Bringing People the Real Facts
President Abraham Lincoln wrote: “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”
J.N. Pew Jr., who founded The Pew Charitable Trusts with his siblings, Mary Ethel Pew, J. Howard Pew, and Mabel Pew Myrin, made a similar remark in 1946 when Look magazine invited him to offer advice to President Harry Truman. His response: Tell the truth and trust the people.
That is exactly what The Pew Charitable Trusts has been doing throughout its long and proud history. In this issue of Trust magazine, you will learn about that history and how Pew’s work is guided by the values of our founders and an abiding commitment to use the power of knowledge—garnered from disciplined research—to serve the public good.
Much has changed since The Pew Memorial Foundation was created in 1948 and began to support religious, medical, educational, cultural, and social service organizations. The founders understood that they could not anticipate many of the problems that our nation and the world would face in the decades to come. Their goal was to create an institution not just for their time—but for all time. They wanted the Trusts to be entrepreneurial, fact-based, capable of responding to new challenges, and willing to speak truth to power.
Over the past 65 years, Pew has increased its focus on strategic planning and on establishing measurable goals to ensure that we maximize the results of our investments on behalf of society. Today we are a global nongovernmental organization committed to improving public policy, informing the public, and stimulating civic life.
As Pew has grown and evolved, we have been able to expand the range of issues we address, recruit and deploy talent more efficiently, operate our own programs, build stronger and more effective partnerships, and advocate for policies at all levels of government. But while Pew has increased its focus on the impact of our investments and taken on new challenges, we continue to live by the qualities that animated our founders: entrepreneurship, stewardship, and a belief that progress springs from data, science, and facts.
Those values form the basis of the deliberative process that determines which challenges Pew will address—and when. This approach was critical to the success of our work throughout 2013, and this issue of Trust highlights some of Pew’s accomplishments during the past year, including promoting programs to help young parents raise healthy children, advising states on how to ensure that their public pensions are solvent, restoring the Benjamin Franklin Museum in Philadelphia, and studying how Americans use technology to receive information and engage in the public square.
We continue to live by the qualities that animated our founders: entrepreneurship, stewardship, and a belief that progress springs from data, science, and facts.
In addition to looking back at the milestones of 2013, we look forward to new challenges and opportunities in 2014. We will continue to research the issues facing our hometown of Philadelphia and the financial trends in the largest U.S. cities. We will help policymakers find ways to lower health care costs. And we will maintain our strong focus on conserving land and addressing major threats to the world’s oceans.
We will also continue to explore America’s role in international affairs—another issue of great interest to the founders. The Pew Research Center’s quadrennial survey of the United States’ place in the world—now in its sixth edition—shows that 52 percent of Americans currently believe that the nation “should mind its own business” rather than taking the lead on global issues. That is the most isolationist response since Pew began asking the question in 1993.
Pew’s 65-year history illustrates how our goals, expertise, and programs have changed. But our mission to tell the truth and trust the people has never wavered. It is one of the core values that guide our work in serving the public and remaining true to the expectations of our founders.