Frank Costigliola, “Roosevelt’s Lost Alliances”

Frank Costigliola Roosevelt’s Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War Introduction
May 31, 2012

On May 31, 2012, Frank Costigliola came to Roosevelt House for a discussion about his new book entitled Roosevelt’s Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War. The landmark study examines how Franklin Roosevelt cultivated a sound Cold War diplomacy through his strong interpersonal skills and intuitive insights into the backgrounds, experiences, and emotions of Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill. This event was part of Roosevelt House’s “Road to November: Exploring America’s Challenges on the Way to Election 2012” series. 

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. It is my great pleasure to welcome you to our discussion tonight on Frank Costigliola’s Roosevelt’s Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War.

We gather in the homes of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt and Franklin’s mother, Sara. Sara built these twin townhouses and gave one to Franklin and Eleanor as a wedding gift in 1908. It was here that Franklin recovered from polio in 1921, perhaps in this place developing the personality traits central to narrative we will be discussing tonight.

The New Deal was shaped in these houses, Cabinet secretaries like Frances Perkins recruited here, commitments made to programs like Social Security. Think of members of FDR’s inner circle and emotional support walking these halls – Louis Howe living in the front bedroom on the 3rd floor.

The houses came to Hunter in 1942 after Sara Roosevelt’s death, made possible by an initial gift from Franklin and Eleanor that enabled Hunter to purchase them from the estate. The houses were an interfaith and student center from then until 1992 when they closed in disrepair.

Thanks to the vision and determination of Hunter President Jennifer Raab, the Roosevelt Houses were renovated two years ago and now host Hunter’s Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. The Institute offers two undergraduate programs, one in Public Policy and the other in Human Rights and International Justice. And it offers a robust public program of lectures, conferences and discussions of important domestic and international issues.

Tonight, we address an important topic: the origins of the Cold War and how events might have taken a different turn had Franklin Roosevelt lived. And we will reflect on the craft of history. Frank Costigliola reminds us “the Cold War was not inevitable,” a lesson we should apply more generally to the past, present and future. People, personalities and relationships matter, can change the course of history. As Professor Costigliola concludes in his introduction, “Examining the nexus between public and private helps us see the messy way that history really happens.”

Behind me is a picture of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin at Yalta.  Roosevelt’s Lost Alliances paints a sensitive portrait of Roosevelt and Stalin’s relationship. Concluding Roosevelt “wielded a razor-sharp emotional intelligence. Masterful in reading personality and in negotiating subtle transactions of pride and respect he could charm almost anyone. He deployed these skills with surprising success in establishing a bond with Stalin.” So much so that Stalin reportedly said as Yalta concluded “Let’s hope nothing happens to Roosevelt . We shall never do business again with anyone like him.”

I think Eleanor and Franklin would be pleased that we are having this conversation tonight in their home. They believed that leadership and personal relationships could shape and change the course of history.

I want to extend a special welcome to Professor Costigliola. He attended Hamilton College and received his PhD from Cornell University. He is a distinguished scholar who has written widely on the Cold War and foreign policy. His books Awkward Dominion: American Political, Economic, and Cultural Relations with Europe, 1919-1933 (1984) and France and the United States: The Cold Alliance Since World War II (1992) examine the geopolitical, cultural, psychological, and intellectual underpinnings of American diplomacy with Europe in the twentieth century. Since 1998, Professor Costigliola has taught at the University of Connecticut and, in 2009, he served as President of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. Currently, he is editing George Kennan’s diary entries, which cover an 80 year time period.

It is also my pleasure to introduce tonight’s moderator, Professor Jonathan Rosenberg. He is a true renaissance man. After earning a degree from Juilliard and performing professionally as a classical trumpeter, he received his PhD in History from Harvard. He now teaches twentieth century United States history at Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center. His research focuses on both the domestic and international ramifications of America’s engagement with the world. Professor Rosenberg has edited and published several important books on the Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War, including Kennedy, Johnson, and the Quest for Justice: The Civil Rights Tapes, which was based on secret Oval Office recordings made by JFK and LBJ.  And, more recently, How Far the Promised Land: World Affairs and the Civil Rights Movement from the First World War to Vietnam. Currently, he is writing a book that investigates how classical musicians, composers, and performing organizations in the United States understood and responded to international developments from the First World War to the Cold War, no doubt a fitting research topic for a talented musician.


Ira Shapiro, “The Last Great Senate”

The Last Great Senate
May 8, 2012

On May 8, 2012 Ira Shapiro came to the Roosevelt House to discuss his book entitled The Last Great Senate: Courage and Statesmanship in Times of Crisis. In examining the Congresses of the 1960s and 1970s, Shapiro reminds us that the Legislature can be a vehicle for great national reform and leadership. Jonathan Fanton introduced Professor Shapiro and The Last Great Senate. This event was part of Roosevelt House’s “Road to November: Exploring America’s Challenges on the Way to the Election of 2012” series.  

Good Evening, I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute and it is my pleasure to welcome you to the historic home of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. Tonight’s conversation with Ira Shapiro on his book The Last Great Senate is part of a Roosevelt House series on the Road to the Election of 2012. Please pick up a flier which describes other programs which we hope will be of interest to you. We began the series with a conference on the domestic accomplishments of Lyndon Johnson, a preview of what the Last Great Senate accomplished.

I think FDR would be pleased that we are having this conversation in his home this evening, moderated by Jonathan Alter who gave the very first talk in the Roosevelt House book series on The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope.

FDR understood the importance of a great Congress. Hear his words, in a June 1934 Fireside Chat on the record of the Seventy-third Congress: “Congress displayed a greater freedom from mere partisanship than any other peace-time Congress since the Administration of President Washington himself. The session was distinguished by the extent and variety of legislation enacted and by the intelligence and good will of debate upon these measures.”

While FDR would not be happy about our current Congress, which, according to a recent Gallup Poll, has the support of only 10% of all Americans, he would have admired the Last Great Senate. And used it.

