9/24: Notes from President Basalla

Hi, Everyone. 

Thank you to all who joined us for last week’s Bilateral Boardroom. We were thrilled to see the high levels of participation and, especially, engagement.

Today I wanted to reinforce the appreciation expressed during the event for the Ford Foundation, and specifically to Ford’s President, Darren Walker, and share with you his video tribute to USJC Founding President Irene Hirano Inouye that has not previously been shared.

Darren took time to share his love and respect for Irene with USJC during the preparation of the Bilateral Boardroom. In a deeply moving tribute that is being shared for the first time in full here, he honors their partnership and friendship. All of you who join me in missing Irene so much will be grateful to hear him share his memories of “this ideal servant leader,” who “encouraged boldness” and remained “cheerful, positive, and optimistic” at all times.

Darren is a true inspiration to many of us. He spoke powerfully in his interview with Fred Katayama about the importance not just of “giving back” to society but also of “giving up” privilege to benefit society (his interview starts at the 40min mark of this recording). The Ford Foundation’s work is driven by their belief that “Justice begins where Inequality Ends.” Here is the New York Times Opinion piece by Darren that sparked Fred’s exchange with him on the topic. 

Also, Darren has spearheaded a game-changing social innovation bond to support nonprofits that truly moved the needle for many, especially in combination with Ford Foundation’s principled approach to recognize the need for nonprofits to have the flexibility they need right now to survive. His thought leadership on these issues has always been in a class of its own; today, the Ford Foundation’s actions have become essential.

Therefore the U.S.-Japan Council (USJC) is pleased to announce that it has received a $250,000 grant from the Ford Foundation (see Press Release here). We are extremely grateful to Darren and his organization for providing this generous funding and to USJC Board of Directors Chair Phyllis Campbell for initiating this effort. The Ford Foundation understands the importance of having additional funds for operations so that we can provide the vital networking and programming in the U.S. and Japan that are at the heart of our mission.

Darren has a strong history working alongside Irene, when she chaired the Ford Foundation’s Board of Trustees. He honored her role (as a “Steel Magnolia,” as he described to Fred in the Bilateral Boardroom interview) in guiding a grant package in 2014 that – along with other philanthropic and government support – was central to rescuing the city of Detroit from bankruptcy. The Ford Foundation’s investment in USJC is truly a statement of respect for Irene’s vision and legacy. Darren Walker’s influence and leadership are critical for organizations like ours to meet the unprecedented challenges of the COVID era. Suzanne