Category Archives: Other Speeches

The Universe of Union Square

On September 16, 2011 Jonathan Fanton commemorated the publication of The Universe of Union Square by Jim Gabbe, a book that highlights the area’s rich history and cultural life.

The Universe of Union Square – Thursday, September 16, 6:30 PM
National Arts Club at 15 Gramercy Park South

First of all, congratulations to Jim Gabbe for this herculean task in putting together a wonderful book that is rich in history and filled with so many powerful images of the past and present of Union Square.

It is also nice to see so many people here with whom I have made common cause over the years.

I always love coming back to the Union Square neighborhood.   Every time that I am here, it seems that there is something new, something better.  The energy of this place is uplifting.

I am an historian by training so Jim’s book has special meaning to me.  It is quite simply the best book on a place that I have ever seen and visually, the most beautiful.  The chapter headings tell the story, “Democracy’s Stage”,  “A Creative Cauldron”, “Inventive Ventures”, “Enlightened Streets “ – we are the academic hub of New York.

The honor role of activists, writers, actors, scholars and political leaders who have lived around us is stunning.  Can you think of any other neighborhood in America with such talent, talent that rivals great periods of the past in ancient Athens or Rome or Enlightenment London or Renaissance Paris?

We come together at a low point in the history of Union Square and we rebuilt it.  I wish that I had known its rich history as we began our journey, but I now know our vision reflects the values so deeply embedded in the very fabric of our neighborhood.

Often when people look at the success of neighborhoods, they look at the achievements through the lens of bricks and mortar—the size and shapes of the buildings, and physical improvements.  And Union Square has its share of beautiful landmarks and new additions that have anchored the Square.

But, as Jim captures so well in his book, the Union Square journey of revitalization is as much about the people as it is about the physical space.  This neighborhood’s defining characteristic and strength is its diversity.  The very word “union” symbolizes the spirit and moral purpose that has animated our work together over the years.

In reading through this book, I enjoyed seeing the quotes from so many here that made a difference – Danny Meyer, Eric Petterson, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, and Gene McGrath.  Perhaps Gene said it best when he said “Business people, residents, the arts community, schools, city agencies have worked together believing we could make our community a better place”.

It was believers like Jim, his wife Jill and family that made this neighborhood the very special place it is today.    They are part of an extraordinary group in this neighborhood that saw opportunity in challenges and seized them with a sense of spirit, camaraderie and purpose.

And that is what made all the difference here in Union Square which has been a beacon in the universe of community development corporations all across the City.   We are all proud of Rob Walsh who was our leader at the critical moment when our path forward became clear and true.  Through him, what we have done together has been a model for other neighborhoods which have enabled the citizens of this great city to shape their own destiny.  That is democracy at its best as ordinary citizens unite together, putting differences aside, to forge a common purpose:  neighborhoods that are safe, welcoming, growing – avenues of opportunity in pursuit of a more just and humane world.

Jim, thank you for deepening the meaning of our journey together and providing the context that makes sense of life itself.

Thank you.

John Hamre and Jessica Matthews Introduction

On March 10, 2009 Jonathan Fanton introduced John Hamre, President and CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Jessica Matthews, President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, to discuss the foreign policy challenges and priorities facing the then recently-elected President, Barack Obama

Jonathan F. Fanton

Introduction of John Hamre and Jessica Matthews

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I am pleased to welcome John Hamre, President and CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Jessica Matthews, President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Thank you for taking the time to meet with the MacArthur Board and senior staff.

We are holding our March Board meeting in Washington so we can talk with senior members of the new Administration about issues of mutual concern.  We are obviously pleased that our friend and Chicago neighbor has become President, and proud that he has recruited so many people with MacArthur ties as Senior Advisors, to his Cabinet and in key positions throughout the executive branch.

As you know, MacArthur supports a variety of initiatives, including research, policy analysis, demonstration projects, and capacity building on issues like affordable housing, education, peace and security, and conservation.  But, in the end, our financial contribution is modest, and it takes government policy and action to move good ideas to scale.  In the U.S. and in 60 countries around the world, we work with government agencies and follow government policies closely.

For the most part, the landscape in the U.S. is changing in ways that create a more favorable context for our work.  We need to understand those changes and then adapt to new opportunities – and perhaps new challenges as well.  We will spend our June Board meeting on that review, so our conversations today and tomorrow are part of the learning process.

On the domestic side, we will be meeting with Valerie Jarrett, Shaun Donovan, and Arne Duncan.  And Bill Burns has organized a conversation at the State Department with Anne Marie Slaughter, the new Director of Policy Planning.  Other senior officials may join, if confirmed and available.

Before embarking on those meetings, we thought it would be useful to get an overview from people we know, trust, and respect with whom we have been working.  Bruce Katz of Brookings and Len Burman of the Urban Institute Tax Policy Center gave us a good hour on domestic policy.

We have been pleased to support CSIS for international security policy studies, workshops in the areas of Russian security, biological threat reduction, and Asia-Pacific issues, among others.

And we have benefited from John’s long experience in government, during which he served as the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense.  John maintains strong ties to the Department of Defense, serving as chairman of the Defense Policy Board, an advisory committee to Secretary Gates.  From 1993-1997, he served as under secretary of defense (comptroller), and for ten years he was a professional staff member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

MacArthur has benefited from a long relationship with Jessica, which goes back to the early days of the World Resources Institute.  Currently, we work with the Carnegie Endowment on international migration research, nonproliferation work, and in Russia.  where we enjoy a particularly close relationship with Carnegie’s Moscow office and support its journal, Pro et Contra.

So John and Jessica together touch on every aspect of our international program.

In the opening days of his administration, President Obama set a clear tone for some of the changes he intends for U.S. foreign policy—from closing Guantanamo to the appointment of the high level envoys George Mitchell and Richard Holbrooke to manage relations with key countries. John and Jessica, we would like to hear what your thoughts on these steps and what you project to be the defining foreign policy challenges of the new administration.

In particular, we are interested in the future of disarmament talks, prospects for the U.S.-Russia bilateral relationship, your thoughts on peacebuilding and post-conflict recovery (such as in African or South Asian conflicts), and your thoughts on the roles India and China may play in international institutions and development — what opportunities do their evolving roles in foreign policy afford the new administration?

We would be interested in knowing what your greatest hopes and worries are for the new Administration and how your institutions will adapt to the new context.