Ira Shapiro has written an important book that reminds us there is more at stake in this fall’s election than the Presidency. The Last Great Senate is a call to action. As Ira Shapiro put it so eloquently: “What is most urgently needed is for Senators to act like Senators, not partisan operatives. They should not mirror, and even exacerbate, the nation’s divisions. They were sent to Washington to overcome them.”

It is my pleasure now to introduce Peter Osnos who will open tonight’s program. He is an active member of Roosevelt House’s Board of Advisors, and we benefit enormously from his experience as a journalist, editor and publisher.

Early in his career he was both foreign and national editor of the Washington Post, then a senior editor at Random House until he founded PublicAffairs in 1997. PublicAffairs is the leading publisher of books that advance our understanding of public lives and policies they have shaped including books by or about Robert McNamara, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin and Barack Obama.

And about issues important to our democracy including the government response to 9/11 (William Shawcross’ Justice and the Enemy: Nuremberg, 9/11, and the Trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and/or Aki Peritz and Eric Rosenbach’s Find, Fix, Finish: Inside the Counterterrorism Campaigns that Killed Bin Laden and Devastated Al Qaeda), global antipoverty initiatives (Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee’s Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty) education policy (Wendy Kopp’s A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn’t in Providing an Excellent Education for All), and corporate decision-making (George Soros’ Financial Turmoil in Europe and the United States and/or Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele’s The Betrayal of the American Dream). The Last Great Senate deepens the tradition.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the best publisher of our time, Peter Osnos.

In Conversation with Bob Edgar

April 24, 2012

On April 24, 2012 Jonathan Fanton sat down with Bob Edar for a discussion about his work as head of Common Cause, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to increase transparency and accountability in American politics. For more information on Common Cause, click here.

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of Roosevelt House, and it is my pleasure to welcome you to our ongoing program on the election of 2012. Tonight we have a very special guest, Bob Edgar, who is President of Common Cause, a movement of over 400,000 members determined to improve our democratic form of government. Its mission statement is direct, powerful and inspiring: “Common Cause is dedicated to restoring the values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest and accountable government that serves the public interest and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard in the political process.”

That statement resonates with one of Roosevelt House’s central themes: to encourage the Hunter community, especially students, to engage in the political process. Voter registration is available on the first floor of the Roosevelt House. And our Public Policy Program is helping first-time voters understand how to translate their views and opinions into informed votes whether for individuals or on issue referenda. Indeed, this is a theme of our ongoing series, The Road to November: Exploring America’s Challenges on the Way to Election 2012, which examines the key social, political, and economic issues preceding the November 2012 Presidential election. You might be interested in our next event in this series on May 8, when Jonathan Alter will engage Ira Shapiro in a conversation on his latest book, The Last Great Senate.

Surely, this series would impress Franklin Roosevelt, who said in one 1938 address to the nation that:
“The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the government.”

I am particularly pleased that Bob Edgar is part of this program. I joined the Board of Common Cause not only because I believe in its mission but because I think Bob Edgar is an extraordinary leader.

Trained in theology at Drew University, he was the United Protestant Chaplain of Drexel University until being elected to the House of Representatives in 1975. During his six terms in the House Congressman Edgar led efforts to improve public transportation, fought wasteful, pork-barrel projects involving the country’s water usage and supply and authored the community Right to Know provision of Super Fund legislation. After Congress, he was President of the Claremont School of Theology for a decade and then served as general secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ.

Under his leadership, Common Cause has new energy and focus. He will tell us, I am sure, about the Amend 2012 campaign aimed at cleansing our electoral system of the pernicious influence of big money. And the Common Cause spotlight on redistricting programs, efforts to modify the filibuster system, improve government accountability and transparency, challenge the tax-exempt status of the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC), and much more.

A recent poll suggests increasing numbers of Americans distrust our political process and policy formation. A Fall 2011 Congressional Budget Office poll found that 89% of Americans say they distrust government to do the right thing.  In a recent Gallup poll a record low 10% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing and 86% disapprove. An April 2012 Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 64% of Americans think the country is on the wrong track (washingtonpost, April 11, 2012).

That is a dismal and deeply disturbing commentary on the state of our democracy which was founded as a “city upon a hill” to set a standard for the world. No wonder that our Constitution no longer serves as the model for new democracies.

A recent New York Times article entitled “The Constitution Has Seen Better Days” notes that “Among the world’s democracies, constitutional similarity to the United States has clearly gone into free fall” since the end of World War II. Even Justice Ginsburg said in a speech in Egypt earlier this year, “I would not look to the US Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.”

This is not a state of affairs we should allow to continue. It is time for the American people to transcend party lines and engage with bipartisan organizations like Common Cause to get our democracy back on track.

Bob Edgar will share with us his ideas on what we as citizens can do. After his remarks, he and I will have a conversation for 10 minutes and then open up to your questions and comments.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Bob Edgar.

“Compassion and Justice Are Not Choices”

Fairfield History Museum and Center

On April 22, 2012 Dr. Jonathan Fanton delivered a keynote address at the Fairfield History Museum on the global issue of  violence against women. The event was sponsored by Emerge. Emerge aims to empower people to stop violence in intimate relationships, broaden public knowledge of the causes and solutions to domestic abuse, and strengthen institutional responses to aggressive spousal conflict. Click here for additional information about this organization.

I am always inspired to hear Donna talk about the life saving work of Emerge.  Lifesaving and life giving: Emerge opens opportunities for women and their children to develop their individual talents, live a stable and safe life and give back to society.

I want to thank Larry Roberts, Roma Fanton and Rosine Shalala for organizing this event and you who are supporting Emerge.  Thanks too, to the Fairfield History Museum.  This event is emblematic of two powerful themes: the role of volunteer citizens in addressing serious issues and the importance of working together to advance human rights.  I want to talk with you for a few minutes about those themes in global perspective and then open the floor for a discussion.

