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Chairman's Corner

Chairman’s Corner: January 2007

January 05, 2007

Doing the Right Thing—A New Year’s Resolution

by Mario Morino, Co-founder of VPP

As we start the New Year, please join me as I add “do the right thing” to my list of resolutions.

On December 14, Josh Freeman, a close friend, member of the Board of Venture Philanthropy Partners, and Founding Investor, was killed in a helicopter crash. Josh’s own life was jarred nine years earlier when his father died and he found himself taking over both the family business and the Carl M. Freeman Foundation. In his 42 years, Josh touched the lives of many people in meaningful ways.

As friends and colleagues alike singled out and I witnessed first-hand, Josh was always trying “to do the right thing.” Because of his relative newness to the worlds of business and philanthropy, he demonstrated an insatiable desire to learn and understand. As a fellow VPP board member respectfully noted, “I was impressed by his grounded analyses, forthrightness, and willingness to entertain views divergent from his own.”

Josh Freeman’s life is a reminder—especially for those in leadership positions—that we should all strive to “do the right thing.” This requires an honesty to self, an integrity of purpose, and a willingness to put others first. It demands that we focus on real outcomes—such as improving the lives of children and youth—and then stay focused on doing just that, and not let things like recognition, turf, personal reward, or the role and brand of our organizations and ourselves get in the way.

“Doing the right thing” also demands that we do more to find where we agree and to consciously make sure we don’t let our differences―whether grounded in race, ethnicity, class, organization and neighborhood turf, jurisdictional lines, or ideology―keep us from realizing the potential of our collective strengths. We can all learn from Josh and emulate his willingness to entertain views divergent from his own.

By doing more to find common ground, we can make a major difference in ensuring that all children in the National Capital Region have the opportunity to “live the American dream”—something that is the core of VPP’s mission and that Josh himself believed in very strongly.

While “doing the right thing,” is something that each and every one of us can do every day in big and small ways, it is particularly important that the leaders of our foundations, government agencies, nonprofits, and private enterprise adopt this as a guiding principle, for they have the greatest potential to benefit children and youth in our region. For these leaders, “doing the right thing” includes:

  • Being more patient, open-minded, and tolerant so that we are better able to entertain and constructively debate views different from our own, especially when these views come from people who are different than us;
  • Finding common ground in working with others and not letting disagreements keep us from achieving common good together; and
  • Being relentlessly focused on seeing the sought-after social outcome and impact achieved, even if it means sublimating our own brand and role.

The National Capital Region is blessed in so many ways: It is home to our federal government, a true world center with numerous international organizations and initiatives, a global tourist destination, and a burgeoning technology sector. We have a strong economy, remarkable arts and cultural opportunities, benefits from our racially and ethnically diverse communities, and a growing culture of philanthropy. Yet, we are also home to a significant wealth divide, high poverty, and too many children and youth who do not have access to opportunities to learn, grow, and become productive, responsible citizens.

We have the opportunity to find new ways to tap the potential of our collective strength to help change the fate of thousands of children. That in itself would be “the right thing to do” and a great resolution.

My best wishes for a safe, happy, and gratifying New Year.