Category Archives: Roosevelt House Introductions

Babatunde Osotimehin Introduction

On November 9, 2011 Jonathan Fanton introduced Babtunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund, for a discussion on global maternal mortality rates and issues of women’s health more generally.

Introduction of Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin

November 09, 2011

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of Roosevelt House, and it is my honor to welcome you to a very special evening. Our guest is Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund.

It is a special pleasure for me because he is my friend, colleague and mentor. When I was President of the MacArthur Foundation our population program focused on the improvement of maternal health and the reduction of maternal mortality. Our theory was straightforward: if women and their families have access to good information and health care they will make sensible reproductive choices. We focused on reduction of maternal mortality, a critical goal in itself, as a key indicator of whether women were getting adequate reproductive health counseling and care. Over 350,000 women die every year giving birth, 99% in the developing world. That represents one death every 90 seconds, so 60 women will die during the 90 minutes we are together. And the great majority of those deaths are preventable.

We see an inextricable link between respecting human rights and population policy. One of our focus countries is Nigeria. And that is where I first met Dr. Osotimehin a decade ago when he was a professor at the University of Ibadan and Chairman of the National Action Committee on AIDS.

Dr. Osotimehin was the principal advisor to MacArthur’s population work not just in Nigeria but worldwide. He served on our International Advisory Group for Population and Reproductive Health and was a Distinguished Resident Fellow at our Chicago offices in 1996.

He is well prepared for his current appointment as the UN’s Chief Population officer. He completed his medical studies at the University of Ibadan and then received a doctorate in medicine from the University of Birmingham. He has been a Fellow at Cornell’s Medical School and at Harvard’s Center for Population and Development Studies.

He has seamlessly combined a career of scholarship, reflection and purposeful action. He was Provost of the College of the Medicine at the University of Ibadan, Project Manager of the World Bank funded HIV/AIDS program in Nigeria, Director-General of the Nigerian National Agency for the Control of AIDS and Minister of Health for Nigeria, to mention just a few of his leadership positions.

As Minister of Health he focused on strengthening the basic primary health care system in Nigeria. He has a comprehensive view of health care: “It is everything together,” he said, “We must invest in health systems that can look after everything and invest in prevention, prevention, prevention.” And on his watch Nigeria achieved a dramatic decline in the rate of new polio cases. He showed great diplomatic skill in engaging community leaders, especially in the North, to support immunization.

On October 31, just 10 days ago, it is estimated that the world’s population surpassed 7 billion. There are an estimated 1.8 billion adolescents and youth aged 10-24, more than a quarter of the world’s population, and almost 90% of them live in developing countries. Dr. Osotimehin has therefore made youth the focus of UNFPA, especially women.

In his statement to the UNFPA Executive Board he made an eloquent call to action:

“Advancing the right to sexual and reproductive health lies at the heart of UNFPA. To garner greater progress, we will advocate for investments by countries and donors for a comprehensive package of integrated sexual and reproductive health services as well as comprehensive sexuality education.”

And he has made human rights a cornerstone of his approach. In that same speech he said,   “We will continue to champion human rights, including girls’ education through the secondary level, and the right of women and girls to be educated and make informed decisions about sexual and reproductive health. We will continue to work to advance reproductive rights, end child marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting and improve prospects for adolescent girls. UNFPA will also continue to work to end sexual violence and further advance the women, peace and security agenda.”

He will tell us about the work of UNFPA and give us a candid assessment of the prospects for reaching MDG #5, the reduction of maternal mortality by 50% by 2015.

As we look the images of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt behind us, I think they would be pleased we are addressing these serious issues in their home through the lens of the United Nations.

After Dr. Osotimehin talks we will have a conversation and invite your questions.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin.

Robert Orr Introduction

On October 26, 2011, Jonathan Fanton introduced Robert C. Orr, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning. Orr discussed U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s agenda for his second term, and previewed the themes of the Secretary-General’s acceptance speech planned for January 2012.

