President's Message from Pew Prospectus 2008

The year is 1948, an uneasy one for the United States. Internationally, the Marshall Plan starts, with its ultimate success not at all assured. The Berlin Blockade stops access to most of the city, and the United States responds with the Berlin Airlift. At home, intense partisanship stymies federal policy makers. And within the home, American families, rebuilding their lives after the war, are worried about inflation, housing, taxes and medical care.

Through another, equally valid prism, 1948 is a year of budding confidence. The United Nations establishes the World Health Organization and adopts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At home, the National Industrial Conference Board recognizes that the baby boom, now in its third year, will be an economic boon, and major stories in Time and Newsweek advise businessmen, manufacturers and farmers to prepare for record sales. The G.I. Bill is in full swing; it will ultimately enable more than 10,000,000 veterans to expand their opportunities through advanced education or guaranteed loans to start businesses or buy homes. People get to enjoy life a bit more: Toys “R” Us opens, McDonald’s new “Speedee Service” begins the fast-food era, the shmoo debuts in Li’l Abner, and one of the top songs is “I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover.” The country takes a step toward inclusiveness: Both major political parties endorse civil rights in their presidential campaign platforms, and racial segregation in the U.S. armed forces is banned.

1948 is a turning point for the environment. The United States becomes a net oil importer for the first time, and a Nobel Prize is awarded for the discovery of how DDT works; this powerful insecticide will significantly reduce malaria but also produce a cascade of toxic effects. 1948 is also pivotal for communications and computer science. The first nightly television news program starts, the presidential campaign features the first radio debate between candidates, and the party conventions, held in Philadelphia, are the first to be televised. From the research lab, the world learns about the transistor, essential to electronic circuitry, and first hears the word bit, the basic unit of information storage.

Last but not least, 1948 is a landmark year for four Pew siblings, who honor their parents by establishing a foundation to support charitable, educational, religious and scientific causes. (The year is the 100th anniversary of their father’s birth.) Later, one of the brothers, J. Howard Pew, in a speech to a Presbyterian lay organization, expresses the optimism of the era through an unpretentious but challenging recipe to “create human progress” by extending “a wide-open invitation to all the genius, inventive ability, organizing capacity and managerial skill of a great people—nobody barred, no invitation rejected and no idea untried.” His words reflect the entrepreneurship, innovation and resolve that made the founders’ business endeavors, based in the Sun Oil Company, so successful, and that spirit would inform The Pew Charitable Trusts, which, in its 60th year, continues the heritage of the donors by bringing the power of knowledge and entrepreneurship to serve the public interest.

Indeed, this anniversary year is a special time for us, the stewards of their resources, as we rededicate ourselves to the hopes and values the founders instilled in the Trusts. We lean on the wisdom of Joseph Newton Pew 3rd, a member of the original board who remains a member of the Trusts corporation. He knew the founders as father, uncle and aunts, and it is he who reminds us that we best honor our history when we are entrepreneurial, accountable and relevant in our present activities. “Seventy or 80 percent of the problems we work on today did not exist when the donors were alive,” he said to his fellow board members about a decade ago, as the Trusts approached its half-century mark. “Our founders entrusted the stewardship responsibilities to us. Our job is to take the facts as we see them, get the most accurate information available and make decisions about the best use of these resources in today’s context.”

We began 2008 with that entrepreneurial spirit when the National Environmental Trust—which Pew helped establish 14 years ago—merged staff and operations into the Pew Environment Group, which now constitutes one of the nation’s largest environmental scientific and advocacy organizations. Our environmental efforts have delivered major successes over the past 20 years. For instance, since 1990 we have supported science that documented the extent of global warming, and we now support national and international solutions. And last year, our ten-year campaign to protect 100 million acres in the Canadian boreal forest reached its goal two years early when the Canadian government signed one of the largest land conservation agreements in North American history: 25.5 million acres in the Northwest Territories—land equal to 11 Yellowstone National Parks and larger than 13 U.S. states. Despite these and other accomplishments, however, threats to the worldwide environment have grown exponentially, and a consolidated, experienced staff will help us better respond to them.

“Our problems are not altogether our own, but those of our children and our children’s children,” said Joseph Newton Pew Jr. in a Fourth of July speech in 1948. He then urged Americans to “protect the heritage of this free land of ours.” Last year, Pew launched the Economic Mobility Project to analyze the ability of Americans to move up the economic ladder in a lifetime and over generations. After all, the opportunity to work hard, progress economically and establish a safe and secure life for one’s family is a cornerstone of the American Dream. We are partnering with four leading policy organizations—the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, The Heritage Foundation and the Urban Institute—to expand public knowledge about the state of economic mobility in the United States and provide the research that can help forge greater agreement about ways to strengthen it. So far, the reports have focused on families, race, gender and immigrants. And they have been noticed. One Washington Post columnist called them “scrupulously bipartisan,” and another noted, “The Economic Mobility Project’s work should be part of the political debate.” We will assure that our efforts continue to bring excellent research to bear on the national discussions of America’s promise.

