Thank you for your letter. I am glad you enjoyed all the family news. You asked how things were going generally with the Carnegie legacy, and I will try to give you a rough overview.
First of all, out of your foundations existing in 1919, all bar two are thriving today. The two no longer with us are the German Hero Fund, which was closed down in 1937, and the French Hero Fund, which in 2011 decided to close and use its endowment to fund a Fulbright scholarship. To prevent further closures, the Hero Fund Commission in Pittsburgh took the initiative to create an umbrella body called the Carnegie Hero Funds World Committee. With funding from Carnegie Corporation of New York, it has been successful in encouraging the remaining Hero Funds, particularly in the cases of Belgium, Switzerland, and Italy. All the Hero Funds depend on the dedication of the individuals who run them and in that regard they have been most fortunate.
One of the changes that has taken place in the last 20 years has been the creation of the Medal of Philanthropy, which is given every two years to those individual philanthropists who follow your example of giving. The involvement of all the Carnegie foundations in the selection process has had the happy consequence of bringing all your foundations together. At the biennial award ceremony, representatives from the Carnegie foundations attend a specially convened business meeting and meet informally during the ceremony events.
On the British front the foundations have been hampered by not being able to grow their endowments as successfully as their American counterparts. This was largely due to the restrictive investment rules imposed on charities over most of the last century and, more recently, less favourable tax rules. Nevertheless, the UK foundations continue to evolve and thrive. They are now all housed together in a single purpose-built office in Pittencrieff Park in Dunfermline. The prize-winning building fits seamlessly into the landscape on the north side of the park.
Your example of giving away your huge fortune has been widely adopted by others, and the name Carnegie is synonymous with philanthropy. We, your descendants, are immensely proud of you — your great reputation is the best inheritance ever.
The one area of your legacy which has not achieved what it set out to achieve is the abolishment of war. Although there has not been a world war for nearly 75 years, there have been plenty of smaller ones. Airborne ordnance has meant civilians continue to bear the brunt of the casualties. There is also a global threat from terrorists who use the random slaughter of unarmed and unprotected civilians to further their aims. The imposing Peace Palace in The Hague has had some success in providing a forum for peaceful resolution of disputes between countries, but nothing done so far has been effective in stopping humans from killing each other.
One of your initiatives which has become obsolete is the funding of church organs. The decline in church attendance in the UK has brought the closure of many churches and therefore there are fewer organs. However, those that remain are usually lovingly maintained and, where applicable, their rich tones continue to relieve the monotony of the sermon.
Libraries are also under threat as the local authority councils struggle to find funding to keep them running. Yet they remain a core part of society, and closures are usually fiercely contested by concerned citizens.
You will be glad to know that your beloved Skibo continues — now as a country club. The castle and grounds are beautifully looked after, and the club provides a lot of local employment in the area. Golf thrives in Dornoch and surrounding areas. The 9-hole ladies course at Dornoch, which Grandma Neigie was instrumental in establishing, has been extended to a full 18-hole course, and the lovely little 9-hole course at Bonar Bridge which she opened in 1904 remains as popular as ever. The Carnegie Shield, reputed to be one of golf’s most valuable trophies, is keenly contested every year, and this year it will be for the 106th time.
Your family continues to grow. From your single offspring, Margaret, born in 1898, came four grandchildren and from them 14 great-grandchildren. Then came 32 great, great-grandchildren and now great, great, great-grandchildren are beginning to arrive.
In summary, I would say that all is well with the Carnegie legacy. Your foundations, which you wisely left unfettered by restrictive rules, have adapted well to the changing world. Their work has helped to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of individuals. Your example of giving away your huge fortune has been widely adopted by others, and the name Carnegie is synonymous with philanthropy. We, your descendants, are immensely proud of you — your great reputation is the best inheritance ever.
More than a century ago, you had a groundbreaking vision for how to provide a financially secure retirement to some of society’s most deserving workers. TIAA was the result. I think you’d be gratified to see how your ideas have not only endured, but flourished. Thanks to your generosity and foresight, TIAA has helped make a secure retirement possible for generations of people who, like you, have made a difference in the world.
TIAA recently celebrated our centennial, which gave us many opportunities to tell the inspirational story of our founding. That story began when you joined Cornell University’s board of trustees in 1890 and were shocked to learn how paltry professors’ salaries were. Given your great admiration for educators, it pained you to see that they had to either retire to lives of poverty or keep working well into their old age. You were determined to “remove a source of deep and constant anxiety to the poorest paid and yet one of the highest of all professions,” which you also knew would help strengthen the American higher education system.
Your unprecedented $10 million donation in 1905 to create a “free pension” system for professors, which required no contributions from employer or employee, worked so well that it quickly became clear it was unsustainable. By creating the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association in 1918 with a $1 million grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York, you delivered the long-term answer to higher ed’s retirement challenge.
Predating the establishment of the U.S. Social Security system, TIAA was a true innovation, built on what was then a revolutionary concept: providing participants with individually owned, contractual, contributory, fully funded annuities under an employer-sponsored retirement plan. This new model was voluntary, and it placed the responsibility of saving for retirement on both employers and employees; portability was a key element of its design, enabling participants to keep their savings even when they switched jobs.
The TIAA model, which was eventually extended from higher education to workers in the broader not-for-profit community, has been, by any measure, a huge success. In our first 100 years, we’ve provided $459 billion in annuity payments and other benefits to our participants. We’ve never missed a payment, even through the depressions, recessions, wars, market crashes, and other crises that marked the past century.
Certainly, TIAA has not remained static since our founding. We’ve carried your spirit of innovation throughout our history, evolving to keep pace with the changing needs of the people and institutions we serve. One of the most monumental changes came in 1952, when the legendary William C. Greenough, whom some have called the second father of TIAA, led the team that created an entirely new kind of investment — the variable annuity. This gave participants access to the stock market and its higher expected returns, and proved to be a critically important addition to the fixed-income investments on which TIAA was built. Like you, Greenough was solving a problem that threatened retirement security. But in this case, the challenge was rising inflation, which was ravaging the purchasing power of the dollar and taking a toll on retirees trying to stretch a fixed and limited income over increasing expenses.
Today, owning stocks is taken for granted as a core part of achieving retirement security, but it was a real departure from the common wisdom of the time. A Fortune magazine editor described Greenough’s creation — the College Retirement Equities Fund, or CREF — as “the biggest development in the insurance/investment business since the passage of the Social Security Act.” We became known as TIAA-CREF until 2016, when we decided to simplify by returning to the name you originally gave us.
TIAA has innovated in many other ways through the years in the pursuit of retirement security for our participants. In the 1970s, we were one of the first companies to use an extensive portfolio of international stocks as part of our investment strategy. In 1995, we created the TIAA Real Estate Account, giving our participants the opportunity to invest in directly owned real estate properties. More recently, we began investing in alternative assets such as farmland, timberland, and energy, thanks in part to the wise guidance of former TIAA Trustee David Swensen and others. While we now have many more tools in our toolbox than we did in 1918, the goal remains the same: financial wellbeing for the people and institutions we serve.
I think you might be surprised by how much TIAA has grown over the years. By the end of our first year of existence, we had about $1 million in assets and served 30 institutional clients and 464 individuals with three full-time employees. By the end of our first century, we had become a Fortune 100 company with more than $1 trillion in assets under management and administration, serving more than 15,000 institutional clients and 5 million individual clients, with more than 17,500 employees in 375 offices in 24 countries. We remained the leading retirement provider in higher ed and the broader not-for-profit retirement market. We had become the world’s largest agricultural investor and one of the top five commercial real estate managers.
Most importantly, because of you, millions of people have been able to pursue careers that enable them to make the world a better place, comfortable in the knowledge that they can retire in financial security when their work is done.
