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Remembering Ben Wattenberg

authorbenBen Wattenberg, conservative author and PBS host, and long-time member of the extended Jackson circle, died on Sunday at the age of 81.  Wattenberg was a confidant of Senator Jackson, working closely with the Jackson campaigns in both 1972 and 1976 when Jackson launched presidential campaigns.  Wattenberg believed that the Democratic party had moved too far to the left, and he promoted Jackson’s candidacy with passion and skill.

Wattenberg gained national attention with the publication of his book “The Real Majority,” coauthored with Richard Scammon.  It came to be known as the “Bible of both political parties” and touched on many issues which have since come to the forefront of national politics, including crime, race, and traditional economic concerns.

In later years he continued his role as an outspoken and well-regarded pundit, becoming well-known for his PBS series, “Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg” and “In Search of the Real America.”

When Ben presented the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Lecture for the Jackson Foundation in 1996, entitled “Values Matter Most:  Issues of the Contemporary American Political Scene,” Foundation Chairwoman Helen Jackson introduced him with the following words:  “Scoop admired Ben for his tremendous grasp on the pulse of the country and the American people.  Few commentators have proved to be so prescient.”

We are proud of our association with Ben and of his commitment to core American values as well as to the Jackson legacy.  He will be missed.  Please see the obituary from the New York Times.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

On Leadership: Second-Term Presidents

In a revealing discussion about the challenges of 2nd term presidencies, the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Jackson Foundation convened a panel that looked at the Obama 2nd term through the lens of the Clinton and Reagan presidencies.  Sandy Berger, National Security Advisor to President Bill Clinton and Kenneth Duberstein, White House Chief of Staff in the late Reagan tenure, joined USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page for a discussion moderated by John Fortier of BPC’s Democracy Project and an expert himself in 2nd term presidencies.

John Hempelmann

John Hempelmann, President of the Jackson Foundation, set the tone for the dialogue by noting Scoop Jackson’s reputation for problem-solving across the aisle and posing the question as to whether a president from one political party, in his lame duck term, could work successfully with a Congress led by the rival party. This led to some discussion of how a president shapes his legacy while in office.  Duberstein felt that one key to success was keeping policy goals paramount.  He said that President Reagan was not thinking about his legacy when he challenged Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” but rather was committed to promoting liberty and freedom for the citizens of the Soviet Union. Sandy Berger, who worked closely with President Clinton on foreign policy matters, agreed that presidents should not be thinking about their legacy, but rather “focus on getting things done.”  There was general consensus that “legacy building” while a president was in office was counterproductive.  “Legacies are written after the fact,” as Berger put it.

Sandy Berger
Ken Duberstein and Sandy Berger

Ken Duberstein emphasized the importance of relationships forged in the early days of a presidency as bearing fruit in the later, more challenging years.  “It matters what the president did in the first years of his presidency, in terms of what happens in the last two years.”  He was particularly critical of President Obama for what he called a lack of relationship building in Congress in his first term. “This hurts him now,” he argued.

Susan Page
Susan Page

Susan Page agreed that presidents facing the waning years of their tenure do not generally have a natural inclination toward bipartisanship and yet “want to have an impact.”  She said that they ask themselves what is meaningful to them that they could realistically accomplish, giving the example of Iran policy in terms of one of President Obama’s “big goals.” Berger agreed, arguing that Iran, Cuba, and the strategic re-balance to Asia present opportunities for Obama to find major policy accomplishments in his final two years.

Part of the challenge for presidents at this late stage  is gaining traction with the press. Page noted the tendency of the media to focus on the 2016 election and away from the current president.  “It is difficult to combat the big story, difficult for a president in his second term to get the attention of the media,” she concluded.

This program is one of a series by the Foundation focusing on bipartisanship, including briefings about political discourse in Washington State.  Other programs with the Bipartisan Policy Center include a discussion of Congress, foreign policy and the challenge of bipartisanship and a dialogue between two former Senate Majority leaders about how they forged a civil relationship.  The 1 ½ hour program on 2nd Term Presidencies can be viewed here.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Building Leaders of Character

In an effort to explore what makes great leaders tick, the Foundation, joining with the University of Washington Tacoma and Joint Base Lewis McChord, featured a panel discussion last week with three leaders from business and the military.  The panelists included Lieutenant General Stephen Lanza, Commanding General, I-Corps Joint Base Lewis-McChord (who recently delivered the Jackson-Van Ness address); Nicole Piasecki, Vice President, Boeing Commercial Airplanes; and Phyllis Campbell, Chairman, Pacific Northwest for JPMorgan Chase.

Bill Kunz, the interim vice chancellor for academic affairs, University of Washington Tacoma
Bill Kunz, the interim vice chancellor for academic affairs, University of Washington Tacoma

John Hempelmann, Foundation President, moderated the event and set the stage by reflecting on the strengths of Senator Jackson’s leadership qualities.  A few major themes emerged from the discussion.  General Lanza noted the commonality between academia, business and the military when it comes to addressing leadership development.  I was struck again by General Lanza’s evident passion for building leaders of character.  He emphasized that “character” was different than “competence” and that while one can teach competence, character is integral to true leadership.  “We want trust between the leaders and the led,” Lanza said.

