Dear Friends of the Luce Foundation:
As we usher in a new year, serious challenges confront us in the weeks and months ahead: An upended world order resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, deepening political polarization here in the United States, and lingering economic uncertainty amid tightening supply chains and monetary policies all threaten to trigger cascading crises, many of which cut to the very heart of our work.
And yet, however formidable the challenges ahead may appear, the case for optimism remains strong thanks in part to the work of this vibrant, inspiring community. The great privilege I enjoy as the president of the Henry Luce Foundation is observing the disparate but interlocking efforts of this evolving and expanding network, which continues to fight for a more just and equitable world with equal parts wisdom, creativity, and grit.
In early December, the Foundation hosted a two-day convening for the Democracy, Ethics, and Public Trust (DEPT) grantees at the Foundation new offices in New York City. Intended as an imaginative space of shared learning, the plenary sessions and breakout groups generated rich conversations about some of the most pressing issues of the day. The assembled cohort agreed that while elections are critical, the work of democracy-building should take place year-round. Most crucially, we cannot think of civic participation as something reserved for our interactions with governmental institutions, but as a practice that starts at home and work.
Our focus on building democratically receptive cultures is also reflected in ongoing support of Religion and Theology Program grantees who are looking to bridge cultural, political, and social divides in their communities. Exemplars of this work include “Democracy as a Spiritual Practice,” an initiative of the Faith Matters Network, launched in 2014 by Reverend Jen Bailey, and the Pacific, Asian, and North American Asian Women in Theology and Ministry’s project on AAPI feminist theologies and lived religions.
This past September, the Foundation kicked off its year-long celebration of the 40th anniversary of its American Art Program with its Henry Luce Foundation Conversations on American Art and Museums. This series of twelve hour-long virtual programs, hosted by the New-York Historical Society, reflects the program’s efforts to empower museums and arts organizations to reconsider accepted histories, foreground the voices and experiences of underrepresented artists and cultures, and welcome diverse collaborators and communities into dialogue. (I encourage all of you to join us for the next event in the series, “Access, Outliers, and Exhibiting Disability,” on Friday, January 13 at 1 p.m. ET. You can RSVP here.)
The values of equity and inclusion are also reflected in the redesigned Luce Scholars Program. After a one-year hiatus, the Foundation announced the opening of the 2023-2024 Luce Scholars Program competition this past June with a new application and selection process. With the goal of giving more early-career leaders the opportunity to experience what a Luce Year in Asia has to offer, candidates are no longer required to obtain a nomination or endorsement from an approved partner institution. We have also modified the application’s age requirements to include pathways for those who earned their bachelor’s degrees as non-traditional aged students.
Looking ahead to the new year, the Foundation will focus on the linkages between Indigeneity and the impacts of climate change. Indigenous cultures are place-based: language, belief, material culture, foodways, social forms are tied to the places where they emerged. As climate change transforms those places, it also undermines the cultures and communities that inhabit them. We are hopeful that our exploratory efforts in this area will build upon the pioneering work of the Foundation’s Indigenous Knowledge grantees.
This work is why I remain deeply optimistic about the future despite the scale and complexity of the challenges that confront us. I am grateful for all that you have done, and I look forward to continuing to work together in the years ahead.
Warmest wishes for a healthy and happy new year.