We are in the right place to talk about how Emerge fits within a global human rights framework.  Two hundred and thirty two years ago this July British troops sacked Fairfield.  Those who lived here before us knew firsthand how it felt to face oppression, lose homes and livelihood to forces bent on turning back our unalienable rights of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Connecticut and Fairfield pioneered the theory and practice of protecting individual freedoms.  In 1639, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut were adopted, affirming that the “foundation of authority is the free consent of the people.”  Two years before the Declaration of Independence, towns across the state passed resolutions supporting independence and asserting the “natural rights” of Connecticut’s citizens in defiance of the British Crown.

As early as 1774, Connecticut began to restrict the trade of slaves. In 1840, a number of Connecticut citizens worked to shelter and free slaves seized here on the Amistad.  In 1866, Connecticut was the first state to ratify the 14th Amendment guaranteeing equal protection under the law.  In 1869, the Connecticut Women’s Suffrage Association was born, and in 1943, the Connecticut General Assembly established the Inter-Racial Commission, the nation’s first civil rights agency.

Fired by the honorable tradition of this town and state, we must join together to continue our obligation for leadership in protecting human security, individual dignity, and opportunity for all.

That is what Emerge is all about.  I salute you who are supporting Emerge and urge others to join in.  But as we draw inspiration from this close to home example of protecting individual rights and respecting the dignity of women and families, let us reflect on abuses people in other countries face.  We have an obligation, I believe, to work through not-for-profit civil society groups to address these abuses.

I can bear personal witness to the importance of volunteer service and engagement in issue advocacy.  I feel blessed to have had interesting and challenging jobs, but my deepest satisfaction has come from my 30-year involvement with Human Rights Watch, six as chair. I want to talk with you for a few minutes about Human Rights Watch, especially its work in protecting women’s rights around the world.

Human Rights Watch works in 70 countries, bringing to light human rights abuses from Rwanda and Sierra Leone to Iraq and Egypt; from North Korea and China to Columbia and Cuba.  It also attends to America’s own shortcomings: appalling prison conditions; indefinite detentions and abusive practices at U.S.-run facilities in Guantanamo Bay and Iraq and racial inequalities in the criminal justice system.

Human Rights Watch is emblematic of civil society’s growing importance over the past 50 years.  By civil society, I mean non-governmental groups that do careful research and monitoring to expose problems, propose specific remedies rooted in law and reality, and pioneer models of direct service.

Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights, C.A.R.E., Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children – the honor roll is wide and deep.  These global groups support and draw strength from a burgeoning number of local civil society organizations such as the Moscow Helsinki Group, Mexico’s Sin Fronteras, and Nigeria’s Access to Justice.

All over the world, people like you and me are joining together to influence governments and confront problems, from the environment to AIDS to human rights violations, directly through the power of civil society.
These groups play an indispensable role in the policy process and at the same time advance the prospects of creating and sustaining healthy democracies around the world.  They give voice to ordinary citizens, check governmental excesses, fill in service gaps, and prod international agencies to establish norms that express humankind’s highest aspirations for justice and fairness. Emerge is part of this world wide movement.

William Sloane Coffin was right when he said “compassion and justice are companions not choices.”  The work of Human Rights Watch confirms that wise observation.

It has been a leader in defending the rights of women, fighting gender discrimination, advocating for conditions that support healthy and stable families, and seeking accountability for abusive treatment of women.

Its methodology is to document abuses, analyze how the abuses violate international law and treaties, and make recommendations to the U.N., regional bodies like the African Union or to the government of nations where the abuses take place on actions which will end the bad practices.

Among the situations Human Rights Watch has addressed in the past few years are:  domestic violence in Morocco, exploitation of domestic workers in Lebanon, sexual assault in police custody in India, involuntary sterilization of women and girls with disabilities, accountability for poor maternal healthcare in South Africa.

Let me tell you about two issues in more depth.

First, the Democratic Republic of Congo.  More people have died here, an estimated 5.4 million since 1998, than in any other conflict since World War II.  But rebel forces in the eastern Congo continue to fight the central government and the army uses tough measures to crack down. Both sides are guilty of sexual violence.

In 2008 alone the U.N. Population Fund reported 16,000 new cases of sexual violence, the majority against adolescent girls.  A 2001 report published by the American Journal of Public Health found that 1.8 million women in DRC had been raped during their lifetime.  For the survey period, the rate was 48 rapes every hour.  This is probably an underestimate.  Let me quote from an HRW report:  “Sexual violence was widespread and sometimes systematic, a weapon of war used by all sides to deliberately terrorize civilians, to exert control over them, or to punish them for perceived collaboration with the enemy.  Armed groups also abducted women and girls and used them as sexual slaves.  Many of the crimes committed amounted to war crimes or even crimes against humanity.  Women said the war was being fought ‘on their bodies.’ ”

Part of the power of Human Rights Watch derives from the stories people tell.  Hear their words:  “We were three young women and we were on our way to Cirunga…they [the soldiers] raped us and dragged us to their camp which was not far away.  I stayed there for one month, under constant supervision…there was no conversation between us, he had sex with me at any moment, when he felt like it, and with a lot of violence.  I spend my days crying.  I begged God to free me from this hell.”

Another woman reported:
“There were six soldiers who came into my house.  They first raped my three year old sister, and then two of them raped me while the others looted our house.  They threw my newborn baby onto the ground, and because of the shock he is in a lot of pain whenever anyone touches his legs.  After they raped me, they took my mother away with them.  She hasn’t come back yet, and I think she must be dead.  Five other houses in Kihonga were visited the same night by the soldiers.”

The Human Rights Watch report described how the Congo is bound by international law to prevent rape and other forms of sexual violence from being used as an instrument of war.  Such acts are prohibited by the Geneva Conventions of 1949.  And the Rome statute that created the International Criminal Court specifies that rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, can constitute war crimes or crimes again humanity.  And if a nation does not prosecute those who commit such crimes the International Criminal Court can exert jurisdiction.