In recent years, we have expanded our capabilities and broadened the range of products and services we offer. We recognize that getting people to and through a financially secure retirement means addressing their financial needs and helping them build financial wellness throughout all the stages of their lives. We are now providing banking services through our TIAA Bank. We provide financial advice to our clients in many different ways. We are building a global asset management business under the Nuveen brand name to drive the long-term performance that delivers outstanding outcomes to our clients. We’re taking bold steps to ensure that we continue to be as successful in our second century as we’ve been in our first. Our clients are counting on us for that.
You might be disappointed to know that the retirement challenge you identified — and solved — so long ago continues to persist in many other areas of society. In fact, some are predicting a retirement crisis in the United States due to the convergence of a number of forces: the shift away from defined benefit plans in the private sector, a lack of adequate savings by Americans, and increasing lifespans that will mean many more years in retirement than in previous generations. We believe a key way to address these twenty-first-century challenges is the same solution you hit upon in the last century: translating retirement savings into guaranteed lifetime income. Your idea may have been radical in 1918, but it’s clear that it’s worked beautifully, and it’s every bit as relevant today as it was then. We are doing all we can to make sure the benefits of lifetime income — and the value of the TIAA model — are widely known.
In closing, I want to thank you, Mr. Carnegie, on behalf of all of us who love TIAA and its mission. In creating TIAA, you transformed retirement in higher education, as you set out to do, but the impact has been far greater than you could have imagined. Most importantly, because of you, millions of people have been able to pursue careers that enable them to make the world a better place, comfortable in the knowledge that they can retire in financial security when their work is done. Your legacy has endured in their lives and contributions, and in the lives of all who have been touched by their work. It will continue to endure in the lives of all those TIAA will serve in our second century — and beyond.
As the current president of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, it is my privilege to report to you on the eve of the 100th anniversary of our founding.
It is not often that we have an opportunity to think in terms of 100 years. It’s a span well-suited to remind us that while our lives are time-bound, our connections endure. And as much as things change, they remain the same.
Looking back in a personal way, I can see and feel your world of 1914. I can imagine my grandfather, soon to be a telegraph officer in the U.S. Army, his tour of duty awaiting him in France. Today, I find myself wondering if his Morse code was really much different than our texts and Twitter — all dots and dashes turned into hashtags and pixels. Looking forward, I can almost visualize our successors in 2114. I suspect that whatever technology they use to communicate 100 years from now, it will be both simple and astounding — in some ways familiar enough for us to understand, and in other ways astonishing. As much as things change, they remain the same.
Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs remains proud to be the youngest of your endowments — the last one you established. We remember you created us with urgency just prior to the outbreak of the war. As I understand it, your animating idea for yet another Carnegie initiative was the belief that politics was not just the business of institution building, it was also the business of moral transformation. It was not enough to build the Peace Palace at The Hague and to lobby kaisers, kings, tsars, and presidents to establish the League of Nations and World Court. Peaceful resolution of conflict would depend on changing patterns of behavior, and this change would depend,
ultimately, on moral arguments and educational efforts in favor of peace.
The challenge for us today, as it was at the time of our founding, is to use our moral traditions to help us imagine a better future. Today’s Carnegie Council focuses on the one central question that preoccupied you and your colleagues at our founding: How can we learn to live together peacefully while acknowledging our deepest differences?
The history of the past 100 years shows that in your assessment of world politics, you got some things right, others wrong. This is the all-important background upon which our Council has tried to make its mark on the world. Let’s start with what you got right.
As you demonstrated with all of your philanthropy, it is indeed possible to change the way people think. It is indeed possible to change what is considered moral, just, and right. Legitimacy rests on sentiment and judgment. Legitimacy is, ultimately, a matter of human decision.
You were perhaps most right about the stubborn nature of militarism. We know now that the glorification of war in 1914 led to “the trenches, the mud, the rats, the typhus, and the general futility of World War I” [a quote from Nicholson Baker’s essay, “Why I’m a Pacifist”] and the wars that followed. It is only with tragic irony today that we quote the poet’s Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori — how sweet and right it is to die for one’s country. Even the bitterness of World War I did not stem the numerous twentieth-century slaughters that followed. And yet, despite all of the blood spilled, can we say that the glorification of war has receded?
You were also right about the corrosive effects of imperialism. Your offer to pay $20 million to purchase the Philippine Islands in order to insure their independence was a gesture as heartfelt as it was dramatic. As you said at the time, it is neither natural nor morally right for powerful nations to rule over the less powerful. Empire saps the dignity of both the rulers and the ruled. The past 100 years show that empire bears its share of responsibility for the sorry record of rivalry and conflict in the twentieth century. Many of the political struggles we see today, particularly in the Middle East, can be traced directly to the redrawing of maps in 1919. Economic struggle — especially the persistence of vast global economic inequality — also must be considered in this light.
You were right about the centrality of self-determination and minority rights as keystones to living in a peaceful world. In a world of divided communities, peace depends on pluralism. Pluralism demands institutional arrangements that allow people to live deeply rooted in their communities and yet peaceably with outsiders. Post-World War II Europe has provided a positive example of what is possible. As we see in Scotland today, pluralism is evolving as a peaceful and invigorating concept. But of course this is not so in many other places around the world where pluralism is indeed failing miserably. Over the past 100 years we have learned we should not underestimate the possibilities and the limits of pluralism.
Finally, you were right about the stubborn nature of religion as a formative element in both war and peace. Religion has surely played its role in conflicts — sometimes exacerbated by leaders who have self-righteously and cynically used religious ideology and moral rhetoric to pursue their interests. Yet religiously inspired voices have also been central to the promotion of human dignity and social justice. In either case, we live in a world today that is still often defined according to religious principles in contest.
Let’s turn for a moment to what you got wrong. You were wrong about the simple allure of peace — the assumption that citizens and leaders will inevitably value peace as the highest good. As Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said recently when asked for a comment on the use of chemical weapons in Syria: “War is obviously terrible, but it’s not the ultimate evil. Some things are worse, and one is the deliberate slaughter of civilians.” Or as Barack Obama put it in his Nobel Lecture, “Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is recognition of history; the imperfections of man, and the limits of reason.”
In this vein, you were also wrong about the presumed strength of law as the ultimate trump to power politics. Law depends on both reason and reciprocity, two qualities not always in great supply, especially in extreme situations. The force of reason rarely trumps the imperatives of necessity, realpolitik, ideology, or national mythologies.
You were wrong to assume that international institutions like the League of Nations could temper the heat of national ambitions and shape cold calculations of national interests. For all the moderating influences of international institutions, the Great Powers would never respond faithfully to distant, faceless, unaccountable bureaucracies. Rather, the Great Powers would tend to use such organizations as instruments of power — as a means rather than an end to international politics. As many American secretaries of state have said in commenting upon the United Nations, our approach is “together where we can, alone where we must.”
Finally, you were wrong about the inevitability of social progress. What your biographers have called your cockeyed optimism fed your liberal illusion that peace was merely a technical matter — something that could be engineered by societies that were becoming ever more civilized with the passing of time. Your favorite saying, “All is well since all grows better,” may have reflected your personal experience. But today we have to face the fact that we live in a split world. There are haves and have-nots, those who live in zones of peace while others live in zones of conflict. For those of us in the privileged world, things are indeed good. For at least two billion of our brothers and sisters in poor and unstable areas, things are not so good, and there is no presumption of good times ahead.
For all you got wrong, however, there is an undeniable opportunity we have to build on your legacy to shape the future and to work for positive change. And this is what I would like to focus on in this last section of my report. As you demonstrated with all of your philanthropy, it is indeed possible to change the way people think. It is indeed possible to change what is considered moral, just, and right. Legitimacy rests on sentiment and judgment. Legitimacy is, ultimately, a matter of human decision.
