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A Message from CEO David Thornburgh on the Challenges of the Times

March 13, 2020

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. -- Teddy Roosevelt

We are in the midst of a public health crisis, and an economic crisis, that will test the country like nothing most of us have ever seen.

All of us, personally, professionally, and as leaders in our communities, should be heeding Roosevelt’s words. These are words that we try to live by at the Committee of Seventy.

So what do we have, and what can we do? I’m fortunate to lead an organization that in its long strands of DNA, intertwined over the course of 116 years, has earned the trust of our community. Trust is in short supply right now, and we will do everything in our power to use your trust in us to help us through this crisis.  We have also, over the years, embraced a set of values that feel particularly relevant right now. We believe in evidence, and that our public leadership needs to go where that evidence leads. We believe in results. Critically, we believe in nonpartisan, consensus-driven approaches to solving public problems. There are no Republican or Democratic ways to attack a public health challenge.  We will act swiftly and forcefully to condemn any public officials who let partisan advantage stand in the way of keeping people safe and allaying their fears.

We also believe, fervently, in the idea of citizenship, of the responsibility and opportunity for all people in this country to make a difference in their communities.  That’s the spirit that lies behind our new awareness campaign, CPR by C70. Our Campaign for Political Responsibility says that, in the end, the responsibility for the future of our American Experiment, founded here in Philadelphia, lies with effective citizenship.

So what are the habits of effective citizenship? Be a voter. Choose your news wisely. Invite diverse perspectives. Learn how it works. Act. Over the next weeks and months, as we stare down this crisis, we’ll be doing our best -- with a broad and diverse set of partners -- to help you embrace and practice those habits of citizenship. Especially now, it feels important to refresh and renew the sense of purpose that has always inspired this country and brought people from all over the world to our shores.

It’s said that good leaders inspire the trust of their followers, but great leaders inspire their followers’ trust in themselves. I pray this crisis will bring forward great leaders who inspire us all.

David Thornburgh
President and CEO
Committee of Seventy