Several years ago the President and First Lady began talking about the
need to focus national attention on the importance of honoring, sustaining, and
expanding the American tradition of giving. In their discussions with experts
from around the world they found:
Philanthropic giving is (and has long been) practiced by every
segment and level of American society. We need to celebrate this fact and
communicate that everyone has a role to play, a gift to make whether
through dollar donations, gifts of items, or gifts of their time.
Private voluntary action characterizes American democracy and is one
of our deepest core values: the United States remains unique in the extent to
which it looks to philanthropic giving to support public purposes.
Giving is a form of citizenship that strengthens communities and
Giving, like citizenship, must be taught, and is best learned by
American philanthropy, like America itself, is changing and many new
creative forms of giving will characterize the new century.
As a means to address the importance of our philanthropic tradition and
to emphasize the responsibility all American's have to teach and sustain this
tradition, the President and Mrs. Clinton convened The White House Conference
on Philanthropy: Gifts to the Future, on October 22, 1999. This conference
highlighted the unique American tradition of giving, discussed the diverse and
changing face of philanthropy, and explored how we can sustain and expand this
tradition for future generations.
The conference was held in the East
Room of the White House, during the afternoon of October 22, 1999. The first
two hours of the conference were broadcast live via satellite, presenting an
extraordinary opportunity for communities across the country to participate in
the conference and engage in a local dialogue on the subject. Over 3,443 sites
received the signal and several public broadcasting networks transmitted it as
well. 154 sites in 42 states registered directly with the White House and many
of them sponsored their own conferences or forums.
Participants in the
conference, both at the White House and via satellite, were individuals who are
engaged in philanthropy- donors, experts, youth, program leaders, and
innovators. Together they represented the wide range of racial, ethnic,
economic, and religious groups involved in American philanthropy.