Though the ICC investigators speak of the overwhelming number of crimes against women to investigate, there has been progress.  In April of 2004, the ICC formally launched an investigation into the crimes of the DRC.  Since then, several rebel and government leaders have been indicted on various charges, including rape, child soldiering, and other sex crimes.  In 2008, DRC vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba was indicted by the ICC with six counts of crimes against humanity.  In 2004, the ICC also set up a Gender and Children’s Unit to advise lawyers on the prosecution of sexual violence crimes in the country.  More recently, the Court has worked effectively with local courts to identify low-level suspects whose heinous crimes often avoid prosecution.

These efforts coincide with the actions of the Congolese government itself.  In 2006, the government amended its penal code to “prevent and severely reprimand infractions relating to sexual violence and to ensure systematic support for the victims of these crimes.”  The new law imposes harsh sentences on those found guilty of sex crimes.

I think it is fair to say that Human Rights Watch and other non-governmental groups have played a critical role in bringing the systemic use of sexual violence as a war tactic to the public’s attention.  And while the problem is not solved, nor all the perpetrators brought to justice, there clearly has been some improvement.

Let me talk about another issue that Human Rights Watch has confronted in a report entitled “Violations of Women’s and Girl’s Human Rights in Child Marriage.”  International human rights standards call for the minimum age of marriage to be set at 18 and protects both boys and girls from forced marriages.  Estimates are that worldwide one girl out of seven is married before the age of 15, some as young as 8 when forced to marry.  Human Rights Watch has studied the issue in depth in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal and Yemen.  It concludes:  “The testimonies of the children we interviewed illustrate the profoundly detrimental impact of child marriage on children’s physical and mental well-being, education, and ability to live free of violence.  For child brides in particular, the consequences of child marriage do not end when they reach adulthood, but follow them throughout their lives as they struggle with the health effects of getting pregnant too young and too often, their lack of education and economic independence, domestic violence, and marital rape.”

International law is clear about the right of women to choose their own spouse; the U.N. Convention on Consent to Marriage and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women are two key instruments.

But 50 million girls and women between the ages of 15 and 19 are married worldwide, many of them forced.  The stories chronicled by Human Rights Watch are moving.

The Director of an African Medical Center said, “too many of the cases we deal with have child marriages or marriage by force at the heart of them – cases of violence, running away, self-immolation and suicide attempts.”

Rangina , age 13, who ran away from an abusive situation won’t seek judicial help for fear of being forced to return to her husband – tormenter.  “I don’t want to go back.  I can’t go back.  They want to kill me” was her anguished statement.

Or hear the sad truth telling by a twelve year old bride in Yemen.  “All I am good for is to be a mother, a homemaker.  I’m illiterate.  They didn’t teach us anything.”

U.N. Development Program studies show that child marriages limit access to education, increase poverty and result in high death rates for girls and their children.  A child born to a girl under 18 has a 60% higher chance of dying in the first year than one born to a woman 19 and older.

So early and forced marriages can be a matter of life and death.

Human Rights Watch has a concrete set of recommendations that include compelling nations to pass a minimum age for marriage and requiring the consent of both spouses, enacting penalties for people who force child marriages, recognizing marital rape as a criminal offense.  It urges civil society groups to develop prevention campaigns against child marriages and to support programs to end violence against women and girls and more.

While Human Rights Watch has been a leading advocate against child and forced marriage, other international and local groups have also been important, including the Nigeria Group, Women Living Under Muslim Law, the International Alliance of Women, Kiran-Asian Women’s Aid, and the Antislavery Society in London.

There are more places where Human Rights Watch has documented abuse of women and their families, I think of Argentina, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Singapore and more.  But those stories will have to await another talk because I want to get to discussion period.  So let me close with a final observation.

The architecture for the worldwide protection of human rights is pretty much in place: agreements like the universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture, The Convention Prohibiting Discrimination Against Women, and more give a basis for robust action.
The challenge ahead is enforcement of these rights and punishment for those who violate them.  A vibrant system of international justice is emerging, with the new International Criminal Court at its center.

The Court has jurisdiction over the worst human rights abuses: genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity – acts like torture, enslavement or forced disappearances committed on a massive scale causing great suffering.

It may surprise you that the United States has not ratified the Treaty of Rome, which created the International Criminal Court, and that it is not part of the ICC.  It opposes the Court for fear that United States citizens might be brought to trial under it – an unlikely possibility because the Treaty states that the Court will assume jurisdiction only when a country is unable or unwilling to conduct an investigation of its own.

But America’s refusal to join its allies like Britain, Canada, France and Germany, Poland, Spain, Japan and Mexico will not stop the Court from going forward.  This is the most important new international institution since the founding of the United Nations, not only because it may well deter future Pol Pots or Pinochets, Gaddafis or Assads, but because it is causing nations around the world to reform their own laws and bring them into compliance with international standards.

Because the United States has a functioning criminal justice system capable of addressing allegations of genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity, U.S. citizens, military personnel, and government officials have nothing to fear from the International Criminal Court.  Dictators, corrupt armies and armed groups in failing states do.

The United States should not undermine the ICC, which can bring justice to hundreds of thousands of victims and families who do not have the privilege of such recourse in their home countries.

A recent national poll by the Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs reports that 69% of Americans support the ICC – a strong majority.  Why then is our government out of step with public opinion?  It may be that we as citizens have not raised the issue forcefully enough or made it a priority among other important issues we care about.

I urge you to educate yourself about the Court and to speak up in favor of American ratification of the Treaty of Rome.  The United States government should get in step with the American people, who understand that our failure to join the Court puts us on the wrong side of history.

You can tell that I feel passionately about human rights.  But there are other issues worthy of your attention, so I conclude with this simple observation.

