Polarized political rhetoric seems to be the norm these days and the hype has us all on edge. As a matter of fact, it has many of us going over the edge and tuning out altogether, just when our nation needs to unite in purpose for the greater good of all humanity. Significant historians believe our nation is experiencing the “winter of our discontent” with hope of an imminent spring renewal faint on the horizon.
Philanthropy in America continues to be a pace setter in returning our nation to the fundamental virtues and values that made America strong and united in community. Alexis de Tocqueville first identified the “spirit of self-interest rightly understood” in his historic saga, Democracy in America. It depicted Americans’ unique role in building and caring for their community – the rich, the poor, and the middle class. He complimented and commented on our forebears’ commitment to help, nurture, give to neighbors and foster vibrant and energetic communities for the public good.
De Tocqueville may not have called such actions “philanthropy,” but they certainly had all the qualities of the “love of humankind,” manifested through philanthropic endeavors of the giving and sharing of time, talent and treasure. He applauded our “habits of the heart,” which ennobles human beings.
The “habits of the heart” are under heavy attack by recent events on the world stage and in the political arena at home. Disunion, disharmony, distrust, destruction and death pervade the planet. Conquest has replaced compassion. Nations are bankrupt in currency and in compromise. Here and abroad we witness governments paralyzed and corporations vilified.
Perhaps it is time for the third sector, philanthropy, to lead in reviving our “habits of the heart” and renewing our faith in humankind’s nurturing and benevolent ways. Perhaps collaboration, communication, and conspicuous compassion can hasten the advent of spring on the horizon for a nation in discontent. What will it take to mobilize the entire philanthropic community to reset our moral compass? What roles can each of us in the philanthropic sector play? Are you willing to accept the challenge?