I attended the annual Town & Country Philanthropy Summit this year. I am still thinking about the speakers. Strong philanthropic giving can make a change from the outside. It is particularly important now as the Government pulls out of programs that impact anyone from the underserved to the sick. Mike Bloomberg gave the keynote. There are few people who have taken their financial success and channeled the type of capital into cities around public health, education, the arts, the environment and Government innovation using data to make decisions. I am a huge fan. He talked matter of factly, as only he does, to inspire philanthropy in all of us to engage the public and Government to change. He just wrote a book with Carl Pope called Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens, Can Save the Planet.
I liked the way the day laid out. Each panel had an excellent moderator which is honestly the key to a panel. One of person gave a short talk before the panel. It was the perfect way to tee up the conversation. The first panel was The Case For Arts Philanthropy with Oskar Eustis, Public Theater, Elaine Wynn, LACMA, Evan Bard, US Trust Wealth Management and Sarah Jones, Actor. The importance of arts in regards to how it makes a difference in people and their lives. NYC is a perfect example of a city rich in the arts and how it makes a difference in the way we think and behave.
A Family Affair: The Elizabeth Taylor Legacy was the family members, mostly Grandchildren, who are continuing their work on AIDS. Impressive how Taylor set up her trust so that her works continues on. Charlotte Jones Anderson, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, spoke before them. She got behind the Salvation Army 20 years ago and got the NFL behind the organization. Her impact has been huge, like Bloomberg, using her power and capital to create change. These two talks says something about being proactive behind one organization that you care about vs knee jerk reactions to many organizations so that impact can be felt.
Glenn Close teed up the panel that she sat on around What We Talk About When We Talk About Mental Illness. Close started the organization Bring Change 2 Mind. She began the organization when her sister was diagnosed bi-polar and her nephew was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She took her clout and used it to make a difference for others and her family to encourage a dialogue around mental health.
The panel included Mike Porath of the Mighty, Dr. Lloyd Sederer, NYS Office of Mental Health and Close moderating by Perri Peltz. Really powerful conversations around how this touches all of us and we should be more understanding by creating community and getting rid of the stigmas around this issue.
The last one before lunch was What Does “America First” Mean for The Global Refugee Crisis? Sandra Uwiringiymana, a Congolese refugee, who came here when she was 12, talked about her journey. An extremely powerful story of coming from war as a preteen and trying to fit in as an American. The panel included her and Courtney Cabon Venton, International Development Economist, David Miliband, International Rescue Committee and Zosia Mamet, Ambassador War Child. The long tail of American politics post WW2 is our spread of democracy, economic empowerment, the English language and so much more by spreading our taxpayers’ money around the globe. The value in that is huge and seems to be missed these days with our current Government.
During lunch, John Legend and Valerie Jarrett talked about #FreeAmerica, the reality of how the American justice system has incarcerated a few generations of black men and women. They announced a fund of $500K to support entrepreneurs who are coming out of jail to help them create new paths for themselves. Very powerful.
All and all, a truly inspiring day. Every person who spoke is making a difference. These days it is hard to endure the daily wrath of politics and not get utterly depressed. Seeing and hearing each person talk from the panelists to the others that attended, it gave me hope that many still do believe, as I do, that with success, it is important to give back to others so that we all can live better lives vs loading up our pocket books.