Being engaged in community organizations, issue advocacy groups as well as religious and service institutions, will add value to your lives and contribute to our search for a more just and human world at peace.  And as you feel the difference you are making, you will take heart that the deadly forces of apathy, fatalism and despair can be turned back by the power of individuals coming together directly, unmediated by governments.

The most powerful force for good in our time is the worldwide mobilization of citizens to act directly: sometimes to supplement government action, sometimes to resist it; most often to bring compassion and competence, hope and determination, when formal mechanisms fail.

And this is why I feel so passionately about Emerge.  It helps women and children escape abusive situations and start a new life.  But more, it galvanizes us to demand that our leaders in government do more to protect women from abuse and for us to do more to help women and children in need.

Emerge is part of a worldwide movement that elevates the status of women, honors the importance of family, and stops abuse dead in its tracks. When we support Emerge we not only help women and their families here but we strengthen this worldwide movement.

In Conversation with Vartan Gregorian

April 17, 2012

On April 17, 2012 Jonathan Fanton sat down with Vartan Gregorian to discuss his renowned career as an educator, scholar, and philanthropic leader.

Good evening.  I am Jonathan Fanton, the Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute.  This historic building, home to Eleanor and Franklin, and Franklin’s mother, Sara, is now the center of Hunter College’s Public Policy program.  In addition to teaching and research, Roosevelt House sponsors programs that bring policy maker together with faculty, students and the general public to discuss issues of the day.

Tonight’s program is a little different.  I have long wanted to have a series of public conversations with the most interesting people I know personally, people I have met in my years at President of the New School and the MacArthur Foundation but also through civic activities such as Human Rights Watch.

My first guest was former Mayor Ed Koch.  Our conversation, no surprise, focused on the local state and national political scene.  Next was a conversation with Agnes Gund, former President of MOMA who is one of our country’s most articulate advocates for the arts and art education, a major collector and a builder of cultural institutions.

Tonight is a very special evening for me as we welcome one of my very closest friends, Vartan Gregorian, a mentor who has taught me much about the world, different cultures, indeed life itself.  We first met when we both came to New York, he as President of the New York Public Library and I as President of the New School.  His appointment as a Professor of History at the New School accelerated the revival of the New School’s Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science.

Vartan has lived an amazing life.  Born in Tabriz, Iran of Armenian parents, he went to elementary school in Iran and secondary school in Lebanon before coming to Stanford in the late 1950’s where he earned both his undergraduate and Ph.D. in history.  He taught at San Francisco State, UCLA, and The University of Texas before coming to the University of Pennsylvania where he was the founding Dean of Arts and Sciences and then Provost.  We came to know him for reviving the New York Public Library in the 1980’s before moving to Brown University as Provost.  And I had the pleasure of being his colleague again when he became President of the Carnegie Foundation when I was President of the MacArthur Foundation.  We are both healthy skeptics of how large foundations work and so at the annual meeting of the big foundation Presidents we took care never to make eye contact lest we share a knowing smirk as one or another of our colleagues was going on about saving the world.

For all of his leadership accomplishments, Vartan is at heart a teacher and a scholar, one of those rare administrators who continued teaching.  His books on Islam and the emergence of modern Afghanistan have founded renewed relevance.  And his The Road to Home is the most honest and sensitive autobiography I have read.

Our mutual friend Bill Moyers describes Vartan as “an erudite charmer, a master of the handshake and bear hug, …..a champion of the public good.  His passion for education, philanthropy and friendship is contagious.”  And his colleague of many years, John Silber, said “He has the innocence of a baby, the integrity and dedication of a saint and the political skills of a Talleyrand.”

To that I would simply add that Vartan is the most loyal friend I know, always there to share the high points and cushion the reverses.  He manages to see the world in all its complexity, a realist but not a cynic, an optimist but not a romantic, confident but humble.

We are all glad that the road to home brought Vartan back to New York.

Vartan, you are our north star, brightening our lives, putting our institutions on a sure course, making a complex universe more comprehensible and humane.

A wise woman once said you don’t build a reputation or make a name for yourself on what you are going to do.  You just do it.

Vartan, your grandmother would be proud.

And I hope I have followed the advice she gave you as a youth: “Don’t insult a crocodile before you cross a river.”

So here we go.

Report from Russia

In March 2012, Jonathan Fanton spent a week in Moscow and St. Petersburg meeting with higher education administrators, teachers, students, and not-for-profit groups to discuss the role foundations and corporations can play in correcting social injustice and promoting reform across the world and  Russia’s relationship with private institutions. Below is a report on his week abroad. 

The European University St. Petersburg (EUSP) invited me to visit the University in my capacity as a member of its International Advisory Board.  It is starting a program in Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility and thus asked me to deliver a lecture on how philanthropy can improve public policy.

I traveled to St. Petersburg by way of Moscow where I held a seminar with the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs.  The Union has promulgated a thoughtful social charter on corporate citizenship to which major companies have subscribed.

In Moscow the MacArthur Foundation office organized an interesting set of meetings including Dmitri Trenin, Director of the Carnegie Center, and Andrei Kostunon, Director of the Eurasian Center, two very thoughtful analysts who helped me make sense of the changes underway in Russia.  I also met with MacArthur Human Rights grantees including Paul Chikov of Agora, Tatyana Lokshina of Human Rights Watch, and Mara Polyakova, Director of the Independent Council of Legal Expertise.  A highlight of the trip was a leisurely Sunday afternoon conversation with Ludmila Alexeyeva, a leader of the Moscow Helsinki Group who first introduced me to the Russian human rights movement.

MacArthur’s largest investment in Russia is in higher education, building research centers at public universities and supporting three high quality private universities.  I met with the leaders of all three universities and with Mikhail Strikhanov who had been our principal contact in the Ministry of Education.

In St. Petersburg most of my time was devoted to the University: meeting with students and faculty, holding a seminar on strategic planning for the administration, giving my lecture on corporate social responsibility and participating in a ceremony celebrating the anniversary of the reopening of the University after it had been closed for fire code violations.  Most people think the closure was a warning from the government not to get too close to the opposition.