You were persistent in pointing out that civilized nations abandoned practices like slavery and dueling. Surely, you thought, the practice of war — the killing of man by man — would follow into extinction. You would be pleased to know that Steven Pinker wrote a book last year (The Better Angels of Our Nature) arguing that while war is still too much with us, the world is indeed a less violent place than it was 100 years ago. Following your line of thought, he argued that this trend toward a less violent world is inextricably bound to a shift in ethics — a shift in what is considered expected and required behavior.
We have learned over the past 100 years that ethics matter. And here is where our Council has tried to do its part. Ethics, as we practice it, goes beyond moral assertion to entertain competing moral claims. For us, ethics invites moral argument rather than moral assertion. Ethical inquiry enables us to include all moral arguments, religious and secular. It gives equal moral voice to all while giving us the tools to think for ourselves and stand our ground accordingly.
We like to think of our approach today as a sort of enlightened realism — a realism that enables us to understand our own values and interests in light of the values and interests of others. This approach demands the humility to abandon any hint of a crusading spirit and a genuine commitment to try to understand the point of view of others. This is the intent and purpose of our Centennial project, built on hard-won lessons of historical experience, pluralist and pragmatic in nature.
Thanks to the rapid expansion and advances of communications technology, it is now possible for the Carnegie Council to encourage a multi-directional global conversation. Our Studio and Global Ethics Network ventures leverage advances in digital media in service of the enduring values that have guided the Council through its history. We convene, publish, and broadcast programs that reach hundreds of thousands of people around the world. We believe we are honoring your intention to imagine a better future — together with our viewers, listeners, and readers — through education and advocacy for ethics.
None of this is done alone. The value of an institution like Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs is its ability to transmit values over time and space through the lives of the people it touches. So the work continues. We have been very lucky in friendship — especially in the relationships we have developed around the world. I trust that 100 years from now, our successors will have such strong voices for ethics at their side to keep alive the idea that peace is indeed worth fighting for.
Joel H. Rosenthal
This talk, given in 2014 at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, at the Carnegie Council Centennial Symposium entitled “From World War to a Global Ethic,” inspired this collection of letters to Andrew Carnegie on the centenary of his death.
I am writing to you from our office on the outskirts of Pittencrieff Park, a view you will have known well during your time in Dunfermline. The park that you bequeathed to the people of your hometown more than a century ago is as beautiful today, on a spring day, as it was then.
It is this view that the staff and trustees of the Carnegie UK Trust see when we come to the office to carry out the duty you bestowed on the organisation, to “improve the wellbeing of the masses,” back in 1913. Just out of sight of the office are your statue and the wrought-iron gates, named for Louise Carnegie, at the entrance to the park. The legacy you left behind is built into the fabric of the place where we work.
As with the other institutions that bear your name, you endowed us with many gifts. In addition to the financial endowment of $10 million in steel bonds, your foresight provided two less immediately tangible gifts which have had a lasting impact on the work of the UK Trust.
The first gift was the mission you gave us to improve the wellbeing of people of the UK and Ireland. The scope of wellbeing is unusually wide for a philanthropic organisation. Lord Shaw of Dunfermline, a member of the original Executive Committee, remarked at the time that the vagueness of the deed was terrifying.
The second gift was the faith you placed in the Board of the Trust to interpret what that mission meant. The deed sets out that trustees may “by such means as are embraced within the meaning of the word ‘charitable’ … from time to time select as best fitted from age to age for securing these purposes, remembering that new needs are constantly arising as the masses advance.” Our only restriction, apart from geographical coverage and charitable purposes, is that we must not support war or warlike preparations.
Time has proved these to be two tremendously valuable assets to have been given. By not requiring specific activities, and providing such a general mission statement, you enabled the trustees to adjust their approach over the years, just as you envisioned. The history of the UK can be charted through the work of the Trust. Early twentieth-century concerns around physical welfare gave way to concerns about social welfare. The end of World War II saw economic depression, followed by changing attitudes to women, immigrants, and those with disabilities, and the growing recognition that young people have specific needs in relation to wellbeing. These vast social changes can be seen through the archives of the Trust, as our predecessors analysed the needs of the current population and applied resources accordingly to make improvements.
Your trustees have used varied approaches suited to the time and the issues at hand. Innovative projects included everything from creating the first colleges of adult education, to supporting the first preschool playgroups, and investing in outdoor recreational space for the general population. There are many organisations that would not exist today if you had not endowed the UK Trust with the mission and funds to support their establishment. Charities such as Leonard Cheshire, Citizens Advice Bureaux, Making Music (formerly the National Federation of Music Societies), Sadler’s Wells, and the Old Vic were all supported by the Trust. At a more local level, many hundreds of village halls, playing fields, and youth hostels were set up with money from your endowment. UK civil society is all the stronger for them.
When I meet people for the first time and introduce the UK Trust, it is the public libraries you built that people most associate with you. For the first 50 years of our story, more than one third of the funds were allocated to libraries. We moved away from this for a while, focusing on new and emerging areas of need. But rediscovering our connection with libraries, and providing a programme of research and development to support them in the twenty-first century, is one of the things the current team is most proud of. We hope you would also be proud of our continuing commitment to this aspect of your legacy.
Your trustees have never confined themselves to grant giving when interpreting the mission, producing groundbreaking reports on major social issues such as the welfare of mothers and children (1917); the relationship between diet, income, and health (1937); young people’s economic opportunities (1943); juvenile delinquency (1950); youth services (1958); the post-war new communities (1960); the arts and disabled people (1981); and rural community development (2004). While we haven’t used the words “the masses” for many years, the focus has been firmly on people experiencing disadvantage, and particularly on those whose disadvantage is not well understood by society at the time.
The faith you placed in the trustees allowed them to make a bold decision in 2004 to move from a grant-making to an operating trust. The Trust Deed is interpreted as your ambition to improve conditions for as many people as possible. As the value of the endowment fell, and the UK Trust could no longer claim to be one of the biggest grant-funders in the UK and Ireland, the impact of the grants became smaller and smaller. But the impact of an independent, evidence-based organisation with its focus on improving wellbeing was becoming clear, particularly when we find a new angle from which to explore issues neglected or under-examined by others. And so, today, it is in our capacity as an operating trust that we are able to continue your legacy by influencing policy and practice to improve the lives of people in the UK and Ireland.
Our most recent inquiry of this nature, carried out by Carnegie Fellow Julia Unwin, may surprise you, focusing as it does on kindness. The Trust’s involvement in understanding the value and power of kindness is seen as risky and innovative, which may tell you something about the times we are currently living in. And we continue to focus on improving lives directly, tackling complex or challenging issues that our endowment gives us the privilege to dedicate time and resources to when others may find it difficult — such as our support for affordable credit, to ensure that people can access fair credit when they need it most.
Of course, here in 2019, none of the current team in the UK Trust knew you personally. But we have come to know you through the generosity of spirit both in financial terms and in the faith you put in the trustees. We can be inspired by the thought you put into the choice of the word wellbeing — how risky it was at the time, but how forward thinking it has turned out to be.
One of our favourite insights into your character, though, is through your words, “there is little success where there is little laughter.” It is with these words that I often finish, when speaking to the organisations we work with. We invariably find that our flexibility and our willingness to focus only on the outcomes for people bring light to those working at the front line of charitable and public services, and joy to our relationships with them.
For that gift, and many, many more, I thank you and extend my gratitude also to all those who came after you, who so carefully stewarded the Trust to achieve its unique mission.
Interim Joint Chief Executive
Dear Mr. Carnegie,
Not many endeavours survive a century of change, particularly a century of such rapid change as that which has just passed. Your wisdom in giving the trustees your blessing to embrace change has given your UK Trust the freedom not only to survive but to thrive.
For the current trustees, whom I have the present honour to chair, the challenge which we know you would set us is to begin the task of contributing even more to the wellbeing of the people of the British Isles in the next hundred years than we have done in the past one hundred years. It is a big challenge, but one lesson we take from your life is that with sustained ambition and commitment it is possible to achieve more than others, or even we ourselves, might deem possible.