Robert Orr – Introduction

October 26, 2011

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of Roosevelt House, and it is my pleasure to welcome you to an event which exemplifies the mission of Roosevelt House. Our guest, Assistant Secretary-General of the UN for Planning and Policy, Robert Orr, will preview the themes that will animate Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s second term. Robert Orr is working closely with the Secretary-General in framing the priorities for the next five years, a daunting task given the daily crises, long term challenges, and opportunities to create a safe and more just world that lie ahead.

I came to know Bob Orr when I was President of the MacArthur Foundation and we worked on issues like reducing dangers from biological and chemical weapons, protecting the environment, advancing human rights and framing the new norm of the Responsibility to Protect, a commitment we have seen engaged in Kenya, the Ivory Coast and Libya.

I came to admire his vision of what the UN can be at its best, his commitment to make the UN an effective force for advancing humankind’s noblest instincts and aspirations and his ability to get things done. Widely respected and trusted by people and countries who do not trust each other, he is a human bridge of understanding, able to build coalitions that advance the Secretary-General’s goals.

He combines theory and practice as well as anyone I know. With a Ph.D.  and M.P.A. from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, he has led the Belfer Center of Science and International Affairs at Harvard, served as Director of the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington,  published extensively on post-conflict situations, including Winning the Peace: an American Strategy for Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Keeping the Peace: Multidimensional UN Operations in Cambodia  and El Salvador.

On the practice side, he has been Director of the USUN Washington office and Director of Global and Multilateral Affairs at the National Security Council. In his current role he is responsible for the Secretary-General’s Policy Committee and is a policy advisor to Ban Ki-moon on counter terrorism strategy, climate change, food security, global health, reducing the dangers of WMD and more.

And we are particularly grateful to you, Bob, for encouraging the Secretary-General to preside over the official opening of Roosevelt House last year. His presence – and yours today – serve as a powerful reminder that within these walls Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt helped conceive and develop the United Nations. Your talk today is central to the mission of Roosevelt house: bringing policy makers together with students, faculty and the general public to explore the most pressing issues of the day.

So we are privileged for an advanced insight into the agenda in formation for Ban Ki-moon’s second term and appreciate your openness to questions, reactions and suggestions during the discussion period to follow you rem

Robert K. Steel Introduction

On October 18, 2011, Jonathan Fanton introduced Robert K. Steel, New York City Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, who spoke about the need for pension reform in New York. 

Robert K. Steel Introduction

Roosevelt House October 18, 2011

Roosevelt House has quickly become a place where major issues are talked about from a fresh perspective. To my mind, there is no more important question than  how we think about the tension between current economic and political realities and long term sensible public policy. Our country is at an inflection point: unless we change course our relative standing will continue to decline. Of course it is important to work our way out of this recession but we should not think that an economic upturn will solve our long-term challenges.

Our speaker tonight, Deputy Mayor Robert Steel, will give us a first-hand insight into how a leader can keep our long term interests front and center. He will use the urgent need for public pension reform in New York City as a case in point.

As Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, Bob Steel has a huge responsibility. The Department of Housing, City Planning, Small Business Services and the New York City Economic Development Corporation all report to him. He leads major redevelopment projects from Lower Manhattan to the South Bronx to Coney Island and points in between. And he has made a point to get out and see the good work taking place in our communities — from housing being built in the South Bronx to meeting with merchants and small business owners in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood.

Deputy Mayor Steel is conducting the search for a university to start a science and engineering research campus. I hope he will talk with us about that initiative which aims to strengthen New York’s research and development capacity and its leading position as a source of innovation and creative talent. Bob Steel is advancing New York’s ambition to be an incubator of ideas that will make our city, state and country more competitive in the global economy.

He may well be the best prepared Deputy Mayor for Economic Development the city has ever had. He spent 30 years at Goldman Sachs, ultimately becoming Vice Chairman of the firm and co-head of the U.S. Equities Division. He served as Under Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance. And he became CEO of Wachovia and put its affairs in order so it could be sold to Wells Fargo making it the second largest retail broker in the U.S.

And somehow with all these demanding leadership responsibilities, Bob Steel has had an active life of civic engagement. He chaired the Aspen Institute which partners with Roosevelt House to bring thoughtful public programs here. He has served on the Board of The After School Corporation, and he chaired the Board of his alma mater, Duke University, to mention a few.