While in St. Petersburg, I met with the Center for Independent Social Research, one of the think tanks MacArthur supports in Russia.  I also met with Strategy, a human rights group MacArthur supports to strengthen the system of regional ombudsmen.

Text of the speeches is available here:

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Principal Talk European University at St. Petersburg

March 20, 2012

On March 20, 2012, Jonathan Fanton delivered a keynote address on global trends in philanthropy and corporate responsibility to students and faculty at the European University at St. Petersburg, a leading private institution in Russia that trains graduate students from across the globe in the humanities. For more information about the European University at St. Petersburg, click here

I am delighted to be here at the European University St. Petersburg, an institution I have worked with since its founding.  I first knew it when I was President of the New School for Social Research, whose graduate faculty began as a University in Exile rescuing leading scholars threatened by Nazi and Fascist forces.  Like the New School, European University St. Petersburg has graduate education in the Humanities and Social Sciences as its core mission.  When I became President of the MacArthur Foundation I was pleased to deepen the Foundation’s commitment to European University St. Petersburg, which adds to eleven grants valued at almost $10m since 1995.

Yesterday I met with your talented Rector, Oleg Kharkhordin and his leadership team.  MacArthur supports universities all over the world so I can say with authority none has more determined, creative and effective leadership than European University St. Petersburg.  At our meeting we discussed the University’s strategic plan which is ambitious, inspiring and realistic.  I see a bright future for European University St. Petersburg and I promise to work with you as you build Russia’s pre-eminent graduate university in the social sciences and the humanities, a university admired the world over.

Academic programs at European University St. Petersburg honor Russia’s culture and history, illuminate Russia’s current political and economic challenges and prepare students for global engagement in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.  The new program in philanthropy and corporate social responsibility is a good example of how European University St. Petersburg is responding to changes in Russian society.  I want to talk with you today about global trends in philanthropy and corporate social responsibility.  One of those trends is a focus on root causes of problems and I will explore with you how foundations can improve public policy.

I hope this is a topic your new philanthropy program will address.  Direct assistance to people in need, to health care institutions, to conservation efforts, is good and necessary.  But attention is also needed to the root causes of society’s problems and to changes in government policy that will help many more people.

But first let me tell you about the MacArthur Foundation and its work in Russia.

MacArthur is one of the ten largest foundations in the United States with assets of $5.5 billion and gives $220 million a year in the United States and sixty countries across the world.  It has offices in Moscow, New Delhi, Abuja Nigeria and Mexico City.  All of the assets derive from the wealth of John D. MacArthur, who made his money in insurance and real estate.

It’s governed by an independent board of trustees; the Foundation has no connection to the U.S. government, or any for-profit activity.

In the United States we work on improving opportunity for low income families, preserving affordable housing, improving public education, and reforming the juvenile justice system.

MacArthur’s work outside the U.S. focuses on biodiversity conservation, international peace and security, population and reproductive health, human rights and international justice, and the global migration and mobility of people.

MacArthur’s largest financial commitment outside the United States is here in Russia, where we have had an office since 1992.  We came to Russia in the spirit of partnership and respect for its people and its prominent role on the global stage.  Our early work supported cooperative research between Russian and American scientists and policy experts on disarmament.

This work contributed to the development of cooperative threat reduction programs that have done so much to make the world more secure and maintain positive momentum in the U.S. -Russian relations over the years.  MacArthur’s first decade in Russia also featured a research and writing grants competition that supported more than a thousand scholars.  And early grantmaking in the conservation field helped strengthen Russia’s network of protected areas and encouraged the growth of sustainable forestry.

But the centerpiece of MacArthur’s work here has been a 20 year, $100 million commitment to strengthening higher education and scholarly infrastructure.  MacArthur provided support to 24 state universities – from St. Petersburg State University to Tomsk State University to Far Eastern State University – and three private universities: the New Economic School, the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, and, of course, the European University at St. Petersburg.

We also worked with independent think tanks like the Center for Social Policy and Gender Studies and the Center for Independent Social Research St. Petersburg, which are tackling challenging social issues like gender discrimination and the effect of globalization on rural communities.

MacArthur’s investment in universities and scholarly life reflected our belief that a robust and independent intellectual community goes hand-in-hand with democracy.  Can you think of any democratic country without academic freedom?  Or the reverse, an authoritarian regime that tolerates strong, independent universities?

MacArthur also supports organizations in Russia working in the field of human rights and the rule of law.  During the past twelve years, we have supported more than eighty civil society groups working on these topics – in Moscow but also in the regions, from Rostov to Perm to Tatarstan.

The focus for many years has been police reform, strengthening the ombuds offices throughout the country, and supporting those who take human rights cases to the European Court of Human Rights when appeals within Russia have been exhausted.

The issue of rule of law is a central theme of MacArthur’s work in the U.S. and in all the countries where MacArthur has offices.  Everywhere we work we believe that higher education and the rule of law are pillars of an open society where citizens are free to develop their individual potential as they contribute to economic growth and prosperity.

In recent years, MacArthur’s higher education work in Russia has been winding down.  But I am pleased to note that in September 2011 the MacArthur Board of Directors reconfirmed the Foundation’s deep and long-term commitment to Russia.

It is, of course, very pleasing to see Russian philanthropy grow and likely someday take over from MacArthur and other Western donors.   That growth is documented by a recent Report on Institutional Philanthropy in Russia by the Russian Donors Forum.  It found 300 active foundations in Russia, about 20 major ones.  The top three programs are assistance to vulnerable groups, education and culture, and health care.  It is estimated that the 100 corporate and private foundations the Report studied in detail made $800 million (22 billion rubles) in gifts in 2010.  And it is encouraging to see recent changes in the tax code that encourage philanthropy and the establishment of endowments.  So European University St. Petersburg is timely with its plan to start a program of research and teaching on philanthropy and corporate social responsibility.