In seeking increased impact on the wellbeing of the mass of people, we are in a position to learn from what has not changed during a century when governments and many others, including us, have sought to bring about improved wellbeing. There has been enormous progress in the prosperity of our society, and in the availability of educational opportunity and medical provision for almost everyone in the British Isles. Yet we can see clearly that the evidence of these many decades of progress is that a large number of people within society derive much less benefit from that progress than the majority.
There has been enormous progress in the prosperity of our society … Yet we can see clearly that the evidence of these many decades of progress is that a large number of people within society derive much less benefit from that progress than the majority.
The people within society who benefit least from general progress would have been recognisable to you in your lifetime. They are those who have to overcome the deficit disadvantages birth and family circumstances have imposed upon them, before they can participate in the general uplift in wellbeing which others in society are able to enjoy from childhood onwards. For many, the deficit crushes their self belief and belief in the possibility of improvement before they come anywhere close to sharing in the opportunities embraced by others in society.
A development which might be much more surprising to you is that we in the nations of the British Isles, in common with many other economically developed countries, now live in the first human society in history in which the majority of the population is over age 50. In your own lifetime, that was the average age of death in Britain, even as late as the first decade of the twentieth century. In contrast to issues affecting the poorest in society, the challenge of learning to adapt to a society characterised by advanced age is more strongly correlated with those who have enjoyed relative prosperity in their earlier adult lives.
At one stage of recent thinking, discussions of both sets of issues — the persist-ence of relative poverty and the need to adapt to increased ageing — were interwoven with discussion of the increased importance of a supply of skilled labour in the most developed economies. More recently, however, debate about the future of work, and the possibility of substantially reduced demand for labour, is emerging as a result of rapid technological advancement through the potential applications of artificial intelligence. We are only beginning to speculate about the nature of a society in which an increasing proportion of people may need to find their sense of value and meaning in ways separate from the contribution they make to the wellbeing of society through work.
As we grapple with the challenge of contributing to the wellbeing of the mass of people by exploring fresh ways of responding positively to the development of our society, we retain continuity with ways of thinking which characterised your own philanthropy.
We advocate the practical value that can come from emulating your focus on general wellbeing as a guiding principle, and we seek to be at the forefront of international thinking about ways governments apply that principle.
We explore ways in which the capacity of individuals, families, and communities can be given greater expression and acknowledgement. We look at the enhancement of wellbeing that can come from the ways in which people cooperate with one another, and the degree of responsibility we take for the wellbeing of one another, including the ways in which we behave towards one another in everyday life.
We maintain a distinctive focus on understanding and learning from the experience of life in towns throughout the British Isles, assisted both by your decision to ensure that representation from Dunfermline, the town of your birth, is a substantial component of our trustee group, and by our continued location in the town.
We shall continue to learn from you, and from the perspectives you bequeathed to us, as we strive to live up to the trust you have invested in us, and in our successors as trustees in the century ahead, to take forward your legacy of philanthropy. You gave us the responsibility to reinterpret the ways in which we can best give effect to your intentions in the light of changing times, and we shall continue to embrace that responsibility wholeheartedly.
In your autobiography, you wrote, “I intend to tell my story, not as one posturing before the public, but as in the midst of my own people and friends, tried and true, to whom I can speak with the utmost freedom.” That is also my intent in this letter. Every day, when I walk into my office, I see your statue and your portrait. Every once in a while I imagine that you are looking back at me, and I hope you realize that Carnegie Corporation of New York still strives to uphold your mission “to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding.” As a historian, I’m fully aware that I have inherited a great mantle of responsibility. After all, I am the second immigrant to preside over Carnegie Corporation. You, of course, were the first. Growing up in a relatively poor family in Tabriz, Iran, I never dared to dream that I would someday be among your successors.
In retrospect, our worlds, though distant, were not so far apart. Our formative years were shaped by strong women, yours by your devoted mother; mine by my beloved grandmother, Voski Mirzaian. Although she was illiterate, my grandmother knew the importance of education, and she instilled that belief in me. You and I both loved books as children. I understood instinctively what you meant when you wrote about your youth in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the way books and libraries “opened windows” for you, as if they were letting light into a dark room.
Just as you had Colonel Anderson to loan you books, I too knew kind individuals who gave me access to their libraries and thereby opened new worlds. In Tabriz, I read noncirculating books at the Armenian diocesan library. In fact, I volunteered to be a book-shelver there at age twelve, precisely for that privilege. Like you, I loved to read. And my world expanded as I read translations of Persian, Russian, French, and German literature. Occasionally, I read books about “self-made men,” where I came across your name for the first time.
Another source of light for me was the private library that belonged to Miss Boodakian, the sister of a local bank president, who lived in a large house in a wealthy neighborhood. She generously lent me her precious leather-bound books, one at a time. There was also a stationery store in town, where I found lighter reading material, like detective stories featuring the master of disguise, Arsène Lupin. With shrewdness worthy of Monsieur Lupin, the store owner divided his books into three parts, which he rented out to customers, charging each time, and tripling his profit.
Later in life, when I learned that you were the father of the modern public library system, I was filled with gratitude. Thanks to you, millions of individuals have been able to read books and discover new worlds of their own. Yet you did it in such a way that the public took ownership of their libraries, providing the building only if the community agreed to establish the library’s collections and support the cost of its operations. You were wise to create new partnerships between the private and public sectors, seeking to empower others rather than to control them.
A Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, once spoke about his gratitude to you and to Carnegie Corporation for building a library for African-Americans in Savannah, Georgia. During his childhood, this library was, to him, “an outlet on a whole other world.” Justice Thomas reminisced, “I would walk into the Carnegie Library, and I would see the pictures of Booker T. [Washington] and pictures of Frederick Douglass, and I would read. Did I dream that I would be on the Supreme Court? No, but I dreamt that there was a world out there that was worth pursuing.”
Subsequently, when we met, Justice Thomas sent me a thank-you note to express his gratitude, describing the Carnegie library as a “sanctuary.” I felt exactly as he did, finding a sanctuary in one library after another — the Collège Arménien in Beirut, the library of Stanford University, and the New York Public Library.
Of course, there are at present many forms of inequality in the world, and virulent ethnic and racial tensions still persist in defiance of the Enlightenment principles you believed in. But Carnegie Corporation still maintains, as you did, that people and nations can live together in peace, and adjudicate their differences through arbitration.
Yet you did not open windows only through your libraries, you also opened them by establishing institutions devoted to honoring heroism, strengthening education, and promoting international peace. You were ingenious at finding appropriate purposes and fitting names for this commonwealth of organizations, all united by the goal of doing “real and permanent good in this world,” as you put it in your essay, “The Gospel of Wealth.” I am happy to report that today your vision and mission are still carried out by Carnegie Corporation of New York, as well as its sister entities. Those institutions have endured, unlike so much of the ephemera in our modern world. You made sure that our missions were relevant, and that we were well organized and well funded. Moreover, you wisely gave those Carnegie entities and their leadership the freedom and the funds to adapt, to meet new challenges, and to pursue new vistas. Today, all these institutions have one thing in common: they embody your optimism and perpetual dynamism.
How fortunate Carnegie Corporation is that you gave a great deal of thought to your philanthropy. It still has both purpose and coherence. We have also always been fortunate to be guided by excellent governing boards, which have included distinguished diplomats, financiers, political leaders, educators, authors, journalists, generals, and others. They share your commitment to the mission of the Corporation. The stability and continuity of Carnegie Corporation is reflected in the number of presidents we have had — only twelve in 108 years. Each president who succeeded you arrived at a different transitional moment, and made an important impact. Your charter provided the Corporation with both flexibility and clear goals, allowing us to be at the forefront of nearly every major issue.
