Category Archives: Other Speeches

CORO Neighborhood Leadership Remarks

On January 31, 2012 Jonathan Fanton delivered opening remarks to commemorate fellows of the CORO Neighborhood Leadership program,  a 5-month, part-time leadership training opportunity that provides individuals working in organizations that strengthen New York City’s commercial institutions with the tools and experiences they need to develop new ways to lead change in their communities. For more information on CORO, click here.

CORO Neighborhood Leadership – Remarks
January 31, 2012

Thank you, Rob. It is always a pleasure to make common cause with you. And to learn from you. Looking back over my career I can say that our work together at the 14th Street Union Square Local Development Corporation and BID ranks at the top of what gives me a feeling of pride and satisfaction.

Last May you and I had a conversation with the first class of Coro Fellows so this feels like a reunion as I look out and see familiar faces. I look forward to talking with you at the reception and hearing about your experiences.

This gathering of the first and now the new class of Coro Fellows furthers the potential of this program to make our city more vibrant one neighborhood at a time – a city that will be more prosperous, creative, just and humane with opportunity for all. Think about this when you come together.

I hope this annual event will be here in the home of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. This is where they lived, the family center, from 1908 until they moved to the White House. Roosevelt heard of his election to the Presidency here, made his first radio address to the nation as President-elect by the fireplace on the second floor, recruited his Cabinet and formulated the New Deal from his study looking out on 65th Street.

He understood the importance of community development. Hear his words in a 1933 Fireside Chat talking about employment creation and economic development. Our program “will succeed if our people understand it — in the big industries, in the little shops, in the great cities and … small villages. There is nothing complicated about it and there is nothing particularly new in the principle. It goes back to the basic idea of society and of the nation itself that people acting in a group can accomplish things which no individual acting alone could even hope to bring about.”

Franklin and Eleanor would be pleased that you are gathered in their home to begin your journey on a program that will make full use of your talent to bring people together in community groups to seize hold of their destinies, strengthen their neighborhoods, and make a difference. The path to America’s best days ahead runs not through Washington or Albany, but through Jackson Heights, East Harlem and Bedford Stuyvesant.

We are fortunate that the great work that Rob Walsh and his colleagues are accomplishing has a wise, caring and determined advocate one step from the Mayor. I have the pleasure of introducing Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, Robert Steel. After a successful business career including 30 years at Goldman Sachs and service as Under-Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance, Bob Steel has applied his immense talent to supporting the local economy of New York’s diverse neighborhoods.

Since his appointment, the Deputy Mayor has had the opportunity to visit many of your neighborhoods with Commissioner Walsh, pounding the pavement in Red Hook, Brooklyn, the Hub 3rd Avenue in the Bronx, and St. George, Staten Island, just to name a few – each time recognizing the great work of our Neighborhood Leaders and the organizations you represent.  Not only has he attracted the first Applied Science Campus to our great City, bolstering the growing technology sector, but he has also created the first Bank Advisory Council that is dedicated to helping new and small business secure loans, expand their customer base and thrive.  Through this work, he embodies what it means to be a Leader. Through his leadership he carries on the spirit of Franklin Roosevelt who is smiling with approval.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Deputy Mayor Robert Steel.

Choate 50th Reunion

On May 3, 2011 Jonathan Fanton reflected upon his career experiences and political development at a reunion with fellow Choate classmates. 

Dave has opened a window on a fascinating chapter of his career, all illustration of how talented people give back through public service.

Another way many us have helped others is through our volunteer work, in our local communities, for schools and colleges and sometimes through organizations that address poverty and injustice all over the world.

I want to talk with you for a few minutes about my 30 year association with Human Rights Watch.  In a moment I will show you a short video.

Who I am was very much shaped by my years at Choate.  My family settled in Weston, Connecticut in the 1600’s and never left, indeed my 95 year old father lives within a 5 minutes drive of the of the family farm.  So I came to Choate as a provincial from a very Republican family.  But my horizons broadened here with great teachers like Herb Coursen, Gordon Stillman, Alan Low, Owen Morgan, not to mention, forces of nature like E. Stanley Pratt, Paul Julio and Pauline Anderson.

It was here I came to saw the first televised Presidential debate in Fred and Marion Thompson’s Long House living room.  And, found myself drawn to Choate’s own Jack Kennedy.  I was inspired by Adlai Stevenson’s model of public service and completely won over by his friend, Eleanor Roosevelt when she spoke here.  She invited members of the Choate History Club to visit her cottage in Hyde Park.  I can still remember the conversation about the U.S. obligation to promote human rights worldwide.  I trace my lifelong involvement in human rights to that conversation and to Eleanor Roosevelt.

My world view was shaped at Choate, by conversations with classmates, exposure to public figures and by the sessions in daily chapel.  Values like fairness, integrity, a responsibility to help others, an obligation to make a difference with privileges of a Choate education became animating forces in my life thanks to Choate.

I have tried to live by those values in my work at Yale, The University of Chicago, as President of the New School and the MacArthur Foundation.  But I have to say the most rewarding work I have done has been as a volunteer at Human Rights Watch.  My work at the New School brought me in contact with dissident scholars in Eastern and Central Europe in the 1980’s, scholars who were also leaders of local human rights movements.  To help them I joined a new organization called Human Rights Watch and gradually took on responsibility for its work in that region and the Soviet Union.

Some of the most memorable experiences of my life came from that work — being present at the start of the Velvet revolution in Prague’s Wenceslas Square, bearing witness to the overthrow of the Ceausescu regime in Romania, marching into Slobodan Milosevic’s office with evidence of war crimes, which ultimately brought him to an international tribunal, visiting each of the Baltic countries in February 1991 to investigate the Soviet crackdown.  It was in Tallinn, Estonia on a cold early February day that I reached the conclusion that the Soviet Union was finished.  You recall the challenges to the Soviet Union began in The Balkans and I could feel the sense of movement for change as I walked around the streets of Tallinn’s old town.

In those days Human Rights Watch was small, focused mainly on Europe and Latin America.  Later I had the privilege of serving as Chair during a period of rapid expansion.  Here is a short video on Human Rights Watch today.


In our lifetime we have seen the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights – which Eleanor Roosevelt fought for – take on real meaning.

Human Rights Watch along with Amnesty, Physicians for Human Rights is joined by thousands of local human rights organizations around the world fighting discrimination, police abuse and for freedom of speech and the press.  And a robust system of international justice, anchored by the new ICC, in moving the world from an era of impunity to an age of accountability.

My modest contribution to this profound change comes mainly through my volunteer work.  As we approach a new phase in our lives where we will have more time, I think it is important to increase rather than diminish our volunteer work.  So recently I have joined the Coalition to Support the ICC, became Chair of HRW’s Africa Division and just last month agreed to Chair the Scholars at Risk Network rescuing dissident Scholars from all over the world.

Let me stop here and give the floor over for a conversation about my talk and your own experiences.

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.