How Philanthropy Can Defend American Values and Support Smart Foreign Policy

The following was presented as part of a session at Philanthropy Roundtable’s Annual Meeting in October 2022.

Since its founding, America has served as a beacon of hope for individuals around the world who are seeking freedom, opportunity and the promise of a better life. But the shifting geopolitical landscape – from the rise of China to war in Ukraine – poses new challenges to our fundamental freedoms. The stakes have never been higher, and American leadership is crucial at this pivotal moment.

During our Annual Meeting in October, the Roundtable held a compelling keynote conversation entitled “Defending American Values in a Shifting World Order.” It was moderated by the Paul E. Singer Foundation Senior Director Aaron MacLean and discussed the relationship between foreign policy and philanthropy as well as the role that charitable giving can play in helping America maintain its position as the world’s primary defender of individual freedom. That role includes supporting smart foreign policy and national security policy, caring for our troops at home and abroad and providing pathways to opportunity for refugees displaced by conflicts.

The panelists included the 70th U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Spirit of America Founder and CEO Jim Hake, whose organization works alongside U.S. military personnel to deliver non-lethal aid in places like Ukraine and around the world, and Fugees Family Founder and CEO Luma Mufleh, who created a network of U.S. schools dedicated to educating and empowering refugee children traumatized by war and poverty.

Secretary Pompeo opened the session with introductory remarks that focused on his work in the Trump administration, both as CIA director and secretary of state – and the core ideas that guided his team’s foreign policy approach. “We thought about sovereignty and its connectivity to religious freedom and basic fundamental rights for people all across the world,” he said. “That’s where you all [charitable groups and individuals] can have an enormous impact.”

He explained why a focus on religious freedom was integral to the administration’s foreign policy strategy, and why it is worth supporting through philanthropy. “Nations that are more free are much less likely to go to war with us, and they are more likely to support the things that matter to the American people,” he said.

During the broader panel discussion, moderator MacLean engaged Secretary Pompeo, Hake and Mufleh on topics such as the war in Ukraine, geopolitical tensions elsewhere and how philanthropy can guide policy, support our troops and help empower vulnerable people at home and abroad.

“A government-only solution is not the best America can do,” said Hake. “In the national security domain, there are gaps … [in] defending and spreading America’s values around the world.”
He explained why he believes private philanthropy and nonprofits can fill those gaps, including at Spirit of America, which supports civil society organizations that respond to crises and helps build up free and independent media in places like Taiwan.

At home in the United States, Mufleh works with refugee families to help provide an excellent education for America’s newest students. She credits the generosity of donors with helping to launch organizations like Fugees Family that are dedicated to assisting immigrants.

“I started a school, six kids, one teacher in a church basement. It grew. It was 100% philanthropy,” she said. “In 2018, we opened another school in Columbus, Ohio, under their voucher program, and in 2020, we converted our Georgia school into a charter. … This year, we partnered with a school in Bowling Green, Kentucky, to implement our model into their district.”

On philanthropy’s role in shaping foreign policy, Secretary Pompeo said its impact is “enormous,” referring to how charitable giving supports intellectual work being done at nonprofit public policy organizations and in academia.

“A big group of think tanks are enormously helpful, so are schools,” he said.

The session concluded with the panelists offering advice for philanthropists looking to get involved in supporting American values around the world.

“You have to get in the game,” urged Hake. “There is just too much at stake. … If we don’t win the war of values that is raging in the world today, really, nothing else matters.”

Watch the video above, and check out other Annual Meeting videos at the links below:

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