I hope the new program will look at Russian philanthropy in global perspective.  Philanthropy across borders is on the rise and opportunities to partner with private foundations and corporate donors from other countries are expanding.  The Foundation Center, a research organization based in New York, reports that in the period 1990-2008 total foundation giving in the U.S. grew from $9 billion to $47 billion.  Giving to countries outside the United States grew faster than giving within the United States and constituted 25% of all giving.  The total number of foundations grew from 32,000 to 75,000 in this period and new foundations were more likely to give abroad.  For this analysis I am indebted to a thoughtful article by Anne Peterson and Gail McClure published in Foundation Review.  They concluded the propensity of new foundations to give internationally was not “surprising as many of the new foundations were funded by profits from the global finances, media and especially technology sectors.”

During my time at MacArthur the share of its grantmaking that went to international programs rose to 47%.

The top three areas of focus for U.S. foundations giving abroad are health, international development and the environment.  About half of the international giving overlaps with the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, focused on topics like reducing child and maternal mortality, combating HIV/AIDs, empowering women.  It should be noted that a sizable share of international giving by U.S. foundations goes to international organizations like the World Health Organization or U.S. based NGO’s working abroad.

The rise of global philanthropy is not limited to the United States and Russia. A recent article in the Index of Global Philanthropy (2010 Index of Global Philanthropy & Remittances, “International Philanthropy Outside the United States: Giving Goes Global” p. 42) found a dramatic rise in private philanthropy in OECD nations led by the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and the Netherlands. And there is an increase in philanthropy from wealthy individuals and corporations in wealthy countries in the developed world. I think of Fondazioni 4 Africa, a joint venture of four Italian banks working in northern Uganda to help people displaced by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Or the Canadian cosmetic company M.A.C., which works on HIV-AIDS prevention in Sub-Saharan Africa. Or Irish philanthropist Niall Mellon whose Fund builds housing for poor townships in South Africa.

I hope in the future to hear more examples of Russian philanthropy working in Africa and other parts of the developing world.

So what are some future trends in global philanthropy?  Most U.S. foundations belong to the Council on Foundations, an organization similar to the Russian Donors Forum.  The Council surveyed its members involved in international grantmaking to ascertain their top ten predictions for 2012.  Here is a sample, summarized in an article by John Harvey in Global Philanthropy.

  • Global Philanthropy will continue rapid growth, especially in countries like China, India and Brazil.  I was surprised Russia was not listed.
  • As U.S. companies do more business overseas, they will give more money away abroad.
  • There will be increased partnerships between U.S. and overseas foundations and among foundations, governments, corporations and multilateral organizations.
  • The transition underway in the Middle East and North Africa will draw more money and engagement from U.S. philanthropy.
  • Foundations will supplement their charitable giving with low interest loans that advance their program goals.

Let me inject some predictions of my own here – not just for 2012, but longer term trends.

  • I hear the term philanthro-capitalism more and more these days.  There is an increasing interest in using business – or market – opportunities to solve social problems.  I am working with a group of business people dedicated to bringing safe water to poor communities in Africa by helping communities build, own and operate water purification systems which will cover their costs.
  • There is donor fatigue with experimenting with models for improving primary education, creating jobs, combating poverty.  Foundations want to understand how models can be applied at a wide scale.
  • And there is greater interest in addressing the root causes of problems and that should improve the prospects of funding for research and universities.
  • Finally, Foundations will increasingly be using new technology and social media to advance their philanthropic objectives.  There is a growing appreciation that solutions to problems need to take account of local history, culture and conditions.  New technology is changing the dynamic from pushing policy at people to pulling information and insights from ordinary citizens.

I hope your new program in philanthropy and corporate social responsibility will study these trends, especially the interest in getting at the root causes of issues and how philanthropy can improve public policy.

I want to devote the remainder of my talk to this topic by illustrating six ways philanthropy can improve public policy drawn from my experience at MacArthur.

Promoting pluralism of thought, action and innovation is a central contribution philanthropy can make to society.  Foundations are at their best when they take the long view, support basic research and experiment with models for change.

I think universities are the best partners for foundations wanting to improve public policy.  You will see that universities are central to most of the examples I am about to give. Foundations are not direct actors in the political process, prohibited by law in the U.S. and most countries from lobbying government officials.  But they can support research that illuminates policy choices and they can educate the public about the findings of research they support.

And I believe it is good policy for foundations to give unrestricted support to universities to strengthen their research capacity and trust the faculty to do research relevant to society’s needs.  My belief found confirmation in looking at the research interests described in your strategic plan, topics like the transformation of cultural phenomena of the Soviet era under new socio- economic conditions, the development of financial markets and institutions in Russia, the economics of health care and more.

So here is my list of how philanthropy can help society address the root causes of problems but also seize opportunities.

First.  Foundations help frame issues in new or better ways.  For instance, from its earliest days, MacArthur has focused on issues related to peace and international security. After the Cold War ended, we were one of the first foundations to take an active interest in the dangers posed by weapons grade material at risk of falling into the wrong hands.  We supported several research projects at Harvard, Stanford and the Brookings Institution.

These projects framed the debate on nuclear weapons, to powerful effect.  They articulated the concept of “Cooperative Threat Reduction” and introduced this idea into the strategic dialogue between the United States and Russia.  They formed the intellectual spine for the Nunn-Lugar Program, which brought the United States and Russia together to dismantle and secure nuclear weapons and stockpiles.  To date, the program has deactivated or destroyed about 7,601 nuclear warheads (82% of its 2017 target) in the former Soviet Union. It has also eliminated 792 ICBMs and upgraded security at all sites in Russia where nuclear weapon-related materials are stored.

Second.  Foundations commission research that provides a base of evidence for making policy-related decisions.  MacArthur is well-known for its long-term, multidisciplinary research initiatives, which have produced path-breaking work on topics like aging and wellness, juvenile justice, and mental health policy, among others.