New York is fortunate to have a person of such deep and broad experience serve as the intellectual engine shaping our future. And New York higher education is blessed to have a person with his passion for the life of the mind in a key leadership position.

After the Deputy Mayor’s talk, we will have a discussion period.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Robert Steel.



Arne Duncan Introduction

On May 16, 2011 Jonathan Fanton introduced Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for a talk at the Roosevelt House.

Arne Duncan on Education

Jonathan Fanton Q&A with Arne Duncan, Part I

Hunter Students and Faculty Q&A with Arne Duncan, Part II

MAY 16, 2011

It is my great pleasure to introduce my friend Secretary Arne Duncan with whom I had the privilege of making common cause as he made Chicago a model for urban school improvement.

The MacArthur Foundation has had a long commitment to school reform in Chicago but the high point of a quarter century of our engagement occurred when Arne Duncan was C.E.O.

Chicago and education are deep in Arne Duncan’s DNA.  His father was a professor at the University of Chicago, his mother runs a tutoring program on Chicago’s South Side where he worked, and before coming to the school system he helped start the Ariel Community Academy, an elementary school built around a financial literary curriculum.  And The Academy was part of Eugene Lang’s, I Have a Dream program which provided scholarships to students who stayed the course and entered college.  It is a great pleasure to have Gene Lang with us today.

Arne Duncan became CEO of Chicago Schools in 2001 and when President Obama asked him to become Secretary of Education he was the longest serving major city schools superintendent.  In the United States.

Arne Duncan is a patient visionary or perhaps a romantic realist.  He does not let the stubborn reality of urban school problems dampen his spirits or his ambitions to move our schools up the critical path to a better future for our country and our children.  He challenges us to take the “road less traveled”.

Hear his words at his confirmation hearing as Secretary, when he said education is “the most pressing issue facing America…. Preparing young people for success in life is not just a moral obligation of society but also an economic imperative…  Education is also the civil rights issue of our generation… the only sure path out of poverty and the only way to achieve a more equal and just society.”

America’s core values so eloquently expressed, so deeply felt, so inspiring for all of us.

But words are easy.  Doing is difficult.  No Secretary of Education has gone to the post better prepared than Arne Duncan who led a renaissance of Chicago’s public schools.  Here is just a sample of what he did!

Started 100 new schools and had the courage to close under-performing schools.

The average ACT college entrance scores increased 3 times the national rate.

A record 66% of elementary school students met or exceeded state reading standards, 70% for math standards.

The number of teachers achieving National Board Certification increased from 11 to 1,200, the fastest growing rate among the nation’s big city systems.

The number of applicants to teach in Chicago tripled to 10 for every opening.

And that is just a sample.

I saw firsthand how hard he worked, how much he cared, how skillful he was at building coalitions with the business community, universities and the teachers union.  His story is a model of how clear vision, competence, commitment, compassion and courage come together to compel a system to reform and thus change thousands of lives.

He will now talk to us about how he is putting that experience to work at the national level, through a challenge to states to race to the top, a reform initiative that requires adopting rigorous standards and assessments, building data systems to measure student achievement, so policy is based on evidence, and recruiting and training top teachers and principals to turn around the lowest achieving schools.

He has put together an outstanding leadership team, infused a spirit of innovation in the department, and created a culture which documents success and learns from disappointment.  He is an empirical evangelist.

We have welcomed many policy makers to Roosevelt House but none plays a more important role in the future of our country and our democracy than Arne Duncan.

After his opening remarks we will have a conversation and include your questions and comments

Shaun Donovan Introduction

On Wednesday, April 6th, Shaun Donovan, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development led a White House Youth Roundtable for Hunter College students at Roosevelt House. The event was moderated by FDR Visiting Fellow Dr. Jonathan Fanton.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4


It is a great pleasure to welcome my good friend Shaun Donovan to Hunter College’s Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute.  When I invited Secretary Donovan to come to Hunter he quickly agreed because he wants to have a conversation with students about housing and urban development policy but also about what is on your minds – what issues concern you, what advice do you have for The Secretary and The President.

