As part of the Jackson Fellows program, the Foundation was fortunate recently to host a discussion with the Fellows and Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson on leadership. The Attorney General is a valued member of the Foundation’s Honorary Council of Advisors. Ferguson, whose parents deeply admired Senator Jackson and instilled Jackson values in their son, made time for a one-on-one dialogue with the Fellows.
In a thought-provoking, memorable session, Ferguson couched his lessons of leadership in terms of his former hobby of chess, a sport he dedicated himself to for several formative years before embracing the law and politics as a career. “If you lose, you have no one to blame but yourself,” he began. “You were outplayed. You made a mistake. Take responsibility for your actions,” he advised. Mistakes will happen: what is important is taking ownership of them and being accountable to others. He also suggested analyzing one’s losses carefully. “The path to improvement is a careful scrutiny of the games that you have lost,” he stressed.
Continuing the chess analogy, Ferguson told the young Fellows to “imagine a position in the future and think of the possible moves to get there.” It is important to take calculated risks, he said. “As a leader, you should be willing to go to that position and accept the consequences.”
Turning to leadership and team-building, Ferguson believes that: “Your team watches you closely. If you have a leadership role, they are watching you.” This engenders in him a sense of responsibility and the importance of modeling ethical behavior. “You set the tone,” he reminded the group. “True leadership also means true listening,” he counseled.
The Fellows peppered Ferguson for advice and input that stems from their own professional dilemmas. When faced with complex situations, Ferguson told them: “Be true to yourself. Don’t compromise.”
The Fellows deeply appreciated the opportunity to engage with a leader like Attorney General Ferguson.
Senator Jackson believed deeply in the importance of good government. For him, that meant being prepared, well-informed, and ready to work with others – from either political party – to get major legislation passed. One part of the Foundation’s work is to encourage civic and political engagement, particularly among young people. We recently found a new partner in the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate to do just that. The Kennedy Institute, only a year old, and the Jackson Foundation, together sponsored a Youth Town Hall at the Institute’s home base in Boston, Massachusetts. The timing, in the midst of the 2016 presidential election, could not have been better and enthusiasm for the event was high.
One of the special aspects of the Kennedy Institute is its full-scale replica of the U.S. Senate Chamber. It’s a wonderful place to hold events and to bring in young people to learn about political life, the legislative process, the art of compromise, and the history of the Senate. We chose to hold the Youth Town Hall in the Senate Chamber and it was packed with millennials from colleges and programs throughout the Boston area. The session opened with a sense of history from both Mrs. Vicki Kennedy, President of the Institute’s Board and the Senator’s widow, and John Hempelmann, the Foundation’s president. Both highlighted the special relationship between Scoop and Ted and the manner in which each man valued colleagues and worked to pass important legislation during their years in the Senate. As John Hempelmann put it, “These men shared some important values that made them both great leaders – their desire to reach across the aisle for new perspectives, their ability to negotiate and compromise, and their keen understanding of the institution of the Senate. “
The Youth Town Hall had two excellent young moderators in Lauren Dezenski, from Politico, and Mike Deehan, of WGBH News. They deftly got the crowd to discuss the interactive survey of views of the political process – How can we get you more involved in political life? How likely are you to volunteer for a campaign? How important are the issues discussed in the presidential election to your life? Are the candidates talking about your issues? What can be improved in the civic education of our country?
The diverse crowd, filled with the children of immigrants and immigrants themselves, as well as the full spectrum of young people from the region, had strong opinions. At times, they seemed to reflect some of the well-known stereotypes of the millennial generation – they want their voices to be valued and heard. They are optimistic about the future, but cynical about politics. They have a fresh, unadulterated take on society and are not afraid to speak up. The room held Bernie Sanders supporters – lots of them – but also Trump and Clinton advocates. A 15-year old spoke up: “We need to make sure that students know that their voices be heard.” A young African American woman declared her interest in running for political office to offset the lack of women of color in the U.S. political life. An immigrant from Nigeria made an enthusiastic defense of Trump. One person made a plea for young people to “talk about ourselves as those who have a right to participate in society, rather than seeing ourselves as someone ‘less than’ equal to others.” “Our view of how we see the world is legitimate – we are not just an age group.”
As the youngest member of the Massachusetts State Senate, Senator Eric P. Lesser reminded the crowd at the end, “Take on and challenge cynicism rather than embrace it. Real change comes from the community up.”
This was the first Youth Town Hall sponsored by the Kennedy Institute and the Jackson Foundation. It was inspiring and can be watched in full here.