John Hempelmann, Nicole Piasecki, Lt. General Stephen Lanza, and Phyllis Campbell

Ms. Piasecki described character as when one shows wisdom during adversity and behaves properly even when no one else will notice, something which resonated with the panel.  “There’s only one standard – and that’s doing the right thing,” she emphasized.

A few other qualities were called out in describing exceptional leaders:  Expertise is essential to successful leadership, and was a quality that Senator Jackson valued and sought in his staff and advisors, Mr. Hempelmann stressed.  Several speakers noted the importance of mentorship to developing capable leaders and allowing people to make mistakes and learn from them.  Nicole Piasecki stressed that expertise must be shared between workers so that during employee turnover, institutional knowledge does not get lost.


Finally, several panelists offered that there are differences between genders when it comes to leadership styles.  Ms. Campbell noted that “there is beauty in diversity, and gender is only one aspect,” but that women may tend to network more throughout an organization, work toward building consensus and connections in a large organization.  In addition, women may be more willing to ask questions for clarification and to listen to everyone in the room.  Men may tend to work more directly with a straight-line approach to a particular end point.

The room, filled with students, members of the community, and young military personnel, appreciated both the diversity of the sectors represented as well as the depth of the panelists’ experience.  It was a memorable session.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

A New Generation’s Time to Lead

As part of the Foundation’s  ongoing interest in showcasing new political voices, we brought David Burstein to Seattle last week to speak to an interested and diverse audience.

David BursteinDavid, 26, serves as the CEO of Run for America, an initiative to bring a new generation of talent into the U.S. political system and catalyze political leaders to start solving America’s biggest problems. He is the author of Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World, the first broad book written by a Millennial about the Millennial Generation (18-33 years old).

As CEO of Run for America, David is  working to recruit, train, and elect a new generation of highly talented leaders innovators, social change agents, entrepreneurs, and outside-the-box thinkers in their bids for public office.

In Seattle, David noted that the Millennials share many of the values held by Baby Boomers, such as a commitment to a better world and engagement in the community. They also share a desire to find common ground.  He argued that just as the Baby Boomer generation has shaped the U.S. profoundly,  the Millennials — at  80 million strong, the largest generation so far — are a generation to invest in as they will become our nation’s leaders.  David described a yearning within the Millenial generation for leaders who will govern  and lead — not just fashion political compromises.  He said that the Jackson-era generation of leaders — those who were prevalent in Congress 30 years ago — accomplished a lot and should be emulated.

We came away with a renewed sense of the importance of communicating the values and leadership approach embodied by Senator Jackson, and the work of the Jackson Foundation, to the next generation.  David shared with us that it is important to continue to educate people of all generations about those leaders — including Senator Jackson — who provide important stories and examples on which people can model their own leadership.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Our Russian NGO Friends

Jackson School

Yes, despite this tense time in U.S.-Russian relations, the Jackson Foundation has had the opportunity to host a delegation of civil society professionals from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Penza and Nizhni-Novgorod, part of a Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program funded by the U.S. State Department.  The delegation of eight women were sophisticated, committed NGO leaders here to learn about networking, communications, capacity building, fundraising, and advocacy from their American peers – and, in turn, to share their own expertise.  We hosted the group in our home city of Seattle, where local partners such as Climate Solutions, 501 Commons and the Seattle Foundation shared their knowledge about connecting with constituents, building community engagement, and strengthening the network of nonprofits.  We also brought in 25 of our NGO friends for a roundtable that explored dealing with burnout, building trust of the NGO sector in society, and expanding networks outside of the usual silos.

In Washington, DC,  the delegation experienced a  national perspective on American civil society, meeting with everyone from the Student Conservation Association to Independent Sector, from State Department staffers to the Eurasia Foundation and the Kennan Institute.  Everywhere we went, our American colleagues warmly welcomed our new Russian friends and freely shared their expertise, research materials, and networks.  They also were uniformly impressed with the sophistication and dedication of the Russian NGO leaders, who represented organizations as diverse as a community foundation, a hospice organization, an NGO capacity building group, and a Russia-wide media agency.  We are grateful to our partners and colleagues for sharing their time with this delegation.  We also salute our Russian delegation for their courage in coming to the U.S. at a moment fraught with tension.  As one of the delegates said at the close of the trip, “we are returning to a new country and don’t know what to expect.  But we have been revitalized by what we’ve learned here.”

