From March 24 to 26, 2010, more than 70 outstanding young scholars met in Washington, D.C. to exchange ideas with 30 of our country's leaders in government, business and medical research at the first Social Entrepreneurship Summit of the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation. The student delegates included 60 Reynolds Foundation Fellows in Social Entrepreneurship from both Harvard and New York University, along with representatives of the other scholarship programs supported by the Foundation, as well as the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation is also a longtime sponsor of the Academy of Achievement; many distinguished Academy members participated in this year's Social Entrepreneurship Summit, including veterans of the last six Presidential administrations. Academy of Achievement members who participated in the Summit included: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy; former Secretary of State Colin Powell; former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers; U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics; the National Security Advisor to the President of the United States, General James L. Jones; Congressman John R. Lewis; Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health; Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU; labor leader Andy Stern; Carlyle Group Founder David Rubenstein; Pulitzer Prize recipients Rick Atkinson, Neil Sheehan and Donald Graham, Chairman of the Washington Post Company.
The Reynolds Fellows and other student delegates stayed at the historic Willard Hotel, just one block from the White House. Many of the Summit programs were held at the Willard, a center of Washington's social and political life since it first opened in 1818. On their first evening in Washington, the Summit Fellows were whisked to the august chambers of the Supreme Court of the United States for an informal meeting with Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Kennedy took the lead, initiating a discussion of the Court's work and the constitutional issues it considers. As surprising as the informality with which the justices engaged their student guests was the obvious rapport the Justices enjoy with one another, despite their much-publicized differences of opinion on many weighty legal questions. Justice Kennedy emphasized the importance of civil debate with a quotation from Justice John Marshall, "Rational discourse is the safeguard of freedom." The entire company remained at the Supreme Court for dinner with the Justices, where they heard welcoming remarks from Summit Host Catherine B. Reynolds.
The following morning, the Fellows met a series of exceptional speakers in the first symposium session of the Summit, held in an elegant and intimate meeting room of the Willard. The first speaker, Jacqueline Novogratz, is a prime example of the concept of social entrepreneurship. Founder and CEO of the Acumen Fund, she has channeled philanthropic contributions into self-sustaining enterprises that provide essential services to some of the poorest people on earth. Ms. Novogratz illustrated her address with vivid anecdotes of her experiences, from Africa to South Asia. Describing her entrepreneurial approach to international development, she cited the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Power without love is reckless and abusive, but love without power is sentimental and anemic."
In an unexpected coincidence, the next speaker was one of her oldest and closest friends, the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Anthony Romero. Romero engaged the Fellows in a passionate discussion of the importance of civil liberties in the atmosphere of heightened security prompted by the war on terror. In a memorable tour de force, he asked the students to submit all of their questions first, then deftly answered them in sequence, with perfect recall of the speakers' names and concerns.
The Summit heard next from the Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, Sonal Shah. The Indian-born economist is President Obama's liaison to social entrepreneurs and the nonprofit sector. The following speaker served in the White House in an earlier administration. David Rubenstein served as a domestic policy aide to President Jimmy Carter, before founding The Carlyle Group, an enormously successful private equity firm with interests in every sector of the economy. Despite these intimidating credentials, Rubenstein charmed the Fellows with his modesty and self-deprecating humor. In addressing the students, Mr. Rubenstein emphasized the importance of building on one's early accomplishments, rather than resting on one's laurels. The last speaker of the morning was a member of President Obama's Cabinet, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist tasked with the enormous responsibility of implementing energy policy in an age of climate change and strained natural resources.
The discussion of finance and government continued over lunch in the Willard's sunlit Crystal Room, where the Fellows heard from the Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. After presiding over the most prolonged economic expansion in U.S. history as Treasury Secretary to President Clinton, Summers served as President of Harvard, his alma mater. After giving a brilliant summary of current national economic issues, Dr. Summers addressed an educational issue dear to his heart, the importance of the mathematical study of probability. Far more students take a course in trigonometry than will ever apply it in their professional lives, he noted, whereas the laws of probability inform decisions that we are all called on to make, no matter what field of study we pursue.
In the afternoon session, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, and the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, shared a lively discussion of the federal government's role in medical research. Dr. Collins, a pioneer of genetic medicine, is now responsible for allocating the $31 billion the government appropriates for health research. Dr. Fauci, long a leader in the struggle against HIV-AIDS, touched on the current state of this effort. Both men stressed the need for transparency in medical research, which they weighed against the privacy concerns that arise from the collection of genetic and medical data.
The physician scientists were followed by one of America's most distinguished statesmen, former Secretary of State Colin Powell. As a young infantry officer in Vietnam, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 1991 Gulf War, and as Secretary of State at the onset of current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, Colin Powell has had a unique insight into the most crucial episodes of our history. A central figure in American foreign policy and national security for nearly 30 years, General Powell gave the Fellows the benefit of his incomparable perspective on world events, as well as that of his own inspiring life story. Like David Rubenstein, he emphasized that early recognition is no guarantee of sustained achievement, but merely the basis for higher accomplishments.
