Immigrants are vital to our economy and our communities. Nearly 10 million immigrants, the largest of any state, call California home. More than 2 million Californians are undocumented. Immigrant workers comprise more than one-third of California’s labor force, and about one in 10 workers in the state is an undocumented immigrant.
Scotty calls himself “the medical miracle.” By the time he was 15 years old, he had been hospitalized 23 times and thrown out of his last foster home because of mounting medical bills. Scotty suffers from a rare genetic disorder that prevents his body from metabolizing protein, a condition that landed him in the hospital consistently during childhood and plagued his adult life in the form of seizures and blackouts that made it impossible to hold a steady job. His chronic unemployment made health insurance unaffordable, and left him unable to manage his medical condition. As a result, he remained chronically homeless, struggled with a drug addiction that aggravated his medical issues, and lost touch with his children and family over the years.
I spent the first day of spring 2013 fast-walking Capitol Hill with foundation colleagues from all across the country. Hundreds of us were there for Foundations on the Hill, philanthropy’s annual push to remind lawmakers why giving matters.
Russell Conwell was a motivational speaker at the turn of the 20th century who had a famous talk called “Acres of Diamonds” that he allegedly delivered 6,000 times. The talk began with a story about an ancient Arab—Ali Hafed—who longed to find a diamond mine so that he could influence the world with his riches. When he asked a holy man where he could find diamonds, the holy man told him he would find them where a river runs through white sands between black mountains. Ali Hafed sold his farm and went in search of these diamonds, but in vain: He died alone and poor.
I recently received a call from a researcher on a new project. As I understood it, a prominent U.S. foundation had asked them to study how domestic donors deal with gender issues. They were to identify funders with a specific commitment to the gender lens in their funding priorities, and then document how these funders tracked the implementation of the gender analysis through grantmaking and programs.
The statistics are hard to ignore, and you may already be familiar with many of them. In 2010, guns took the lives of more than 31,000 Americans in homicides, suicides, and unintentional shootings. This is the equivalent of more than 85 deaths each day and more than three deaths each hour. More than 50 percent of all suicides are committed with a firearm. Firearm injuries are the cause of death of 18 children and young adults (24 years of age and under) each day in the United States. Firearm-related deaths and injuries result in estimated medical costs of $2.3 billion each year—half of which are borne by U.S. taxpayers.
When my class (The Philanthropy Workshop West) arrives, a light snow dusts the ground and U.S. President #44, Barack Obama, has just been sworn in for a second term. As we progress through a week of presentations, spring thaws early and soft rains fall, cleansing our cynical capital and washing away our prejudices against politics. Late in the evening, late in the week when no one is watching and we’re tired of propriety, we find ourselves falling into bed with the idea of advocacy. We just want to advance our causes . . . Is that so wrong?
On a warm and sunny day more than ten years ago, I visited the Ebenezer Baptist Church, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the King Center in Atlanta. Having read and heard about the U.S. civil rights movement and struggle for freedom for black people in this country, I was excited to draw links and connections to the anti-apartheid movement. For me, it felt like visiting Robben Island, a place of historic magnitude and significance in my home country of South Africa.
Last week, I predicted that the itemized deduction could soon be back on the table as Congress looks for ways to raise revenue. It may not have been a great leap to predict that, but my crystal ball is working: Yesterday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) announced a February 14 hearing to examine the itemized deduction for charitable contributions.
Earlier this month, I joined the Council on Foundations after following a rather unique road in government relations, the law, and public policy. I’ve worked in all three sectors: public, private, and now independent. From my perspective, this new opportunity—this leap of faith that I’ve taken—is tailor made for what I do well, which is identifying opportunities, addressing issues, devising strategies, and solving problems in creative ways.