This past month has been a time of deep reflection. As someone who has lived my life as a change agent – knowing and accepting that change is constant – I needed a moment to collect my thoughts about our nation’s future. This year’s presidential election delivered change with the thrust of a fire hose. Nobody knows what the future will bring and many worry what it will mean for our children and their wellbeing. But what has me broken, what is nagging in my heart, are the stories of children across our country crying with fear and anxiety.
In 1930, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation was founded on one man’s belief in people. A belief so formidable that he donated his life’s earnings based on his belief in their inherent capacity “to help children everywhere to face the future with confidence, with health and with a strong-rooted security in their trust of this country and its institutions.”
But today, I wonder – and worry – if the children are losing confidence in us.
To answer this question truthfully, we must come to terms with the deep divides in our country – the depths perhaps unearthed by the recent unconventional rhetoric of our leaders. Typically, a general election builds unity and hope. But this year, many children and families are in despair. They need to heal.
As we think about the work that is before us, let us remind ourselves that we are not a nation of demolition workers trying to destroy institutions, but rather a community of creative construction workers seeking to build bridges and commonality that will ensure a more perfect union and oneness within our country.
Earlier this year, we announced our Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) enterprise, which is scaffolded from decades of work here at the foundation to promote racial equity so all children can thrive.
Today, just days before our first TRHT Summit in Carlsbad, California, I couldn’t have imagined how critical this convening would be to our country and our collective fate. TRHT will be the critical response that for decades many in society have been calling for, and that call has reached a crescendo that we all heard clearly: the country must heal.
Responding to this call is not new to us. In 2010, the Kellogg Foundation launched America Healing, an effort to expose structural inequities in communities, redress them and help heal racial wounds. Through this initiative, we’ve supported community-based healing efforts and pioneering research on the effects of unconscious bias on people of color and have worked with the U.S. Department of Education and Justice to shape new guidelines for school discipline.
All of this work has prepared us to confidently take the next steps in partnership with communities across the country. And that next step is TRHT.
TRHT will be a critical tool to foster genuine conversations about race, racism, ethnicity and xenophobia in their communities so they can begin to heal. Only when we have a shared understanding of our collective past can we start to dismantle the structures, policies and systems that divide us. And only then will we see transformative change.
So, I call on organizations nationwide – crossing all sectors, including business, government, philanthropy and media – to channel your worry and pain toward building an equitable and just society for all of our children’s future.
We know that the work ahead will not be easy, as Dr. King reminds us. It takes courage, discipline and the voice of all our leaders – from those at the very local level, to nontraditional leaders, to those leading our country – to move our nation forward.
But I am hopeful when we open our arms and our hearts to one another, we will experience real transformation. We know this will require healing – and achieving healing happens from building relationships and dialogues that create alignment and unity. I am confident that our creative construction today will lead us to stronger bridges tomorrow.
I look forward to you joining us in this endeavor.
Thank you for your commitment and your continued dedication to ensuring all of our children experience a greater future.