How will philanthropy respond?

November 29, 2011 at 9:24 am Leave a comment

The familiar expression “May you live in interesting times,” while purported to be an ancient Chinese blessing, turns out to be neither Chinese nor a wish for good fortune. Rather the phrase was coined in America in the mid-1930s, and later cited by John F. Kennedy as an “ancient Chinese curse.” The point is not the hope that you, too, will be fortunate enough not to be bored to death by the tedium of existence, but rather that you may suffer with more than your share of life’s challenges and difficulties.

Interestingly enough, this exclamation is purportedly the first in a series of curses of increasing severity. The next one is strangely prescient: “May you come to the attention of those in authority” (sometimes rendered “May the government be aware of you”).

Placed within the context of current events, philanthropy seems to be experiencing the fulfillment of both of these curses. Not only do we have to navigate some very troubled economic waters, but the magnitude of the upheaval is resulting in considerably more scrutiny by government at all levels.

It remains to be seen whether philanthropy responds by seeking the safety of the familiar or finding more relevant ways to make private investments for the public good.

George E. Espy
President, Ohio Grantmakers Forum

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Entry filed under: Commentaries.

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