Why did we participate in this program?  Because we believe that it is vital for the U.S. to continue to focus on civil society in Russia and to ensure that those who are working to promote civic engagement, strengthen the Russian citizen’s interest in civil society, and building ties to other civic-minded groups should be supported and encouraged.  We share this view with the State Department and are pleased to be engaged in this innovative program.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director


Remembering James Schlesinger

Today the Foundation and the extended Jackson family mourn the loss of a giant and a man central to the Jackson tradition:  we mark the passing of former Secretary of Defense Dr. James Schlesinger at the age of 85.  Dr. Schlesinger was Director of the CIA under President Nixon as well as becoming the first Secretary of Energy under President Jimmy Carter.  He was also a recipient of many awards, including the National Security Medal and the Dwight Eisenhower Distinguished Service Medal, and was awarded nine honorary doctorates.  His career achievements as a public servant are too numerous to mention.Jim Schlesinger Pentagon

Jim Schlesinger was a man distinguished by his intellectual rigor and the breadth of his knowledge.  He was a founding member of the Board of Governors of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation and played a key role in the establishment of the Foundation.  Once when he was in Seattle in 1994 to give the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Lecture, he presented his prepared remarks for an hour on America’s foreign policy and what he viewed as a widespread sense of drift in the uncharted waters of the post-Cold War world.  What struck many of those in the audience, however, was his mastery of the hour that followed his lecture: the question and answer period, which ranged from the expansion of NATO, the North Korean nuclear threat and the post-Deng era in China to the role of the CIA in the post-Cold War world, nonproliferation treaties and whether the U.S. should be providing Russia with financial aid.  His complete command of every subject raised was breathtaking and a true expression of the variety and depth of his important political posts he held throughout his career.

The Jackson Foundation awarded Dr. Schlesinger its highest honor, the Henry M. Jackson Award for Distinguished Public Service, in 1996.  In presenting him that honor, Foundation Chair Helen H. Jackson said this about him:

“In a momentous period that spanned more than two decades, Jim has helped shape American domestic and foreign policy at the highest levels.  He has served his nation with great distinction.  During those years of governmental service, Jim and Scoop worked together very closely.  They developed a relationship of mutual respect, strengthened by their shared values and convictions.  My husband relied on Jim for his vast experience in energy, defense, and national security matters.  Scoop was not alone in his high regard for Jim, whose long and dedicated service to this country has been widely recognized.”

Jim Schlesinger remained an engaged and active observer and analyst of political and military affairs until the end.  He was regularly consulted for his trenchant analysis, scholarly depth and quick mind.  His role in America’s public life will not be easily filled.  We will miss him.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director


Lara Iglitzin
Lara Iglitzin

Welcome to the Jackson Foundation’s new website! We are delighted to have up-to-date features including profiles of recent grantees and programs, videos and photos of historical value and present-day relevance, such as our conferences and lectures, and this new blog. In this blog you’ll occasionally find thoughts about the current situation in Russia, with an emphasis on developments in civil society.

Olympic Games

I have been reflecting on Russia post-Olympics, post-Ukrainian revolution. Now that the Olympics in Sochi have ended, Russia’s internal and external concerns will again rise to the surface.

The run-up to the Olympics in terms of press for Russia was not good – from security concerns, cost overruns, and migrant labor walk-outs to the outcry on gay rights and worries about gay athletes and their supporters worldwide.  Since we’ve been closely observing the deterioration of civil society in Russia for the past several years, the world’s attention has been welcome even as the problems are worrisome.  Putin’s gestures in advance of the Olympics – the freeing of oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was behind bars for over 10 years, as well as the early release of the young women from the punk-protest group, Pussy Riot – were also welcome, if transparent in their intent to win friends and minimize protests before the Games.

My concern had been that now that the Olympics are over, the world’s attention would shift from Russia again.  But the Ukrainian revolution and threatening behavior by Russia makes that very unlikely, at least in terms of our nation’s foreign policy concerns.  But the problems within Russia’s own walls will also remain:  a constricted space for civil society, a controlled media environment, and a manipulated political space, with Putin pulling the strings.   It is in all of our best interests that we continue to urge Russia to develop stronger protections for all of its citizens  and for the region as a whole.   Our Foundation intends to keep its focus on Russia and the former states of the USSR for the long-term.  We will be monitoring Russian aggression in Ukraine closely, particularly with an eye on how Russian and Ukrainian civil societies are impacted.


Leadership Forum Panel
Leadership Forum Panel

I will also comment in this space on our latest programs, such as the one in late January that we had in partnership with the Evans School at the University of Washington.  For over twenty years we have been able to help talented graduate students at the Evans School studying environmental policy.  Our goal when we began this program was to find and encourage graduate students who will become our future leaders as we tackle water and land management, climate change, energy geopolitics, clean air and water concerns – and all sorts of environmental resource challenges that we could not have foreseen at the time.  Over the years we have heard from many of the students about the impact of their fellowships and how financial support allowed them to focus more on their classroom work and policy interests.  Allison Kelly received the Jackson Environmental Policy and Natural Resource Management Fellowship after serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Panama, where she worked on a program to better protect the buffer zone of a unique cloud forest and help preserve the rare species found in the forest in perpetuity.  She excelled in her Master’s work and began a Ph.D. at the Evans School.  Another Fellowship holder, Meg Boyle, was a founding member of the Energy Action Coaltion and the Climate Campaign in Maine before beginning her studies with Fellowship support.  She has also worked as a global warming policy specialist for Greenpeace USA.

It is our hope that many of these students will help become the future leaders who help us solve our nation’s challenges on the environmental front, carrying on the towering legacy of Senator Jackson in this field.

We will welcome hearing your views and urge you to comment on our work and the Jackson legacy in action.