So our format is straightforward.   After a brief introduction, Secretary Donovan will open with a few comments and then invite your questions.  He is on his way back to Washington so we have a hard stop at 4:30.

He is the 15th Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and I believe the best prepared.  After receiving his B.A. and two masters degrees at Harvard, one in Architecture and the other in Public Administration, he devoted himself to making cities better places to live and work for all Americans.

Affordable housing has been the center piece of his career in the private sector as a visiting scholar at NYU,  as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multifamily Housing in the Clinton Administration and as New York City’s Housing Commissioner under Mayor Bloomberg.   Here he launched the New Housing Marketplace Plan to build and preserve 165,000 affordable houses.  We worked together when I was at The MacArthur Foundation because he appreciated the critical role of affordable rental housing at a time when most people were fixed on home ownership during the Bush years.  To advance rental housing preservation he started the New York City Acquisition Fund, a model for the nation.

In his bio I note he was President Obama’s designated survivor during the 2010 State Of The Union address.  Shaun Donovan is more than a survivor, he is a visionary leader determined to make urban America once more a pathway of opportunity for all Americans, including those newly arrived.

In his tenure as Secretary he has assembled an outstanding leadership team to reshape HUD.  He has rolled out a 6.6 billion dollar program to help cities stabilize neighborhoods reeling from the ongoing foreclosure crisis.  He has launched innovative programs like Sustainable Communities and Choice Neighborhoods, and he has streamlined the maze of separate rental subsidy programs and strengthened support for public housing.

Students and faculty, it is my pleasure to give the floor to my friend and inspiration, Secretary Shaun Donovan.


Richard Lugar Introduction

On March 11, 2009 Jonathan Fanton and other members of the MacArthur Board met with former Senator Richard Lugar to discuss the new Obama administration and direction of the country more generally.

Introduction of Senator Richard Lugar
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
7:45 – 9:00 a.m.

The MacArthur Board is holding its March meeting in Washington to talk with members of the new Administration, many of whom have received grants from us in the past.  Yesterday we met at the State Department with Bill Burns and Ann Marie Slaughter.  On the domestic side, we met with Shaun Donovan and Peter Orszag; tomorrow we will speak with Arne Duncan.  At the White House we spoke with Valerie Jarrett

But we recognize that the new Administration must work closely with Congress to achieve all that it hopes to accomplish.  So we welcome the opportunity to talk off the record with you, knowing that you  share many of our passions.  Welcome back.

I will dispense with the formal introduction except to remind us of when we have worked together.

MacArthur has a long standing interest in reducing the dangers of weapons of mass destruction through its Peace and Security Program, which dates back to when Jerome Wiesner was on our Board.

We recognize your vision and leadership in establishing a set of programs at the end of the Cold War that continue to pay dividends for international peace and security.  Under the 1991 Nunn-Lugar Act, which launched the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, the U.S. and Russia have deactivated 7,504 strategic nuclear warheads, eliminated 1375 intercontinental and submarine launched ballistic missiles, upgraded security at 24 nuclear weapons storage sites, and built and equipped 16 biological monitoring stations.  Perhaps most importantly, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus are nuclear weapons free as a result of cooperative efforts under the CTR program.

We are very proud to have supported experts such as Ash Carter and Graham Allison, who helped you and Senator Nunn conceive and shape this historic program.  We are also pleased to have fostered a new generation of outside government experts devoted to carrying the work forward, such as Matt Bunn.

You are an active supporter and long time participant in the Aspen Congressional Roundtable – a program that MacArthur and other foundations have supported to provide opportunities for members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to meet with scholars and other experts to explore international and domestic issues.

We mainly want to hear what you want to tell us.  Along the way, we hope you might comment on:
Will we be able to return to the tradition of a bipartisan foreign policy?
What the new President can accomplish in foreign policy.
How the Congress is working with the new Administration;
Your thoughts on the economy and future steps necessary to stimulate a recovery – and when that might come;
Insight into policy initiatives on issues of particular interest to us like housing, metropolitan regions, education, disarmament, human rights;

Senator Lugar will speak for 10 or 15 minutes and then we will open it up to a general discussion.