I had the privilege this week of attending the first screening of a remarkable film made by two young people, Laura Stewart and Julian Kane. Laura is one of our Jackson Leadership Fellows, and the film was her project for the Fellowship. Julian is a graduate student at Antioch University. The film, “Our Story: Climate Justice and Environmental Justice,” showcased over twenty people from our community here in Puget Sound, voices that are not often heard in the debate and discourse on climate and the environment. Laura’s intent in creating the film was to bring to the front of the table those communities disproportionately impacted by climate. She interviewed leaders and activists at environmental, labor, and educational organizations who collectively raised the climate justice flag and conveyed a deep sense of urgency. Laura and Julian were both brimming with enthusiasm and pride – as they should be – for the film that they created, for the stories they illuminated, for the discussion that their work engendered. “We are two young people of color, and we just did it,” Laura proclaimed.
The film is inspiring, in part because it is made by and gives a megaphone to many young people, often people of color, finding allies in their efforts to save the planet from climate warming. It is also a call to action for all of us who want to see communities of color empowered. Short interviews in the film include Running Grass, from the Three Circles Center, Jourdan Imani Keith, from the Urban Wilderness Project, Aiko Schaefer with Front and Centered (Communities of Color for Climate Justice), and Sudha Nandagopal, from the City of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment.
Roger-Mark De Souza, an expert on democracy, environmental security, climate and international development, and a frequent Jackson Foundation partner through his role at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., moderated a lively and thoughtful discussion with those present. “What side of history do you want to be on?” one of the participants asked the film audience. “We have an obligation to chart a cleaner future” for ourselves and our children, another argued. The film also stimulated a broader dialogue about privilege, elites, and diversity. Audience members felt the film should be seen widely, and Laura agrees. She is urging people to share it on social media and take ownership of it so it can be viewed as much as possible. There is also talk of a lesson plan, as early viewers felt that the film speaks in an accessible manner for young students.
We are proud of our Jackson Fellow Laura Stewart – she has made a film that will get people talking, and acting, on climate justice. Congratulations!
Anna Marie Jackson Laurence and I were fortunate to participate in the Holocaust Center for Humanity’s Student Leadership Board meeting last week. Anna Marie, Senator Jackson’s daughter and an officer of the Foundation, and I spoke to the group of 7th – 11th graders about Senator Jackson’s human rights legacy and achievements and why Senator Jackson was so committed to international human rights, an interest that stemmed in part from Jackson’s post-war visit to the just-liberated Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany.
Our discussion with the young people touched on Jackson’s role in the Soviet Jewry movement and the passage of the historic Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which allowed over a million Russian Jews a to leave the USSR and other Eastern Bloc countries. We also engaged them in a conversation about leadership, distributing copies of “The Nature of Leadership,” a publication that showcases Jackson’s leadership qualities and brings them into focus for today’s younger generations.
The Student Leadership Board is a new creation of the Holocaust Center for Humanity. It is the Fellowship project of Ilana Cone Kennedy, one of this year’s Jackson Leadership Fellows. Ilana is being co-mentored by Anna Marie and me. Ilana wanted to replicate some of the experiences she is having as a Jackson Leadership Fellow and create a youth board where high school students could work as a team, and as individuals, on leadership as well as issues related to the Holocaust Center, and spread the word to their very diverse schools throughout the region. Here’s how Ilana described the origins of her project:
“In January 2015, the Holocaust Center expanded to a much larger space. For the first time we could host meetings and events on site, we could display artifacts, and invite student groups. We realized that while we had great input from teachers, we lacked the direct input from students. The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that this was a huge piece that we were missing – we were not hearing in any structured way from the very people we wanted most to reach. The Jackson Leadership Fellowship program served as an excellent model for a meaningful program that could be replicated with students.”
Ilana initially thought she’d create a small group experience – but couldn’t resist the thirty young people who applied to be part of the Student Leadership Board, so she accepted them all! They range from 13-17 years old, but come together in their caring about the issues that the Holocaust Center focuses on – including learning more about the Holocaust, human rights, and genocide. The board is meeting monthly, and students will have the opportunity to meet with community leaders, provide feedback to the Center on its programs, and serve as junior ambassadors to their schools and communities.
Anna Marie and I were impressed with the scope of interests of the students – working on projects such as video promotions of the Center; data collection on the Armenian genocide; speaking to their classmates about the Center; and making posters and other graphic materials to illustrate the work of the Center for their peers.
The Jackson Foundation and the World Affairs Council of Seattle convened a high-level conversation with Ambassador Valeriy Chaly, Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States before a packed room in downtown Seattle last week. I had the opportunity to moderate the session with the Ambassador, who was forthcoming about Ukraine’s challenges – both domestic and international – over the next several months. This conversation took place with the backdrop of Russia’s takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014, an act that provoked an unusually unified response from the U.S. and its European allies in the form of sanctions against Russia. Russia also has started an ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine that has left 10,000 Ukrainians dead and over a million more displaced from their homes.
