It has been a busy week. Although my Bush Fellowship funding ended last month, I was asked to present to the board of the Bush Foundation last night at a board dinner. As you can see, the board is made up of some accomplished people and the dinner conversation was very lively.
At my table was Jennifer Alstad, who grew up in Granite Falls where my great-uncle Roy was once mayor, Wendy Nelson of Carlson Companies, as well as two present fellows listed on this page, most of whom I also met throughout the evening. These are lively people with big ideas. It is a delight to be in their presence.
During the question and answer session, I hammered home a point with some insistence, not entirely realizing but sensing as I waded in that what I was saying was controversial. A few people looked shocked while others smiled, and this gentleman stood in the back nodding vigorously and giving me a thumbs up sign. So I dove in and said what I wanted to say even harder. My basic point was that people in the so-called philanthropic community care far too much about what others in the philanthropic community think of them. It was made in response to a board member who asked a fellow panelist how the foundation is viewed by others in the philanthropic community. I basically said, "You shouldn't give a rip. Do your work and let the chips fall."
Of course reputation does matter, but it gets to be a joke when philanthropies hire consultants to run around and ask what people in similar organizations think of them, which happens constantly. The consultants come back and say everybody loves you, which insures that the next time the organization gets self-conscious about what others think of them, it will hire the same consultant. It gets to be a complete joke.
By that time, I was firmly established as the jester in the room so I am sure some people thought I was being over the top just for laughs. Others, however, followed up and challenged me, in a friendly manner of course. But with firmness.
What fun to have the back-and-forth! I came back to the hotel pretty wound up. Lance finally said, wow, you really must have had a good time at the dinner!