January’s page concluded by asking how the knowledge and experience gained in our first 25 years can guide us to be better in the next 25 years. Let us look ahead another 25 years to 2041. We will start close to home, with assumptions that are so likely that they appear certain.
The Foundation will continue to exist. We must assume this because it is the premise from which all of our planning flows. It seems overwhelmingly likely, although structural changes in society may dictate otherwise.
Education will be the key to personal success and satisfaction. This has been a truism though most of civilization and the increasingly rapid rate of change only seems to make it more so.
The CRUT will have been wound up and its assets conveyed to the Foundation.
None of us will be actively associated with the Foundation Board or staff. Some of us will retire this year, others by 2021 and most of us will have retired by 2030.
As for “big picture” issues in 2041, we can hardly guess. Who can imagine the nature and extent of technological advances, let alone guess their effect on society? Most of us think that global warming will continue but at what pace and with what effect?
Will the economic emergence of China, India and other parts of the third world continue at the same rate? Demographic studies tell us that the “browning of America” is inevitable and in another generation the majority of Americans will be “non-white.” Geopolitical unrest seems certain but we have no idea of the impact on us.
Foundation grantees will be affected by change in ways that we cannot predict. What changes will there be in the relationships between governments and Indigenous peoples? What role will non-profits and tribal colleges have?
How will technology change issues for people with disabilities, particularly the deaf and hard of hearing? Will Gallaudet and Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind continue in their present forms?
Will the State of Florida continue to offer a match for our disabilities scholarship? Will the Board of Governors and the Disability Service Offices continue to manage the scholarship? Will UPS still exist? PBAU?
The answers to these questions, whatever they might be, will dictate changes to the Foundation’s grant making and to every aspect of its operations. We cannot predict these changes.
This brings us back to number 4 on the list of things that we do know. None of us will be around. Our only strategy in a changing world and an unknown future is to maintain and improve our organization so that it is “built to last.” We must aspire to excellence in everything that we do and continue to honor our mission and values.
The essential ingredient for ensuring the Foundation’s future is the Board. We must seek, attract and retain people with values, character traits and skills that we define as integral to Board membership. Our process for recruiting and re-electing directors must be rigorous and impeccable.
An excellent Board is the key to the Foundation’s continued success. If we succeed, then any of us who are still alive in 2041 might observe the Foundation asking many of these same questions.