Today, international peace remains a pillar of our work. In keeping with your vision for a world without war, the Corporation continues to champion peaceful negotiation, arbitration, and diplomacy. We supported negotiations to reduce weaponry and strengthen global security, resulting in pacts such as the Nunn-Lugar Act. By establishing the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (CTR), the Act helped states of the former Soviet Union effectively safeguard and dismantle their enormous stockpiles of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. We also promoted U.S. engagement with countries and regions during challenging periods in bilateral relationships, encouraging diplomacy and sustaining engagement when official governmental relations were limited.
We continue to fund official efforts to reduce tensions and build understanding among countries, through the United Nations and, perhaps most effectively, by encouraging Track II negotiations, a creative unofficial diplomatic channel that allows nations to find common ground. Your belief that education cultivates peace led us to establish research centers where scientists and intellectuals from rival countries learn from each other, fostering trust and fellowship.
We helped build and sustain the peacebuilding field in Africa, reinvigorated the study of China and Russia in American universities, and funded Middle East and Islamic Studies for almost twenty years. Of course, there are at present many forms of inequality in the world, and virulent ethnic and racial tensions still persist in defiance of the Enlightenment principles you believed in. But Carnegie Corporation still maintains, as you did, that people and nations can live together in peace, and adjudicate their differences through arbitration.
In our own nation, we remain committed to helping immigrants become a part of the civic fabric of the United States because, like you, we believe that, “along with the freedom to pursue wealth and happiness, the greatest gift the American Republic has to bestow is citizenship.” In 2001, the Corporation launched its current immigrant integration program, which encourages immigrants to become citizens, and focuses on improving current federal immigration policies as well as supporting pro-immigrant and refugee policies at the national and state levels. In addition, every year we publish a list of “Great Immigrants” with your photo at the center, saluting your legacy along with the contributions of the millions of other immigrants who have made, and continue to make, our nation strong and vibrant. Understanding that enlightened citizenship is the foundation of our democracy, we also support civics education, funding a national campaign on the need to restore civics and history in school curricula.
We continue to believe that Americans should think not just of themselves, but of the nation; not just of the rights but also of the responsibilities of citizenship. Since the early 1980s, we have consistently funded nonpartisan voter registration and turnout efforts as well as voter protection efforts for new citizens from immigrant backgrounds. We are proud of our long history in support of voting and voting rights, and we work to ensure that all those who are eligible to vote have the opportunity to cast a ballot.
Through the decades, we have acted on your belief in equal education as the right of all citizens. In 1921, the National Urban League, a civil rights organization dedicated to economic empowerment and social justice, received its first major foundation grant from Carnegie Corporation. In the 1960s, the Earl Warren Legal Training Program (the educational affiliate of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and the Law Students Civil Rights Research Council received more than $3.4 million to address a critical shortage of black lawyers, particularly in the South.
Your generosity and your faith in education were reflected in your support for universities and your work on behalf of the professoriate (including the early funding of what would become TIAA). Carnegie Corporation has played a major role in education from early childhood to graduate school here in your adopted homeland, in your native Scotland, and around the world. When I think of all that has been done in your name to support the education of women — grants for fellowships in the humanities, financial support for women’s colleges and for continuing education programs for women, a comprehensive report on the state of women in higher education from the Commission on Higher Education, and more — I am convinced this is the work that would most gratify your mother and my grandmother, who knew the value of education.
You, I believe, would heartily approve of our ten-year Partnership for Higher Education in Africa, which brought seven foundations together to increase the resources and impact of higher education — especially for women. Thanks to university and graduate fellowships from Carnegie Corporation, thousands of African women and men have graduated and have begun to transform their societies and nations. I am proud to inform you that, following your example, we too have opened windows to new worlds by supporting various libraries in Africa, including the establishment of two national libraries, a children’s library, and exemplary circulating libraries in South Africa.
We continually look for new ways to support education at home and abroad. Fifty years ago, the Corporation, together with the Ford Foundation, supported another transformative program, an innovative educational experiment on television called Sesame Street. It has had a lasting impact on generations of children around the world. Today, we also invest in education through the Andrew Carnegie Fellows, a highly selective program that supports scholarly research, and through grants to organizations like the Institute of International Education and the Brookings Institution.
The Corporation continues to believe, as you did, that with wealth comes responsibility. While adhering to your ideals, we have not forgotten our duty to manage your legacy and trust. Our sense of responsibility and accountability in our grantmaking was best summed up by one of our earlier trustees, who declared that it was incumbent upon us, and indeed all foundations, to have “glass pockets.” We place a high priority on the quality of our investments, assessments, and internal auditing; and transparency is an integral part of our mission. I am proud to inform you that we were the first foundation to provide annual reports to the public. We believe that people should know what resources we possess and how we spend and invest those resources. We have evolved with the times, and as a nonprofit organization know that we have to be accountable and responsible not only to our charter, but to the public as well.
In all of our work, we have acted as laboratories for our nation, helping to test the best of new thinking about national security, science, and educational practices. Like you, we continue to believe that people should be taught to help themselves, and that a good idea should ultimately succeed on its own merits. We nurture ideas and disseminate them, but we don’t support them indefinitely. The Corporation has made it a point to acknowledge where we have failed, share what we have learned, and thus prevent others from repeating our mistakes in the future.
Throughout your life, you found significant ways to help people lead better lives, individually and together in their communities. When you came to the United States in 1848, I wonder if you had any inkling how much change you would set in motion. Your generosity transformed the country we both grew to love and call home. Indeed, the United States is the world’s leading practitioner of philanthropy. Giving has become a profound part of American culture. Last year, Americans gave over $400 billion, with more than two-thirds of that amount given by people who make less than $75,000 a year. Today, we have more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the United States, supported by the generosity of people throughout the country.
Thanks to the extraordinary work of my colleagues, the Corporation’s reach has also grown. From 1911 to 1997, Carnegie Corporation granted one billion dollars. Since 1997, we have given $2.1 billion in grants supporting the work of nonprofit institutions. Today’s endowment stands at $3.4 billion.
You taught us that our work is meant to empower others. We constantly strive to do good, by ourselves or in tandem with like-minded organizations. Toward that end, we have increased our cooperation with other foundations. Indeed, when we started our magazine, the Carnegie Reporter, we decided to include a few pages highlighting the work of our fellow foundations, as we are all in the realm of philanthropy.
We have also tried to promote the same public-spirited philanthropy that you espoused so well in “The Gospel of Wealth.” Since its creation in 2001, the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy has publicly encouraged a spirit of giving by thanking prominent donors from many different countries. What is more, the Carnegie Medal also led to the revitalization of the Carnegie family of institutions, bettering their collective power and helping them usher in another century of philanthropy devoted to your mission and legacy. I am very proud to inform you that today the Carnegie institutions lift one another up, cooperating with one another to meet the important challenges of our time.
Finally, we share our commitment to your legacy, which continues to touch so many lives. It is a constant pleasure for me to run into people like Justice Thomas who thank me for continuing the work you began. Robert Caro, one of the foremost biographers of our time, told me recently that a grant from Carnegie Corporation enabled him to finish his Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Power Broker. The economist Milton Friedman said his life was saved by going to a library you built. In other ways, too, you saved lives — a Carnegie grant resulted in the discovery of insulin for treating diabetes, thus saving millions of lives around the world.
I was once asked if your legacy was a difficult burden to carry. I answered that it would only become a burden if I stopped believing in it. And how could I stop believing in such universal goals? You championed the importance of humanity’s welfare, the possibilities of education, the redemptive qualities of science, and the values of a democratic society. Your extraordinary vision still sustains the mission of Carnegie Corporation of New York. Thank you for making your legacy so easy to carry. It has been the privilege of my life to continue your work. I hope this letter will, like the whispers of the “still small voice within,” assure you and all future generations that because you lived, “one small part of the great world has been bettered just a little.”