In the policy realm, our founders insisted on good information, supporting what J. Howard Pew called “straight thinking”— lines of reasoning based on watertight data drawn from reliable sources. We continue that approach in order to maintain our reputation as an honest broker, which is especially important in gathering stakeholders who have a wide range of ideological and philosophical viewpoints. For instance, issues involving family financial security—a significant concern for Americans today as it was in 1948—demand accurate facts and strictly nonpartisan analyses if leaders in the public and private sectors are going to agree on solutions. That rigor is the basis of Pew’s projects on the subprime mortgage crisis, retirement security and student debt.

1948 experienced polling—in the worst possible way. The iconic photograph of Harry S Truman, the day after his election as president, flaunting a newspaper whose headline proclaimed his opponent the winner, was made possible because the survey firms had closed their tabulations weeks earlier and failed to register the electorate’s changing mood. Today, the polling continues even after voters leave the booth. Amid fierce competition, however, the Pew Research Center stands out for accuracy, credibility and innovation in developing professionally exacting techniques to ask questions that get to the truth about issues. This past year, it conducted a nationwide survey of Muslim Americans, which required more than 55,000 screening interviews—in English, Arabic, Farsi and Urdu—to yield a valid sample. The first-of-its-kind study was widely recognized for authoritativeness. The center also conducted a Global Attitudes survey, its third involving more than 40 nations. These too take place under seemingly impossible conditions—face to face in areas without phone communications, among people unaccustomed to survey interviews. Because the integrity of the center’s research is paramount—its methodology and analyses are scrupulously impartial, honest and open to outside evaluation—the results are trustworthy.

Last year, the center launched the Social and Demographic Trends project, which studies the behaviors and attitudes of Americans in key realms of their lives, including family, community, health, finance, work and leisure. It explores these topics by combining original public-opinion survey research with social, economic and demographic data analysis. And the center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism created its News Coverage Index, which the Christian Science Monitor calls “arguably the most extensive study of American media done in (almost) real-time.”

In 2001, when Pew began initiatives to foster voluntary, universal access to high-quality preschool for three- and four-year-olds, state spending on early education amounted to $2.4 billion. It now totals $4.8 billion; in addition, 36 states increased preschool funding in the past legislative session. Money reflects momentum: The Wall Street Journal last year called preschool “one of the most significant expansions in public education in the 90 years since World War I,” and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke endorsed early education as a key economic strategy. Preschool is in the platforms of leading presidential candidates, and Congress has introduced bills to provide incentives for quality programs at the federal level. Pew’s work in this area began with the establishment of a rigorous research base illustrating the advantages of high-quality preschool to children and society at large. Our work now includes the Partnership for America’s Economic Success, a collaborative effort of a dozen funders to collect and disseminate evidence of the long-range returns when children grow into thriving, productive adults. The partnership is raising the visibility of the research results and engaging wider circles of top leaders in business, policy, finance and economics to continue making the case for quality preschool.

During 2007, the Pennsylvania Cultural Data Project went national. This initiative, supported by a partnership of organizations that includes Pew, helps arts organizations record their operations data in a single, comprehensive computerized database. They can track their progress over time and compare their practices to those of their peers and the cultural sector at large. We know that the arts positively affect a city or region’s quality of life—and the Cultural Data Project proves that they provide significant economic clout as well. The software was honed for several years in Pennsylvania. Maryland and California, supported by their own local and regional funders, have now implemented it, and other states are considering coming aboard as well.

It is worth noting that, last year, we redesigned and improved our Web site. Nearly a decade before, Pew stepped boldly into cyberspace with a state-of-the-art site, but ten years is an eon in the digital age, and keeping pace demanded a total overhaul. Our new site provides up-to-the-minute information about Pew’s work as well as multimedia and multiple channels so that our content is available through e-mails, slide shows and feeds directly to a desktop; in addition, the materials from our past initiatives can be accessed quickly. The aim is to make it easy for people to understand who we are and what we do, and we hope that visitors will find the site sufficiently worthwhile to return frequently.

When the establishment of the Pew Trusts was announced in 1948, the media reported that the new entity would consolidate and systematize many of the four founders’ philanthropic activities, and it did. But the siblings already held greater aspirations for the new organization. “We believe that the foundation will not only be of considerable value in public service,” said Joseph N. Pew Jr. at the time, but also “should give to those who succeed us a sense of their responsibility toward the common weal.”

We remain dedicated to applying knowledge in the public interest, and it is through our commitment to fact-based innovation to address contemporary issues that our founders’ entrepreneurial spirit lives on. This was our motive in becoming a public charity in 2004, when we began to operate projects directly and added a donor relations department, which enables others to join their passions and vision with our expertise for returning results. Recently, a useful metaphor has encapsulated the challenge of reinvention for today’s leaders: the black swan—a previously unthinkable, but nonetheless now-real, intruder that will have a huge impact on “business as usual.” When the black swan first arrives, most people, from habit or inertia, fail to notice it, but gifted individuals and successful organizational leaders recognize the swan for the unexpected opportunity that it represents, and they proceed to make the institutional changes needed to understand it and integrate it into their goals and objectives. As we steward the financial and philosophical resources that our founders invested in the Pew Trusts, we, as they did, pay attention to the major trends of our time, improving our ability to address emerging issues directly, flexibly and with the best intellectual and entrepreneurial talent available to serve the public good.

Rebecca W. Rimel
President and Chief Executive Officer

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