Philanthropy and Pluralism: Diversity that does not Divide

Tuesday, April 12 - 7:30-9:30 a.m.

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Ambassador Joseph Rallies Listeners to Imperative of Inclusion

The commanding voice of Ambassador James A. Joseph echoed through the ballroom as a respectfully rapt audience absorbed his powerful message: Egalitarian pluralism needs to enrich, not divide.

"We are a badly divided nation in a badly divided world," said the former U.S. ambassador to South Africa, now a public policy professor at Duke University. "We are divided by the way we think or whether we think at all. We are divided by ideology, theology, and the tension between the private virtues we affirm and the private values we practice.

"The anxiety we feel," he added, "is the result of the influence of a struggling economy, what war is doing to our soul as a people, and our tendency to delegitimize those with whom we differ. We are anxious about being anxious!"

"I want to be a Christian without it being more difficult for you to be a Jew, a Muslim, or a Buddhist." -Ambassador James A. Joseph

Joseph challenged conference participants to "move from promoting diversity as a value to implementing it as a process." We can make this a benefit or a burden, he said. Colorblindness ignores reality, so we need to value our differences. The longtime president and CEO of the Council suggested that foundation chief executives and trustees must dismiss the notion that all staff members desire to be the same.

"I want to be a Christian without it being more difficult for you to be a Jew, a Muslim, or a Buddhist," he said to applause.

Joseph advised that those who practice inclusion must know that conflict and failure come with the territory. The larger the presence of identity groups, he said, the larger the potential for conflict. Yet "conflict is one stage on the road to where diversity does not divide."

Inspired by an authoritative and compelling speech, attendees rose to give an extended ovation.

View Joseph's Plenary Remarks.