Given that Ukraine is facing enormous economic hardship and financial crisis in the midst of the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine, the Ambassador was particularly appreciative of recent, high-level meetings that he had held with U.S. officials in Washington, DC about Ukraine as well as Russia. Russia has played an aggressive, destabilizing role in current Ukraine affairs, apart from its role in bringing in arms and mercenaries to push for a separatist movement in Eastern Ukraine and the seizure of Crimea. “Ukraine was faced with the choice of two partners when it became independent from the USSR. Now the choice is only one – the United States. Russia no longer provides an opportunity for partnership,” the Ambassador said.
Ambassador Chaly expressed his gratitude to the U.S. for its standing by Ukraine during this period, although he felt that the U.S. “did not have a vision as to where Ukraine fits within its foreign policy moving forward.” This perhaps reflects the complex relationship with Russia and the West, and the role Moscow can still play in negotiations with Syria in particular.
Ambassador Chaly was optimistic when talking about the eventual decisions faced by European Union countries as to whether or not to continue sanctions against Russia. “The Europeans continue to be supportive of Ukraine and I fully expect them to vote to keep the sanctions in place,” he predicted, in response to a question which noted that some European leaders have seemed anxious to resolve the sanctions issue for their own economic and political benefit. “The European Union is also a critical partner to Ukraine at this moment,” he said.
The conversation also touched on the recent resignation of Ukraine’s finance minister, who specifically called out what he saw as the corruption endemic to the political and economic circles at the highest levels in Ukraine. “It is not about a single person, whether he resigns or not,” Ambassador Chaly contended, noting that Ukraine has established a new anti-corruption bureau in recent days. While European and U.S. observers are alarmed over this new development, wondering what to make of Ukraine’s commitment to reform, the Ambassador was unruffled. “We have long-term goals and a long-term struggle,” he concluded.
He noted that he had come to Seattle in part to meet with Boeing and Microsoft executives, and also, as a reflection of the more than 60,000 Ukrainian immigrants who currently reside in the state. In meetings with the Seattle Mayor, a possible sister-to-sister relationship with Lviv, Ukraine and Seattle was even discussed. The interest in Ukraine was reflected in the intense audience questions which followed the formal conversation.
The Jackson Leadership Fellows 2016 Class was fortunate to have an informal discussion with long-time Seattle community leader, Martha Choe, last week. Martha has held a remarkable and diverse list of jobs– from serving on the Seattle City Council, where she chaired the Transportation Committee and the Finance Committee – to her role as Chief Administrative Officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Her career also encompassed the private banking sector and a position as Director of the Washington State Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development in Governor Gary Locke’s cabinet. Our Fellows were eager to hear her thoughts about her approach to leadership and what she’s learned from her many challenges along the road of her career.
Martha made a few key points to the Fellows: first, she said “It’s not about you.” She explained: “You need to create the ownership of ideas among your team members, and know how and when to get in front of an idea, and when to let others shine.” Second, she stressed the importance of candor and vulnerability, noting that it was okay to admit “I don’t know” and indicate that you will start asking the right questions to find out the answers. Listen to your audience, she counseled, and face up to your weaknesses. “Vulnerability can convey empowerment.” She also spoke about the need and often “the courage to make unpopular decisions.” This is part of a good leader’s responsibility, she reminded the Fellows.
Over the course of her career in different sectors of our community, Martha said she came to realize that “leadership involves people, not just org charts and boxes.” Gaining an understanding of the needs of the people around you – and whom you are managing– will make you a better leader.
She also emphasized one of the key Jackson leadership attributes – the importance of doing your homework. “Learn, listen and understand different perspectives.” She predicted: “You will need vision and reality for the hard and lonely work of leadership.”
In response to a question about the different leadership challenges facing the public and private sector, Martha underlined the integral role of consensus building in achieving results. She concluded with a powerful message to these young leaders in the making – “if you take risks, you will sometimes fail.”
This week marks 20 years for me at the helm of the Jackson Foundation. I’m proud and honored to have served as Executive Director for two decades. During my tenure, I’ve had the good fortune to work with my dedicated Board members and great staff on any number of meaningful activities.
