The Art of Democracy

20 pages

Published March 2017

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Twitter: @FordFoundation

The Art of Democracy

Creative Expression and American Greatness

Darren Walker

On March 20, 2017, Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, delivered the 30th annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy to an audience at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

In this stirring defense of public investment in the arts, Walker explains how the arts personally lifted him up, expounds on the role of the arts in our democracy, and argues that creative expression is what actually makes America great.

As people across the United States experience what Walker describes as a “poverty of imagination”—and a paucity of hope—his powerful oration makes clear: “Without art, there is no empathy. Without empathy, there is no justice.”

Darren Walker

About The Author

Darren Walker is President of the Ford Foundation, the nation’s third largest philanthropy, and for two decades has been a leader in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. He led the philanthropy committee that helped bring a resolution to the city of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy and chairs the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance.

Prior to joining Ford, he was Vice President at the Rockefeller Foundation where he managed the rebuild New Orleans initiative after Hurricane Katrina. In the 1990s, as COO of Harlem’s largest community development organization, the Abyssinian Development Corporation, Darren oversaw a comprehensive revitalization program resulting in over 1,000 new units of housing, Harlem’s first commercial development in twenty years and New York’s first public school built and managed by a community organization. He had a decade long career in international law and finance at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and UBS. He serves as a trustee of Carnegie Hall, New York City Ballet, the High Line, the Arcus Foundation and PepsiCo.

Educated exclusively in public schools, Darren received the “Distinguished Alumnus Award,” the highest honor given by his alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin. In 2016, TIME magazine named him to its annual list of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.” He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the recipient of thirteen honorary degrees.

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