At its just-concluded 54th annual conference in Dallas, the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Foundations presented its 2003 Paul Ylvisaker Award for public policy engagement to three foundations whose "bold and creative efforts" have sparked "the formulation or implementation of informed public policy."
Named for the late Paul Ylvisaker, a senior adviser to the Council and an influential voice in the philanthropic community, the awards were presented to the New York Community Trust, for its quick action in forming the September 11th Fund to provide both emergency and long-term assistance to those affected by the September 11 terrorist attacks; the San Francisco-based Rosenberg Foundation, for its influential work as a small grantmaker in the areas of immigration policy and the rights of immigrants and other minorities; and the New York City-based Open Society Institute, which was honored for its work in the areas of drug policy, reproductive rights, welfare reform, criminal justice, and civil rights.
In accepting the award for his organization, OSI vice president Gara LaMarche challenged conference attendees to apply the test suggested by the late philosopher John Rawls for measuring the quality of justice in a society. "Would you view the system as fair if you did not know what your place in the social order would be?" asked LaMarche. "I submit that no one in this room can look at the justice system in [Texas], or wherever you happen to live, and say that you would trade places with a young black man pulled over by the police, or that you would be satisfied, forty years after the Supreme Court's landmark Gideon decision, with the court-appointed lawyer you would get if you were a poor Latina woman, or think that the state penitentiary would be a fine place for your grandchild to spend ten years because he couldn't get treatment for his drug abuse problem."