tables. He went to every…single…one. That level of hospitality, noblesse oblige, and humility gets to the heart of this man. It shows his deep desire to always make a human touch point with those he is locked arm in arm with amidst the battle of ideas.
He has since left Atlas and gone on to the Acton Institute where he heads their international programming. Every time I open Facebook, he is somewhere else, and it is meticulously digitally documented for posterity. In consecutive weeks he could be lecturing in his native Argentina with side trips to Peru and elsewhere (as was the case merely 72 hours ago) or he might be jumping from Western Europe to Central Europe. We share a love of Poland, where I live part time, and where the fundamentals of Catholic conservatism remain firmly moored and the populace has always clamored for free and competitive liberalized markets. The Polish Pope, John Paul II, the great spiritual and political leader, who helped my father escape Poland in 1965, was a saintly man we both admire for all his virtues- not least of which was his seminal role in helping defeat the Soviet communist scourge.
Given Alex’s international proclivities- spreading these ideological and spiritual gospels far and wide, nearer afield he also hosts the International Coalition Meeting in Washington every month. His affiliations and activities are never-ending. But it is his morality and humanity that most make him the deserving recipient of this award.
In 2016, after having written some aggressive, some might say uncouth, maybe even mean, but highly accurate, invective about one Washington Post fabulist named Anne Applebaum in the sober tribune known as Breitbart.com, I was smeared as an anti-Semite by the mainstream press. Alex rushed to my defense. It was not lost on him that given the timing of this episode, weeks ahead of Election Day, it was merely a political hatchet job meant to impugn by extension: Breitbart, Bannon, and Trump. It was also not lost on him that the whole thing was a farce given that this anti-Semite, yours truly, is Jewish. Oy gevalt as my yiddische grandmother used to say! Alex was nothing but supportive as I was taking on incoming fire. And he even saw the merits of my arguments, which we discussed in depth.
More recently, I again find myself in the middle of a firestorm owing to my Board role in a high-profile journalism non-profit that is currently dealing with a management shake-up. From the beginning of this ugly episode, Alex reached out to check in on me, and offered sage counsel on multiple facets of non-profit management and governance, board and fiduciary responsibilities, and the necessity to stand on principle even in the face of a mob slavishly devoted to cult of personality but concertedly ignorant of accurate fact pattern. This mentorship has proven invaluable these recent weeks and helped me stay grounded, mission driven, and motivated to continue holding the line in doing the right and moral thing by and for employees, donors, other stakeholders, and rule of law.
These experiences- learning from Alex and being able to lean on Alex- are emblematic of his magnanimity. As such, I am honored to be able to hand him this year’s Baron Award. Alex, congratulations on this well-deserved honor!
Remarks by Matthew Tyrmand