As 2016 comes to a close I will use this space to count the things for which I am grateful.
I start with our founders, Theodore and Vivian Johnson. They have given us the privilege of being in the business of making grants to promising ideas, organizations and people. This is a business that has a unique opportunity to light the way for social progress and to help many people along the way. This is rare and we are lucky to be a part of it. We are also indebted to Ted and Diane Johnson. It was Ted who recruited and mentored me and his leadership, and Diane’s, set the stage for those of us who follow them. I am sure that I speak for everyone when I say that we are grateful for the privilege to pursue the Foundation’s mission and we recognize the obligation to safeguard and pass it down to the next generation of Foundation leaders.
We should also be grateful for the political, social and economic system that made the Foundation possible. The Foundation was funded by the growth and value created by UPS and its stock. Our endowment is the fruit of a free enterprise system, operating in a free and democratic society. The Foundation must be resolutely non-partisan, notwithstanding our divergent personal views. For those who despair of government or our political process, we might ask them to consider the alternatives. Winston Churchill said it best: “Democracy is the worst form of Government except for all the others.” The rule of law, which protects personal freedom and property, is part of our democratic heritage and provides a safe environment for the Foundation to operate freely.
The Foundation depends upon investment returns from the financial markets. These returns have enabled the Foundation to make grants of over $110 million in its first 25 years and still grow its endowment. At the close of 2016, the Foundation has significantly more assets than it was initially given. The financial markets, and our ability to successfully invest in them, are vital to the Foundation’s success over the next 25 years and beyond. These markets, in turn, depend upon creative people and organizations. The wealth that they produce keeps us in business and we should all be grateful for it.
We also owe a debt of gratitude to our grantees. The Foundation does not make grants to individuals. We deal wholesale; we make grants to organizations that serve individuals. Without these organizations – tribal colleges, universities, private schools and a host of other non-profit organizations- the Foundation could not execute its mission. We seek out excellent organizations with creative ideas and people. Our grants to these organizations are social investments that produce returns of knowledge and personal power. Our role in this partnership is to make grants but it is our grantees who do the work that drives our mission. This is good work and often involves personal sacrifice. We recognize this and we are grateful for it.
I am immensely grateful for the Foundation’s Board, staff and consultants. It is the people who determine the quality of an organization. I have always felt that my biggest contribution to the Foundation has been the part I have played in recruiting excellent people.
To everyone at the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! And most of all, thank you!