My personal highlight reel includes a 1995 Jerusalem conference celebrating the ground-breaking Jackson-Vanik Amendment — which helped over a million Soviet Jews emigrate from the USSR. That conference attracted hundreds of Soviet Jewish emigres now living in Israel as well as a host of Israeli and American politicians, including the late Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin, who was assassinated only months later. Since I wrote my Master’s thesis on Senator Jackson’s legislation and the story behind it, that conference had tremendous significance for me. The famous Jewish dissident from the Soviet era, Natan Sharansky, worked closely with us on the conference, and our Chairman, Helen Jackson, joined us in Jerusalem. It was unforgettable.
I’ve also reflected on the role that the Foundation has played to strengthen the Jackson School at the University of Washington. Dozens of policy conferences, graduate fellowships, the Jackson Professorship, the Golub Chair, lecture series, the new PhD program, the Helen Jackson Chair in Human Rights – we’ve helped usher in key changes at the Jackson School. As a graduate of the School, it has meant a lot to me to help the University do what it does best: provide first-class education to young people, in this case our future leaders in international policy. It has been a richly rewarding relationship, one that makes me highly value the intellectual depth of the faculty at the Jackson School.
We started supporting human rights in Russia over 20 years ago – after the break-up of the Soviet Union. In the more than two decades since, we’ve watched the ups and downs of civil society in Russia with alarm, and our grant making and programs have changed dramatically in response to events. That’s a sadness to remark upon, given the downward trend in rights under Putin’s Russia. We are still raising our voice on that front, however! Last year we brought a group of civil society leaders from Russia to Seattle and Washington, DC under a grant from the U.S. State Department. This trip was inspirational for the delegation and continues to provide encouragement and ideas for these dedicated individuals back in Russia today.
Lately we have two new programs which have galvanized the Board and staff: the first is helping to lend our resources and intellectual fire-power to the climate change world, focusing particularly on the national and global security implications for the U.S. around climate. The Jackson name lends credence and balance to discussions on this critical issue. We are helping to leverage our work by highlighting the military viewpoint and bringing other foundations to the table. This is a new area for me and it has been wonderful to be challenged to learn more about the climate field.
Second, we have launched an initiative to train a new generation of Jackson-inspired young people, with the launch of the Jackson Leadership Fellows Program. It’s been invigorating to choose and begin to mentor the eight outstanding young professionals who comprise our first class here in Seattle. I’ve been energized by my interactions with each of them and feel it is one of the most exciting initiatives that the Foundation has embarked upon.
It’s easy for me to think of the extended Jackson community as a family – one that includes our Board members, past and present, as well as former and current staff members of the Foundation, and “Scoop’s Troops” – those who worked with Jackson on his own staff or on one of his committee staff positions. It also comprises our many partners and grantees over the years, at the Jackson School, the National Bureau of Asian Research, the Kennan Institute, City Club Seattle, and countless other colleagues. It’s an engaging group and one that has a remarkable cohesion because of the respect for Senator Jackson that unites everyone. It has made this a great place to work.
One thing I’ve learned at the Foundation over the course of the last twenty years– while the specific programs may change, the work in international affairs, environment and energy, human rights and public service still are highly relevant in today’s world.
I look forward to working together with all of you to carry on the Jackson legacy. I hope you’ll get in touch.
“Vladimir Putin is not the man we hoped he would be or we thought he would be.” David J. Riley, 1st Secretary, foreign and security policy, British Embassy to the U.S., made this remark on a fascinating panel discussion in Seattle about Russian sanctions and the future of the U.S.-EU and Russia relationship convened by the Jackson Foundation, in partnership with the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle, in early October. William Pomeranz, deputy director of the Washington, DC-based Kennan Institute, and Nelson Dong, partner, Dorsey & Whitney, head of its National Security Law Group, also joined the panel. I moderated the discussion, which veered toward the pessimistic, particularly in light of the very recent Russia move into the Syrian conflict.
There was considerable speculation about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motives, both in seizing Crimea and moving into Eastern Ukraine, and in the Syrian situation. “Putin wants to show that Russia is a major international player,” Pomeranz said, and Riley agreed, adding “Putin’s isolation [due to Western sanctions] has hurt him the most. He wants to remind everyone that he matters.”
Nelson Dong confirmed that in his assessment of the business sector, sanctions have hurt Russia considerably and noted that the policy was deliberately crafted to hit certain areas: “The sanctions against Russia are unlike those in the past against Cuba and Iran. The Russian sanctions are extraordinarily targeted.” His conclusion: “Sanctions, along with reduced oil prices, have resulted in a recession in Russia.”
Will Pomeranz agreed that Russia has suffered internally due to its aggressive foreign policy and tied Putin’s latest moves in Syria to the worsening economic situation in Russia: “With the growing economic recession, there is a need to distract public attention away from that issue. On television, the government is showing all Syria, all the time” in a deliberate policy to change the conversation.