Another participant with a unique insight into America's wars, past and present, was journalist and author Rick Atkinson. Recipient of multiple Pulitzer Prizes for reportage, and for his multi-volume account of the American army in World War II, he is also author of the most acclaimed account of the every day life of combat soldiers in Iraq. Struggles of another kind were addressed by the last speaker of the afternoon, Andy Stern, President of America's fastest growing labor union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). He received an enthusiastic reception for his discussion of SEIU's work on behalf of some of the least visible workers in the American economy, and of SEIU's influential role in the landmark health care legislation -- the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- that had passed the House of Representatives the previous Sunday.
That evening, the Fellows traveled to Capitol Hill just as the Senate was preparing for a final reconciliation vote on amendments to the health care bill. Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine received one group briefly in her office before taking to the Senate floor to cast her vote. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi received the other Fellows in his Capitol retreat, alongside the Senate floor, with a breathtaking view of the monuments. A number of Fellows watched history in the making from the Senators' private gallery as the reconciliation package received the approval of the Senate and was sent to the White House for the President's signature, the last act in a political drama that had consumed Washington for over a year.
The Fellows enjoyed dinner in the Mike Mansfield Room, adjacent to the floor of the House of Representatives, where they were met by someone familiar to the Reynolds Fellows from Harvard's Kennedy School: David Gergen, former advisor to four U.S. Presidents and now the Director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Kennedy School. Mr. Gergen introduced three prominent members of the House of Representatives -- Roy Blunt of Missouri, John Dingell of Michigan and John R. Lewis of Georgia -- and asked them to share the stories of their own life journeys. Rep. Blunt of Missouri, the former House Majority Leader and now a candidate for the U.S. Senate, recalled the path that led from service in state and local government to a leadership position in the U.S. Congress. Rep. Dingell recalled his first visit to the Capitol as a boy of six, awed by the largest doors he had ever seen. Now the longest-serving member in the history of Congress, he introduced a measure to provide health insurance for all Americans as a freshman Congressman 55 years ago. He has reintroduced that bill in the first session of every term of Congress since. The passage of comprehensive health care reform by Congress that very week was a dramatic vindication of the struggle Congressman Dingell had waged for more than half a century.
The third Congressman to speak was an American hero -- and living legend of the Civil Rights Movement -- John R. Lewis. In powerful words, he recalled the rise of the nonviolent protest movement -- the lunch counter sit-ins, the Freedom Rides -- and the harassment, arrests and physical attacks he and his comrades stoically endured, including the near-fatal beating he received leading a voting rights march across the bridge in Selma, Alabama. That he has now served more than 20 years in Congress, representing constituents who were long denied the right to vote, is a testament to the vitality of American democracy, and a reminder that the freedoms we enjoy were purchased by countless acts of courage, like those of Rep. Lewis.
The Reynolds Fellows and other scholars were stirred by the words of these legislators, but were also surprised by the sincere, collegial respect these Representatives show to one another, a refreshing departure from the media narrative of a House divided by bitter partisan rancor. After dinner, the party was joined by a surprise guest, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, fresh from her legislative victory in the protracted health care debate. The Speaker was received with an emotional ovation from the Summit Fellows, conscious of the momentous nature of the occasion. She offered thanks to President Obama for his tenacity in the long campaign, and recalled a lesson taught by her father, himself a Congressman and Mayor of Baltimore. Many things are valued in the political process, he told her, but in the end, only one thing determines success or failure. "Get the votes," she said, beaming. "And this time, I got the votes."
Returning to the Willard after dinner, the assembly heard from writers with profound insight into two agonizing chapters of American history. Jay Winik, the acclaimed author of April 1865: The Month That Saved America, discussed the enduring legacy of President Abraham Lincoln's leadership during the Civil War. Neil Sheehan first won recognition as a courageous Vietnam War correspondent and later received the Pulitzer Prize for A Bright Shining Lie, one of the most lasting books to emerge from that conflict. Sheehan discussed the tragic complexities of America's involvement in Vietnam, and the lingering effect of the war on our country today.
The Friday morning session at the Willard began early with an address by Donald Graham, Chairman of the Washington Post Company, the publisher of Newsweek and Slate, as well as the Post itself, the most widely read and influential newspaper in the nation's capital. The next speaker was well known to the Harvard students in attendance: the former Mayor of Indianapolis, Steven Goldsmith, now a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School.
Issues of education in Washington's troubled school system took center stage with an address by Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of the D.C. schools. Like a number of the Fellows in attendance, she began her career as a young leader of the Teach for America program. The energy and commitment she brings to her challenging task of reforming the District's schools made a powerful impression on the young social entrepreneurs. "You must lead from the front," she said, "and never expect to be loved by all the people." After the previous evening's discussion of the Congressional health care debate, the Fellows heard another point of view from a representative of the health insurance industry, Karen Ignagni, President and CEO of AHIP -- America's Health Insurance Plans.