When you established the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, you charged its board with the constant renewal of the Endowment’s mission. As you wrote, “Lines of future action cannot be wisely laid down … let my Trustees therefore ask themselves from time to time, from age to age, how they can best help man in his glorious ascent onward and upward.”
You founded the Endowment at a critical historical juncture. In many corners, optimism about the world’s interconnected future was reaching a crescendo — just as the foundations of international order that prevailed in the nineteenth century were beginning to crack. Hopes for a more peaceful world seemed close to realization — yet catastrophic war and disorder loomed. The last great surge of the Industrial Revolution was transforming the global economy, bringing with it a host of opportunities and challenges. It was against this backdrop that you challenged the Endowment to promote new actions and ideas that could bend trendlines in a more peaceful direction.
Today we find ourselves at another transformational moment — a moment again defined by cataclysmic threats and unimaginable opportunities. The past century has seen unspeakable horrors, as well as extraordinary progress for peace and the welfare of humankind. But the optimism that overflowed after the end of the Cold War is rapidly giving way to foreboding currents: the return of great power competition; a new technological revolution that is upending how we live, work, and fight; a shift in the world’s economic and military center of gravity, from West to East; and growing tensions between open and closed societies, with nationalism and authoritarianism resurgent.
Walls are going up faster than they are coming down. Democracy’s march has slowed, and even reversed, and the prospect of international law and cooperation is withering on the vine. The tailwinds of globalization — those same forces that you saw shrinking our world into “a neighborhood in constant and instantaneous communication” more than a century ago — have transformed into powerful headwinds, and trendlines once again seem headed towards massively destabilizing collisions.
Like the international system itself, the marketplace of ideas is more diffuse, crowded, competitive, and contested than ever before. Decisionmakers were once starved for information, but today they are drowning in it. Where there was once a small number of trusted brokers of insight and analysis, today’s policy actors now have to navigate a cacophony of voices across countless platforms, with greater skepticism than ever about their reliability, credibility, and independence. Today’s policy discourse is more polarized and divisive, and civil society is under growing suspicion and scrutiny.
That is precisely why now is the time to answer your charge anew. The Endowment has changed a great deal over the past century. Today we are a global institution, with more than 140 scholars spread across 20 countries and six global centers in Beirut, Beijing, Brussels, Moscow, New Delhi, and Washington, D.C. We aim to do more work on and in Africa and Latin America in the years ahead. But even as we adapt to new realities, we nevertheless hold steadfast to our core values: global reach and perspective at a time of heightened insularity; unassailable independence at a time of hyperpolarization; and disciplined, strategic focus on the most consequential issues facing our world at a time when punditry is drowning out serious public discourse.
We continue to believe, as you did, that we have “no party where Peace is concerned.” We represent no national, political, or private interest, nor do we promote an institutional policy agenda. We simply believe that the essential prerequisites to understanding the drivers shaping a changing world — let alone addressing the challenges they pose — are rigorous analysis and innovative solutions informed by ground-truths, enriched by diverse regional and ideological perspectives, and directed smartly to key decisionmakers and the public square.
To rise to the challenge before us, we’ve continued to evolve and adapt, focusing on the most significant forces shaping the emerging order, and concentrating our efforts where our global platform has the most to offer.
With on-the-ground expertise in key regions, we provide sophisticated analyses of the societal, economic, security, and political forces fueling competition and conflict, bringing our global network together to find pathways to conflict mitigation and resolution. We publish in multiple languages and engage with a variety of players who have a stake in outcomes, as well as the ability to shape them. Ours is a world in which governments remain essential to questions of war and peace, but their monopoly on power, access, and influence is not what it once was. That makes the work of peace ever more complex, even as
it allows more of our fellow citizens to contribute to its achievement.
With a mix of world-class economists and strategists, we are helping executives from situation rooms to boardrooms rethink the critical intersection of economics and national security — ensuring that our international relations contribute to the renewal of our own societies. I remain convinced that while foreign policy begins at home, it must end there, too — in better jobs, more security, and a cleaner climate. In the United States, that does not mean casting aside the enlightened self-interest that has defined American leadership at its best, but it does mean we need to think more imaginatively and do a better job bridging the disconnect between card-carrying members of the Washington establishment and American citizens.
Together with governments and other organizations around the globe, we are working to strengthen and sharpen the ways in which outside actors can more effectively support civil societies and democracies that are under unprecedented strain. In too many places, the compacts between state and society are far too brittle, and ideas on how to enliven them are far too stale. The challenge is only becoming more urgent, as authoritarian regimes increasingly feel the wind in their sails.
And, finally, we are working to help the development of international norms and rules of the road catch up to the pace of technological innovation — seeking to maximize the promise of new technologies while minimizing their disruptions. You would be amazed at the technological progress we’ve made in the instruments of both peace and war. Since the advent of the nuclear age, we’ve mostly managed to keep the genie in the bottle, but that task is going to be far more challenging in the digital age, making the Endowment’s work that much more important.
The most fateful error in international politics is failure of imagination. It was failure of imagination that preceded the wars that engulfed our world in the last century. If we are to finally rid ourselves of war, what you rightly termed “the foulest blot upon our civilization,” we will need to overcome that failure of imagination as well as the failure of action.
It is the awesome responsibility of this Endowment, and all those charged with executing its mission, to meet this moment with the energy, wisdom, and determination that it demands. And it is our hope that your legacy will continue to inspire other philanthropists for peace. We need them more than ever.
On this, the 100th anniversary of your passing, I am honored, as the ninth President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, to take a moment to reflect upon your legacy and impact in the field of education and to ruminate on the challenges that still lie ahead.
It is with a sense of awe and humility that I approach this task, recalling the words of Nicholas Murray Butler, former President of Columbia University, on what would have been your 100th birthday: “What greater responsibility could any one of us bear than to have been asked by him, or by those whom he asked, to assume a share in the conservation of these forces which he set in motion, in their direction and guidance for human betterment through the next generation?” We are not stewards simply of the funds, but also of the ideals, and it is the ideals that continuously inspire and challenge us.
First and foremost, Mr. Carnegie, I continue to be inspired by your belief that teaching can and should be a dignified profession. You founded the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching with the specific goal, as stated in our charter by the United States Congress, to “encourage, uphold and dignify the profession of the teacher.” Since its inception, the Foundation has kept this value in mind, manifesting it in our work to elevate standards for higher education, strengthen preparation for the profession, honor the scholarship of teaching, and, in the Foundation’s current work, bring teachers and researchers into more productive collaborations to address longstanding inequities in educational outcomes from pre-K to post-secondary.
Theirs is most noble work: to inspire, to shape, and to help each child have a meaningful personal life and become a productive contributor to that ongoing great experiment of democracy in America.
Secondly, you believed strongly in the innate capability of persons and the capacity of institutions to learn and to improve. The Foundation has spent the majority of its more than 100 years convening leaders across the education landscape with the aim of making our educational institutions more efficient, more effective, and more student-centered. From the Flexner Report, to the recommendations from the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, to the establishment of the Carnegie Classifications, to our current work on using improvement science principles and organizing improvement networks, there is a long history at the Foundation of convening educational leaders around improving our educational institutions.
Lastly and most importantly, Mr. Carnegie, I continue to be inspired by your belief in the power of education to transform lives. In “The Gospel of Wealth,” you recall with “devotional gratitude” how Colonel James Anderson of Allegheny would open his library to the children of Pittsburgh. You, your brother, and Henry Phipps would attend every Saturday to exchange books. You never forgot this example of openness and generosity, and you believed that one of the best uses of your wealth was to fund universities, libraries, museums, and parks — palaces for the people, where anyone can have access to the knowledge, beauty, creativity, and noble spirit contained within these open spaces. You considered it your duty, even a privilege, to gift educational institutions to communities around the world, and these communities continue to reap the benefits. You recognized that a productive and convivial democratic society rests on the education of its citizens. Unless more had access to the kinds of learning opportunities that had been afforded you, a free, civil, and open society could not endure.
