Vikki Spruill Remarks: April 30 Philanthropy-Joining Forces Impact Pledge Launch

On behalf of the Council on Foundations, which represents nearly 1,600 foundations and grantmakers, I want to thank everyone for joining the pledge today to support the education, employment, and wellness of our service members, veterans, and their families.

I’m honored and inspired that so many philanthropic organizations have shown their commitment to supporting and empowering those who have served our country.

I especially want to thank Bonnie for that warm welcome. The American Red Cross has been a terrific partner on this event and a generous host this morning.

I also want to acknowledge our other partner in today’s event, the White Oak Steering Committee – for advancing the national discussion of veterans’ services and support. Their invitation to join the Steering Committee three years ago helped us to crystalize the challenges veterans and their families are facing. Their efforts have helped us to create opportunities for philanthropy to be a part of important national collaborations.

And how exciting to be here today with two wonderful champions for this cause – the First and Second ladies of the United States! First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden – a military mother herself -- have shown extraordinary commitment to supporting those brave men and women who serve our country and the families that remain strong and stalwart in their absence. The Council on Foundations is proud to be working collaboratively with these two great leaders, and I am looking forward to hearing from both of them this morning.

And of course, NONE of this would happen without the generous commitments of the funders whose pledges signal the serious commitment of the philanthropic field to this critical national priority. I want to recognize foundations here who stepped up to the plate with commitments of over $10 million each to the Pledge: 

  • the Robert R. McCormick Foundation;
  • the Patterson Foundation;
  • the May and Stanley Smith Trust;
  • Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, 
  • JPMorgan Chase Foundation.
  • Robin Hood Foundation
  • Schulz Family Foundation

Let’s offer them a round of applause! 

Personal Commitment

The work we are showcasing today is close to my heart because I also grew up in a military family. My father served in the Army for more than two decades, and earned a Purple Heart for his valor in the Battle of the Bulge. I was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and within a year, I ended up living in my mother’s native country Belgium, while my father fought again for our country in Korea.

I truly understand the toll these transitions and deployments take on families and the sacrifices that service requires.

National Duty

As a nation we cherish the value of service. Few among us take this spirit to heart more than our men and women in uniform. Coming from all walks of life, they join forces to safeguard our country.

In turn, we must also remember the children, spouses, and parents forced to cope with their absences and to grieve their losses. While they may not have chosen to undergo such hardship, they dutifully carry the weight all the same.

We need to come together and show that the community stands with them as well. 

Philanthropic Duty

As our men and women in uniform come home, philanthropy stands beside them to help them carry their mission forward into their communities and hometowns. The foundations in this room have funded programs that create affordable housing, that provide new health interventions, that address domestic violence, and that expand economic opportunities for veterans and military families. 

Many in the philanthropy community are addressing the needs and gaps in services, but there is still much more to be done.

We will continue working with government and the business community to ensure our veterans receive the best possible support. 

I am pleased to announce today that the Council on Foundations will continue to provide a platform for funders to work together on increasing grantmakers’ impact.

Today, we are launching the Council’s Veterans Philanthropy Exchange.  This online platform createsanunprecedented clearinghouse for philanthropic funders to share best practices.

It provides a collaborative investing forum for foundations to align investments with other public and private partners for greater collective impact on services for veterans and their families.

This dynamic online community will welcome new funders who can take inspiration from those who have led the way in supporting our men and women in uniform – foundations like Council members, the Blue Shield of California Foundation, the Lincoln Community Foundation, and the San Antonio Foundation, also here today.

Common Benefits

The fortitude, bravery, and commitment veterans have shown safeguarding our country is an invaluable asset.

And, for those who have returned home with needs that must be addressed, we all have a responsibility to offer them resources for a whole and happy life, so they may continue their service, as teachers and doctors, small-business owners and community leaders. With the proper support and a united community behind them, they will continue to strengthen and advance our nation.

Thank you to everyone here today, and thank-you most of all to those who have served our country with such bravery, strength, and grace. We owe you a debt of gratitude.

It is now my honor to introduce one of our country’s most accomplished soldiers, General George Casey. During his distinguished career of uniformed service, General Casey commanded the Multi-National Force in Iraq from 2004 to 2007, a coalition of over 30 countries. His leadership in Iraq set the conditions for our country’s ultimate success. For the next four years, he served as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, where he led arguably the world’s largest and most complex organization – 1.1 million people strong, with a $200 billion budget – through one of the most extraordinary periods in military and global political history country.

Throughout his entire career, he has been a steadfast advocate for warrior and family support. In particular, he helped shape a national dialogue around suicide and reducing stigmas attached to combat stress. We are grateful to have him with us today – General George Casey.