For Friday's luncheon the assembly moved to historic Blair House. Known as the President's Guest House, this mansion, originally built in 1824, has welcomed foreign heads of state since its acquisition by the federal government during World War II. Its splendid interior is rarely seen by the general public, but the Summit Fellows were treated to a rare tour of its spacious rooms and tranquil courtyard. At Blair House, the Fellows received a summary of defense issues from the President's National Security Advisor, General James L. Jones.
The national security theme was developed further as the company was taken on a bus trip to Langley, Virginia, and the offices of the Central Intelligence Agency, where the Fellows received a tour and briefing, followed by a visit with one of America's most respected public servants, CIA Director Leon Panetta. A former U.S. Congressman, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Chief of Staff to President Clinton, the warm and genial Panetta helped dispel some of the aura of mystery surrounding the nation's intelligence services.
At the end of the long day, the Summit participants returned to the Willard Hotel for a reception in the Crystal Room and a final dinner in the elegant Willard Room. Over dinner, David Gergen introduced a series of speakers drawn from the ranks of the Reynolds Fellows, and from the other programs that enjoy the support of the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation. A graduate of Princeton University who is now a Reynolds Corps Member of Teach for America, Emily Weigel shared her experiences teaching seventh grade English in the public schools of Prince George's County, Maryland, just outside of Washington. The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation is also the lead sponsor of the National Geographic Society's Emerging Explorers Program, which supports dozens of enterprising scientists and photographers at the National Geographic Society. They were represented by Alexandra Cousteau, founder of Blue Legacy, an organization dedicated to the preservation of our marine environment. Combining multimedia and social networks, she is carrying on the work of her grandfather Jacques-Yves Cousteau and her father Philippe Cousteau.
The Reynolds Graduate Fellows from Harvard were represented by Sarah Dillard, who is completing a joint degree in Public Policy at the Kennedy School and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She is a founder of the National Math and Science Initiative, a non-profit that identifies successful math and science education programs and extends them to new locations. The current class of 38 Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellows at New York University were represented by Magogodi Makhene. Ms. Makhene grew up in Soweto, South Africa during the last years of apartheid. As a Reynolds Graduate Fellow at New York University's Gallatin School, she is studying the use of private equity and venture capital as vehicles for economic development in sub-Saharan Africa. The final speaker of the Summit, Cesar Francia, grew up in Caracas, Venezuela. He studied International Politics as a Reynolds Fellow at New York University and he will soon be returning to NYU to earn a Master's in Public Administration. He is currently serving as an intern in the office of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
After more than two days of discussing the most serious issues of our times, the Summit delegates enjoyed the chance to unwind with a few hours of music and dancing. The Reynolds Fellows and the other scholars, along with many of the Academy's distinguished guests, hit the dance floor, celebrating the spirit of fellowship they had found among their fellow scholars, and the new friendship formed over two and a half eventful days of enlightenment and inspiration.
Student delegates gather on the steps of the Supreme Court on the first night of the Social Entrepreneurship Summit.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor welcomes Reynolds Foundation Fellows to the opening session of the 2010 Summit.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg arrives at the first evening session of the Summit.
Catherine B. Reynolds speaks at the U.S. Supreme Court on the first night.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy adresses the Fellows at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Old friends meet again at the Summit: ACLU Director Anthony Romero and Acumen CEO Jacqueline Novogratz.
Wayne and Catherine Reynolds with David M. Rubenstein, a Co-Founder and Director of The Carlyle Group.
U.S. Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu discusses energy issues at the Summit.
White House economic advisor Lawrence H. Summers outlines the administration's economic policy.
NIH Director Francis Collins in a panel discussion with NIAID's Anthony Fauci.
General Colin Powell takes questions from the Summit's student delegates.
Author Rick Atkinson discusses U.S. military history at the Wilard Hotel.
SEIU President Andy Stern discusses labor's role in the health care debate.
On the second day of the Summit, the Summit Fellows visited the U.S. Capitol.
Senator Thad Cochran welcomes the Reynolds Fellows to his Capitol office.
Congressmen John Dingell, Roy Blunt and John R. Lewis address student delegates in the Mike Mansfield Room.
Congressmen Dingell and Blunt in a panel discussion at the U.S. Capitol.
U.S. Congressman and civil rights hero John R. Lewis exchanges ideas with student delegates at the 2010 Summit.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi discusses health care reform with Summit participants at the U.S. Capitol.
The Chairman of the Washington Post Company, Donald Graham, opens the Summit's Friday morning session.
Chancellor of the D.C. school system Michelle Rhee discusses the challenge of improving the capital's schools.
David Gergen greets National Security Advisor James L. Jones at Blair House.
General James L. Jones addresses Reynolds Foundation Fellows at the historic Blair House residence.
Academy member Chris Mathews and CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer meet at the Willard Hotel on the Summit's last night.
NYU Reynolds Foundation Fellow Magogodi Makhene adresses the Summit at the final evening session.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer meets student delegates at the end of the Summit.