Having grown up in a blue-collar working-class family, the only child on either side of my family to attend college, I know personally the power of education — the intellectual world that it opens as well as the social and economic opportunities that it affords. Having worked in the field of education for over forty years, I have seen again and again how education can ennoble and enrich students’ lives, but I have also seen how quality education continues to be denied to far too many of our nation’s children.
So yes, Mr. Carnegie, having access to institutions of knowledge and culture not only brings value into our own lives, it also strengthens the social fabric of our communities. But today we need to do more than just create access. Our aspirations for our education system have increased dramatically over the past four decades. We now aspire to achieve quality educational outcomes for every child. We use these words so effortlessly now — every student succeeds — that we can easily underappreciate how ambitious these goals really are. Never before have we challenged educational systems in this way.
We often hear stories like yours and mine, where people of modest means succeed through some combination of family support, intellect, grit, and, often, that special teacher who touched their lives. But we should not let our personal accounts blind us to the great tragedy of the countless numbers of children who continue to be denied opportunity for a better life by virtue of the community they may have been born into or their family life circumstances. We must expect more from our education systems.
In order to achieve the ambitious goals that we now hold, to educate every child well, we need to work in very different ways. This may well sound strange to you, Mr. Carnegie, as Frederick Taylor was a contemporary of yours and greatly influenced the evolution of the industrial workplace, including your steel mills. As significant as his ideas were in fueling the industrial revolution, the seeds of great human debasement were also embedded within them. Taylor assumed that he knew best how to organize work, and that laborers should simply follow his directions. Workers were, in essence, replaceable parts. He wanted their labor, not their minds; nor did he attend much to their dignity as human persons. It took W. Edwards Deming, some forty years later, to challenge this thinking. Deming argued that if all you ask of your workers is their labor, your organization is throwing away 90 percent of its social intelligence for problem solving. Deming’s insights are especially important now, as the educative tasks in our schools and colleges have become more complex, and the organization necessary to carry out this work more complex as well. To reach a new effectiveness frontier requires a social organization well beyond the mechanical formulations of an earlier era. Moreover, we live in a time of extraordinary, sustained, and rapid change. Our educational institutions not only need to get better, they need to learn how to continue to get better, as our society will continue to demand even more changes over the years ahead.
Education today is a vast institutional enterprise involving millions of educators and over 100,000 different contexts in which students regularly interact with teachers around subject matter. Making every one of those contexts work every day for every teacher and child is a daunting task. Moreover, there is no simple “new idea” waiting in the wings to solve this problem. The solution won’t be found in just adopting some new curriculum, or adding another program or some new web-based apps, regardless of how promising any of these might be. In truth, these are all just parts, albeit potentially valuable parts, but their power remains inert unless we focus on how these various parts become more productively integrated into the fabric of our educational organizations. In short, we confront a systems improvement problem. How can we get our educational institutions to work better and more reliably every day for every child in every context in which students are educated? There is no deus ex machina to save us. Rather, we need to roll up our sleeves and take up the sustained and sometimes tedious tasks of continuously improving how our educational institutions can create more value reliably for all who walk through their doors every day.
Today we confront a growing chasm between rising aspirations as to what we want from our schools, and what they can routinely accomplish. Realistically, we have no strategy to achieve our rising aspirations, whether it be all children reading by grade 3, all children career and college ready by the end of high school, or all new teachers succeeding in educating their students.
Comprehending this reality demands a fundamental shift in how we think and act toward educational systems improvement. Much practical learning occurs every day as people engage in their work. Numerous fields have become much more productive by acknowledging this natural inclination to learn by doing, and then building on it in deliberate, systematic ways. Moreover, the problems we now seek to solve are too complex to lend themselves to broad-based solutions by individuals or institutions working in isolation. Rather, we need to join in deliberately structured improvement networks that attend to practical problem solving.
This means getting down into the micro details of how our educational systems actually work, and how any proposed set of changes is supposed to lead to improved outcomes. It means using evidence to guide the development, revision, and continued fine-tuning of how tools, processes, work roles, and relationships might better interact to produce the outcomes we seek.
In addition, it is important, but not sufficient, to know that something can work (i.e., what we now call “evidence-based” and store in the What Works Clearinghouse). We also need to build the practical know-how necessary to generate quality outcomes reliably under diverse and different conditions. This means paying explicit attention to variability in performance, and questioning what works for whom and under what set of conditions.
In the past, we have relied on a select group of people to design interventions and establish policies, and then those actually doing the work — teachers, principals, and education leaders — are cast as followers of these directives. In contrast, effective organizations today, across many different sectors, draw on W. Edwards Deming’s insights and actively engage those involved in the work who are central to its improvement.
Rather than assume that some external experts already know the answer to improving schools, we need to listen to what students, teachers, and their families are experiencing and how they are making sense of the social world in which they live. We need to understand better what is and is not working for them and why this may be so. As Danielle Allen reminds us in her book, Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality, respect for the voice of others — the right to be heard — is the most basic expression of the concept of equality. So it is incumbent on those who have power to use their power to truly listen to the voices of those we seek to engage, who are most dependent on our good efforts for their success.
As large and complex as this problem is, I am also convinced that we can learn better and faster. Most recently, I saw this in action at our sixth annual Summit on Improvement in Education. Over 1,700 people from around the country and around the globe gathered together for three days of workshops, presentations, and conversations, all aiming to improve educational effectiveness and reduce inequities in educational outcomes. It was a thrilling event where participants felt inspired, empowered, and enabled to make a difference in their local contexts. I think you would have been proud to have this event carry your name; proud that more than 100 years after your passing, thousands of educators were working together to dignify the profession of teaching, to make schools and colleges more effective, and to make progress toward our aim of educating well every child.
So here in the twenty-first century, we continue to be enlivened by and to advance upon your inspiration to do all things that encourage, uphold, and dignify the profession of teaching and to improve the institutions where it occurs. Theirs is most noble work: to inspire, to shape, and to help each child have a meaningful personal life and become a productive contributor to that ongoing great experiment of democracy in America.
In closing, I thank you for your great gifts, Mr. Carnegie. Both the investments themselves and the spirit with which those gifts were given continue to inspire and challenge all of us who are charged to be good stewards to your legacy.
We are honoured to be a part of the family of Carnegie institutions. The relevance of the Dutch Carnegie Hero Fund has not diminished. Today, polarization throughout the world, as well as in the Netherlands, is growing. Humanity needs humanity. Heroes show the impact of being human toward one another.
The Dutch Carnegie Hero Fund is just a small member of the family, yet proud of being the offspring of that family. Its role in this part of the world has grown. In a manner of speaking, it has become a senior adult now, well aware of its purpose and yet searching for the best way in which to be part of creating a better world. Just as you tried to do, we aspire to leave a better world behind.
Today, polarization throughout the world, as well as in the Netherlands, is growing. Humanity needs humanity. Heroes show the impact of being human toward one another.
In 2015, the first National Hero Day took place in our country. We started this initiative to try to get a message across to Dutch society: Look at the heroes amongst us and see how they have acted as co-owners of society.
In the Netherlands, heroes are rewarded on a local level. Most of the time the mayor gives the medal in front of the local community. The aim of the National Hero Day is underlining the importance of people who act when it is needed.
Our purpose is to let this event grow as a relevant annual moment, with media coverage through which the significance is broadly recognized. We believe our society needs it, and we feel indebted to you for our being placed in The Hague, the city of peace and justice, the city with the Peace Palace, International Court of Justice, and various pillars of your “Temple of Peace.”
We don’t want to do it alone. After starting as a platform with other awarding organizations, the National Hero Day is becoming more and more a real national phenomenon. All organizations (royal medals, Royal Society for the Rescue of Drowning People, police, fire brigade, military) share the same objectives — giving thanks to heroes and letting others know.
