President's Message from Pew Prospectus 2007

“Tell the truth and trust the people.”– Joseph Newton Pew Jr., 1946

Not much escaped the notice of Joseph N. Pew Jr., one of the Trusts’ founders and board chairman of Sun Oil. In assuring that his company used the most modern production and marketing techniques, he was also devoted to broader concepts that underlie entrepreneurial excellence, such as invention, “not merely in the narrow sense of the Patent Office,” he said, “but as the constant development of new ideas in all fields.”

Mr. Pew’s larger vision took many forms. “America is searching for a better life, not an easier life,” he said about the national purpose at the midpoint of the twentieth century. And he understood how to get the best from his employees: keep them updated. Workers at Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company during World War II would be more focused on their vital tasks if they could call home during the day, so free telephones were installed at lunch areas. In addition, workers would regard their own work as important to the national interest if, he said, the company could “bring to our people as much true information about the war in general as we can get.”

Facts, data, research, study, invention, truth—these contributed decisively to this entrepreneur’s basis of action. Thus it was that, in 1949, when a protégé called him a “sheltered soul,” Mr. Pew calmly reflected on why the brash phrase did not apply: “I suspect the sheltered soul is the individual who tries to get along in life with what knowledge one individual can acquire through individual groping, rather than attempting to add to one’s own knowledge and wisdom by drawing to the maximum extent on the knowledge and wisdom which others acquire.”

Knowledge in Our Three Spheres of Work

Mr. Pew and his siblings grounded The Pew Charitable Trusts in the same analytical approach: We continue to be driven by the power of knowledge to solve some of today’s most challenging problems for the public good. Our founders’ ideals also inform our standards, which demand strict accountability and transparency in the conduct of our business and wise stewardship of our resources.

In the Trusts’ policy work, knowledge, scrupulously fact-based and nonpartisan, underlies the issues we address and the solutions we pursue. The process can take time. For instance, our Environment program has been working to address the problem of global climate change since 1990, and our projects have accumulated incontrovertible evidence on this evolving environmental phenomenon. Our scientific data and other peer-reviewed studies were so convincing that in 2005 the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and 10 of its foreign counterparts issued a joint statement that essentially ended the debate on whether climate change was occurring. In the United States, California has taken action to address its effects, and seven governors in mid-Atlantic and northeastern states agreed to establish the nation’s first mandatory cap-and-trade program for carbon dioxide. Through our past and ongoing investments, we have created a critical knowledge base in this area which provides broad shoulders on which to build as the country develops a national climate policy.

Sometimes the power of knowledge lies not in the arguments it settles, but in the discussions it generates. Pew’s information-oriented initiatives—the “fact tanks” of the Pew Research Center—do not seek to resolve policy debates. But their work can provide a constructive framework by permitting all sides to base their cases on a common set of facts. Nothing thrills us more than to hear people on opposing sides of a given issue citing information the center has generated, even as they draw different conclusions.

In the civic arena, knowledge takes several, seemingly disparate forms: awareness of the country’s history, participation in arts and culture, and concern for those who need a helping hand. These various endeavors shape our national character, bind us as a people and make our communities strong. The Trusts is proud to engage in civic projects nationally and in the Philadelphia region. We are firmly committed to stimulating public awareness of our nation’s democratic principles and encouraging broad participation in our shared civic life. Locally, we strive to strengthen Philadelphia’s stature as a world-class city and increase its appeal to visitors and residents alike.

Examples of Success

Maybe nowhere is the power of knowledge more evident than when it has the potential to tangibly improve the quality of individual life and the health of the planet we all call home. Here are two Pew-supported examples. Last year, President George W. Bush declared a vast archipelago of natural and cultural significance northwest of Hawaii as a marine national monument. Studies in biology, oceanography, history, cultural heritage and policy provided a firm basis for the president’s action.

Also last year, two Pew Biomedical Scholars were recognized for basic-science discoveries that help explain cellular and genetic processes, potentially leading to better treatments for cancer, viral infections and cardiovascular problems. Craig C. Mello, Ph.D., was a co-winner of the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, and Carol W. Greider, Ph.D., shared the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, often called the “American Nobel.” The biomedical scholars program, now in its third decade, provides “risk capital” to talented investigators and has been well worth Pew’s sustained investment. The work of these nearly 450 committed, imaginative scientists is a key building block in improving the health and well-being of society.

Looking Ahead

When Pew enters a line of work, we thoroughly examine the need for reform, analyze a niche to constructively fill and develop a strategy for success. Then we support the case for change with rock-solid evidence.

It would shame our nation’s founding fathers, and it frustrates many Americans today, that we cannot ensure accessible and accurate voting to every eligible citizen. Casting a vote on Election Day should be as simple as using an ATM, but voters are confronted with inaccurate voter-eligibility lists, conflicting identification requirements and long lines at polling places, and they have growing uncertainty about the legitimacy of the results. Every stage of the process—from registering to vote to casting a ballot to recording the choice individually and cumulatively—is flawed. This not only invites fraud but also diminishes citizens’ confidence in the results and, more broadly, in government. Joseph N. Pew Jr. would have encouraged us to investigate new, nonpartisan approaches to addressing this problem. He was fully immersed in politics—he was called “Mr. Republican” when he graced the cover of Time in 1940. A democracy’s public institutions are vibrant only with “everybody participating,” he noted, explaining, “It makes little difference to which party a man belongs as long as he works at it.” Pew-supported projects will be working to establish clear standards for accurate and accessible elections, measure the performance of each state against those standards and develop innovative solutions to make voting work.

The cornerstone of any relationship, professional or personal, is integrity and trust, and those qualities are especially keen in the rapport between doctors and patients. Yet research indicates that the independence and objectivity of doctors’ clinical judgment can be compromised by the marketing practices of pharmaceutical firms. A project supported by Pew will strive to strengthen conflict-of-interest policies at medical schools and physicians’ societies and recommend other reforms to ensure that physicians rely on impartial evidence rather than industry marketing when prescribing medications.

These projects, like all of our endeavors, are based on the facts, which inform our initial explorations of a problem, the decision to pursue an issue, and the design, implementation and, ultimately, the evaluation of our investments. Knowledge translates a challenge into an opportunity, adding pragmatism to vision and enabling us to consistently return meaningful results.


“Let us function with a lively, constructive discontent with things as they are,” said Mr. Pew, going on to explain that one should strive “for new discoveries” and then make those advances “obsolescent” by gathering and applying even newer knowledge. His perceptive reflection about the need for constantly reevaluating and rethinking the status quo continues to guide the Trusts. Three years ago, after a wide-ranging institutional examination and under the wise stewardship of our board, we began operating as an independent public charity. This designation enables us to pursue our goals with more innovative and entrepreneurial tools—for instance, operating projects directly, receiving outside contributions and engaging in legislative advocacy.

We will be sharing our knowledge directly with policy makers as the law permits. When we talk directly to elected officials, they will gain a much better sense of what we are trying to accomplish in representing the public’s voice on issues, and our well-established nonpartisan approach will allow us to develop relationships with policy makers across the political spectrum. Among a range of issues this year, the Trusts will undertake legislative advocacy on behalf of the half-million children trapped unnecessarily in the foster care system, specifically by encouraging implementation of the recommendations of the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care.

Our founders schooled us to be entrepreneurial—to be constantly learning and acting productively on research to address issues wisely in a changing world. As we look to the future, the Trusts and our valued partners will continue to focus on compelling social problems with energy and optimism. We welcome the opportunity to join with fellow investors who share our goal of applying knowledge to achieve effective solutions in the public interest.

Rebecca W. Rimel
President and Chief Executive Officer

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