These networks, that draw together scholars from several universities, are sometimes active for as long as a decade. The MacArthur approach to research allows smart people to ask big questions in a fresh way and then tackle them with perspectives from many disciplines.  Our support for these research networks is made with the goal of creating a robust evidence base for sound decision making by policymakers.

For example, the Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice, based at Temple University, studied the outcome of youths in trouble with the law who were tried as adults compared with those handled through a juvenile court with alternatives to incarceration.  Those tried in a juvenile court were 60% less likely to commit another crime when released.
We see signs that this research is helping lay the groundwork for significant change.  In October 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court drew on our Network’s findings in Roper v. Simmons, which prohibited the death penalty for those 18 and younger.  Several states, including Illinois, have closed down youth prisons and shifted resources toward community-based programs and services.

And the reforms developed by MacArthur are being implemented outside of the United States. For example, I hosted a delegation from China’s Supreme People’s Court in 2008.  The judges liked what they saw which contributed to reforms underway in China. A proposed law pending in the National People’s Congress would recognize juvenile offenders as a distinct group and establish a mechanism to provide rehabilitation programs rather than jail time.

Third.  Sometimes foundations take on demonstration projects to show that applying what we learn from research can actually work. The hope is that government or the private market steps in to scale up.  MacArthur’s work to conserve landscapes high in biodiversity is a good example.  In 1999, we began funding a pilot project on the island of Fiji, called the Locally Managed Marine Area Network, which links conservation organizations, university researchers, and local leaders in three villages to improve the management and protection of coral reefs and marine resources.

By involving scientists as well as village leaders, the network encourages adapting cutting edge research and conservation techniques to local circumstances and incorporating them into traditional practices.  A breakthrough for the project came in 2003, when the Great Council of Chiefs decided to apply the MacArthur conservation approach as a national fisheries and marine policy for all 300 islands within the Fijian archipelago.

Fourth.  Foundations can help articulate fundamental norms that guide decision making.  After the Rwandan genocide and at the urging of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the MacArthur Foundation funded the International Commission on State Sovereignty and Humanitarian Intervention, organized by the Canadian government.

The Commission’s report articulated a primary duty for the international community in cases of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity – a “responsibility to protect.”  When a state fails to protect its own people – or worse, assaults them – the international community has an obligation to act, even intervene.  At the September 2005 World Summit, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly affirmed this principle in its Outcome Document.

In recent years we have seen the Responsibility to Protect successfully put to the test in limiting post-election violence in Kenya and heading off a civil war in the Ivory Coast. It may yet play a role in the Syrian conflict as Kofi Annan seeks to mediate and gain Russia’s support for the Responsibility to Protect.

Fifth.  Foundations build institutions that are the source of respected public analysis and provide a watchdog function.  MacArthur has given core support to several institutions that provide important policy advice: the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities; the World Resources Institute, the Center on Science, Technology and Security, the Global Fund for Women, and more. In Russia, the Independent Institute for Social Policy advises the Russian government on the critical topic of pension reform.  The Center for Energy Efficiency is a key implementer of World Bank projects on energy efficiency in Russia.  And the Centre for Independent Social Research continues to support the sustainable development efforts of indigenous communities of the Russian North.

MacArthur may not always agree with the positions they take, but we believe the policy process is stronger by the quality of analysis they bring and the informed debate that they stimulate.

Sixth.  My last example speaks to one of the trends I mentioned earlier:  building public understanding and support for sound policies in economic, social and international affairs.  We are living in an age where the public has direct access to a huge amount of information.  And at a time when people use Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and other social media to share ideas and to come together to express support or opposition to official policy.  MacArthur has helped civil society groups in conservation, women’s health, rule of law, neighborhood development in the U.S. to employ those new technologies to build support for policies they are advocating.  And MacArthur has helped groups use technology to deepen their effectiveness, for example, using cell phones to transmit vital information to reduce maternal mortality, to strengthen election monitoring in Nigeria and Bangladesh, or to document ethnic cleansing in Darfur.  Another project, this one in the U.S., aims to create a platform where the public can comment on draft laws and regulations before they are enacted.

Access to the Internet has changed the way people relate to each other and to power.  And therefore Internet freedom is essential to democratic development.  MacArthur supports a Harvard University research project that measures Internet freedom in countries around the world. The OpenNet Initiative reports that the number of internet users had reached 38 million in Russia by 2008. Expert opinions are divided about how free the internet is in Russia, with Freedom House ranking it partly free, noting a decline since 2009.

Technology is a good example of how private philanthropy, with all its flexibility, can spot a need early and move quickly to meet it.


Let me close with a puzzle.  MacArthur wants to be viewed as independent and objective, not ideological or political.  We see our mission as bringing quality information and sound evidence to bear on the policy formulation process.  But we also have views – we think an international criminal court is a good idea; that young people should have access to juvenile justice systems with redemptive options; that biodiversity preservation is important; that weapons of mass destruction should be controlled.

Do those views challenge the claim of objectivity?  Perhaps.  But we look at our views as hypothesis to be tested, and we are open to funding research and policy analysis that question those hypothesis.

We think it is important that the Foundation’s highest value is the continuous search for sensible policies, understanding that our initial hypothesis may be wrong or – at least – can be improved upon.  Effective advocates are usually committed to a fixed view; effective foundations are not.

And so we navigate the tension between making major investments based on a theory of sensible policy and encouraging those who challenge that theory.

I think philanthropy and public policy would be a good topic for the new program at European University St. Petersbug.  No doubt as private philanthropy grows and matures in Russia there will be policy engagement, engagement that needs to be carefully developed so it is not misunderstood as partisan meddling in politics.  It will take time for the society, especially those in power, to be comfortable with philanthropy’s effort to improve public policy so the sooner the discussion gets serious, the better.  I can think of no better – more rigorous and trusted – setting for this conversation than the European University St. Petersburg.