One man can make a difference. You did, many years ago. Many, many people are involved in the various aspects of your legacy.
The board of trustees of the Carnegie Hero Fund of The Kingdom of the Netherlands wishes to express its gratitude for being part of the Carnegie Hero Funds World Committee, and we are very thankful for all support given by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
I have often gone back and thought of you — about your clear and decisive work, appreciated equally by heads of state and the wider community, for the promotion of world peace and heroic acts aimed at achieving peace.
When? Definitely during the Commission’s meetings, which I have been a part of for 24 years, and where I am time and again faced with the question of whether we can continue to have full impact with funds that do not permit us to thoroughly fulfill our duties and, in a deaf society, our attempts to represent difficulties that have existed for too many years. The answer I give myself is always the same: the path you, Mr. Carnegie, have shown continues to be valid and relevant, and your tenacity and generosity inspire us yet. The theme of peace has been, and still is, spoken about extensively; it is a dream that we all have deep inside, but which has always remained a grand illusion.
The Emperor Augustus had the Ara Pacis built in 9 b.c. because he was convinced that the known world was heading towards a long period of peace. By then, Rome was the sole dominant power without the need to expand further, while the bordering nations or tribes feared it and often asked to be incorporated into the Empire. We know very well that just a few years later, Augustus was forced to move legions to quell rebellions or ward off invaders.
In the seventeenth century, after the bloody invasion of South America and the Christianization of the indigenous people, the Jesuits, who were very powerful at the time, decided to establish “reductions” aimed at peacefully converting the local people in those far lands. This plan stemmed from the conviction that such communities would easily become Christian civilizations similar to those in Europe, but free of their vices and flaws. In reality, conversions were achieved by force, many locals fled, justice gradually moved away from the word of the Gospel, and conflict among villages increased.
When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, world peace was celebrated, and the media euphorically claimed, “History is over.” We soon realized that a balance had been broken within the areas of influence of the two superpowers, giving way to fragile crisis areas and local wars with unpredictable developments.
Even the trust put into the League of Nations, which was established to prevent World War II, turned to disillusionment. When a dictator has a plan to claim territories, the one language he understands is force. Diplomatic negotiation is only interpreted as a sign of weakness to the bitter end.
The theme of peace has been, and still is, spoken about extensively; it is a dream that we all have deep inside, but which has always remained a grand illusion.
In nature, life is asserted through competition, selection, and the law of the strongest; when stillness takes over, so does death. We have to acknowledge that humanity has never strayed too far from this primordial principle. It seems that recent major achievements that vastly improved the possibility of exchanging information have not increased awareness of the uselessness of conflict and the value of human life. Even religions, with their teachings on life, have been, and still are, tumultuous at times. Moral laws may be impeccable, but they are managed by humanity, and when man convinces himself that he is legitimately entitled to interpret the divine word, he acquires a confidence that prompts him to act fanatically and dangerously.
You were well aware of human limits and flaws; however, you were able to maintain your love for your neighbour and your conviction that we should work towards a peaceful world, even one small step at a time.
In our work, we consistently see this tendency towards the good, even if our community has not yet learned how to properly emphasize acts of generosity and altruism; these always take second place to selfishness and criminality. I believe that cultural education is the basis of true progress, and that nonviolence is the fundamental theme that must guide our every activity. It is not civil for example, for thousands of police officers to risk their integrity in order to prevent protesters from damaging public or private property, under whatever pretense, or in order to keep rivals apart.
Numerous acts of heroism continue to occur, and are often thrilling. Over the century, recognition of our institution has greatly improved, yet gaps remain. In Italy, very little is known of our organization and its philanthropic purpose. Up until World War II, the large amount of capital available was, in itself, a source of publicity, as were the cash prizes and scholarships for orphans, which were an unusual type of aid in our society. With almost total depreciation of our assets after the war, the Commission’s operations were drastically reduced. We have not “thrown in the towel” because we are convinced that we have a noble task, as you have shown us, and because, occasionally, we have received help that allowed us to survive, such as now from the Carnegie Hero Funds World Committee. Moreover, I do not believe that we have yet done everything possible to increase our assets, and I feel we have a duty to find new ways to obtain funding as well as to improve visibility.
We have moved in this direction, and we intend to solicit banks to sponsor us by ensuring them adequate recognition. At the same time, we will bring awareness to the Ministry of the Interior, which provides us with an office, and to other public institutions, suggesting that medals or diplomas awarded to their employees be presented during dignified public ceremonies.
With a touch of optimism and trust in the good inside each one of us, we hope to breach the wall of indifference surrounding us.
We continue to believe in your work and in the progressive betterment of humanity; it is to your teachings that we owe our motivation to move ahead.
In 1911, you wrote to the Swedish king and asked if Sweden could accept a gift of US $230,000 in order to establish a foundation with the aim of awarding civil heroes. The king, of course, accepted your generous gift, and the foundation Carnegiestiftelsen was established according to your wishes.
In 1912, the first awards were given and, up until today, 2,399 heroes have received awards. In the beginning of the twentieth century, the rescues were, for example, from small wooden boats in stormy weather, saving sailors whose ships had hit rocks, or rescuing people from drowning or from fires. Today, the heroic acts are largely the same with regard to incidents of drowning and fires, yet a bit different. We have safer rescue boats, and the fire brigade can be called earlier because of our popular cellphones. Now we present awards more often when the hero has saved people from a burning car, or has helped someone who has been attacked in a dangerous way.
Our latest case involved a young man, 23 years of age, who saved a man from drowning after his car had gone into the water by a ferry berth. It was in February 2018, around 10:00 pm, dark and cold both in the air and in the water. Our hero had gotten out of his car, which was the only one waiting for the ferry, when he suddenly heard a cry for help. He realized that a car had gone over the quay and into the water, and he saw a man who had succeeded in getting out of his car but did not have the strength to swim. Our hero jumped into the water, swam to the man and took him to a cliff, but could not pull him out of the water because he was heavy and the cliff was slippery. The rescuer’s cellphone did not work because it had gotten wet, but he found a working cellphone in the man’s pocket and used it to make an emergency call. In the meantime, he realized that the ferry was on its way and they both could be drawn under due to the current and the waves caused by the ferry. He told the man at the emergency center about their situation, who managed to call the ferry and stop it before it was too late. Both men were saved by a rescue team after about twenty minutes in the cold water, hanging onto the small cliff.
Our hero jumped into the water, swam to the man and took him to a cliff, but could not pull him out of the water because he was heavy and the cliff was slippery. The rescuer’s cellphone did not work because it had gotten wet, but he found a working cellphone in the man’s pocket and used it to make an emergency call.…Both men were saved by a rescue team after spending about twenty minutes in the cold water, hanging onto the small cliff.
In the early days of Carnegiestiftelsen, there was almost no social welfare in Sweden, and the foundation often gave support to families of deceased heroes who had died saving, or trying to save, someone. The foundation also gave money to younger heroes for their education, or to help establish a home. Today we have a welfare system in Sweden, so there is no need for such support from our foundation. The awardees get a certificate, a watch with an inscription, and a sum of money.
In earlier decades, the foundation awarded quite a few heroes every year. Life was harder at that time. Nowadays we find fewer heroes because life is, in many ways, safer.
In 1993 the board found that there was enough money to support research with the aim of saving lives when accidents occur, and the statutes were changed accordingly. The foundation has so far given 6,874,300 Swedish kronor (US $742,365) to such research.
There are so many people in our country who are thankful for your generous gift, which has helped heroes have a better life.
The board of Carnegiestiftelsen has, in recent years, had the opportunity to meet representatives from other foundations established by gifts from you, and we have been able to exchange experiences. We have made many good friends in the Carnegie family.
Thanks a lot for your generosity! It has made a tremendous difference for Swedish heroes. We who work with Carnegiestiftelsen look forward to the years ahead, fulfilling your mission in accordance with your initial letter to the Swedish king.