Pomeranz and Riley, when asked about the possibility of a split between the EU and the U.S. on Russia policy, agreed that, as Pomeranz said, “Putin is the great unifier – he has unified the EU in their actions to undertake sanctions against Russia; he has unified what is left of the Ukraine against him. Even in the halls of Congress Putin has caused unity!”
There was a clear consensus that Putin had caused the West to rethink its relationship with Russia, moving from a view of Moscow as a strategic partner to that of a “strategic competitor,” in Riley’s words. The increasing crackdown on civil society in Russia, something that the Jackson Foundation has been closely monitoring in the human rights and NGO sector there, provides the backdrop for the uptick in tensions between the U.S., Europe and Russia moving forward.
This will be one of several events this year that the Jackson Foundation will convene in Seattle relating to heightened concerns about Russia’s behavior at home and abroad.
Our culture celebrates our sports heroes – from Michael Jordan to Derek Jeter to Kobe Bryant. We marvel at their ability to play on, through pain and years, achieving fame and success. Few of us have had the opportunity to publicly celebrate the careers of other, less famous giants in their fields. I’m delighted to cast the spotlight on one such unsung hero, Professor Kenneth B. Pyle, longtime historian and teacher at the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies. Ken – retiring after 51 consecutive years of teaching, which certainly qualifies him for MVP – has won numerous teaching awards over the years. Equally important, he’s touched the lives and shaped the scholarship of thousands of young minds at the University. His students speak of him fondly, whether they now serve in the State Department or teach at other universities around the nation.
I’ve had the good fortune to have had Dr. Pyle on the Jackson Foundation Board of Governors during my tenure on the staff. He was a founding member of our Board, having forged a close alliance with Senator Jackson in the days when Ken headed what was to become the Jackson School, and Jackson sought Ken out for advice on China and U.S. foreign policy toward Asia. Ken has spoken movingly of that seminal relationship, which began with Senator Jackson dropping by Ken’s office at the U.W. and peppering him with questions for two hours. Jackson and Pyle shared a concern that there was a national shortage of people who truly understood the workings of Asian and Slavic countries, and both believed that an immersion in the study of these areas was critical to achieve an understanding in U.S.-China and U.S.-Soviet relations. From that moment forward, Scoop and Ken collaborated – in enhancing international studies at the University, in traveling to China together in the early days of détente with China, and in mentoring young students.
We at the Jackson Foundation value the role that Professor Pyle has played at the Jackson School and at the University of Washington for the past 50-plus years. We were delighted to name a recent professorship at the Jackson School in American foreign policy in honor of Anne H. H. and Kenneth B. Pyle out of respect and recognition of Ken’s major achievements in his field and his leadership of the Jackson School, and of his wife Anne’s integral partnership with Ken in that success.At the end of this month, there will be a public program to celebrate the career of Ken Pyle. We invite you to join us for this substantive program, featuring distinguished professor T.J. Pempel, University of California Berkeley, and many top-level colleagues from the Jackson School.
Many of you have heard by now of the Foundation’s exciting new initiative – a young leadership program called the Henry M. Jackson Leadership Fellows. We’ve just launched the inaugural class of this 9-month program, which will include leadership training, mentoring, networking, and substantive work on individual projects.
As we showcased in an earlier message, the class is outstanding. The word “inspiring” may sometimes be overused – but in this case I can honestly say that interviewing the 35 fellowship candidates filled me with hope for a time when our civic life will again ring with bipartisan discourse and engaged, active citizens. As one of the Foundation’s Vice Presidents, Craig Gannett, put it in welcoming remarks to the Fellows, “listening to all of you gives me optimism for the future.”
While we eventually chose only eight fellows, a few bright spots came through during the interview process. First, the candidates showed a tremendous interest in leadership – in all its facets – and a strong desire to learn the skills and attributes of great leaders. Second, they hunger to engage outside of work spheres and to connect more deeply with new colleagues and novel ideas. Third, these young professionals want to involve diverse aspects of our community into their work – both professionally and in their volunteer pursuits. Finally – and perhaps most heartening – they believe that Senator Jackson’s life and achievements can speak to this next generation. While many of the candidates did not previously know of Senator Jackson, they came to the interviews inspired by what they had read about him, especially in The Nature of Leadership book that we make available on our website.
The Foundation embarked on its new Fellowship program in part to reach out to the next generation and inculcate them with the Jackson values. The year has just begun – and yet it is already clear that those values – and the man behind them – remain relevant today.
We hope you will join us at some of the many events this year in which the Fellows will be involved.