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Before the program last night, journalist and author Jere Van Dyk met with the fifteen students taking part in the Council’s Summer Institute on International Affairs. In 2008 Van Dyk was captured by the Taliban and held for 45 days, an experience he chronicles in Captive: My Time as a Prisoner of the Taliban. The students debated the US policy in Afghanistan and then were able to ask Van Dyk about the advice he would like to give the Obama administration about handling the Taliban. They also inquired about the conversations he had with his captors, wondering what they thought of US policy in their country.

To listen to Van Dyk’s full address to the Council, visit our audio archive here. Additionally, the local CBS affiliate recorded Van Dyk’s conversation with the students and broadcast a piece about him on their evening news. Watch it here.

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Only days after Russian President Dmitri Medvedev met in Washington with President Obama, the FBI accused 11 people of being Russian agents. The charges include money laundering, conspiracy and failing to register as agents of a foreign government, but do not include espionage. The FBI has been tracking the alleged spies since 2003, though many of the spies have been in the US since the 1990s.

The need for increased vigilance towards Russia’s spy program was brought up at Monday night’s Council program with Georgia’s Ambassador to the US, Batu Kutelia. He noted the weekend’s 11 arrests and said, “This same case happened in Georgia five or six years ago and at that time I was head of our foreign intelligence service and when we intercepted and arrested this, most of the world accused us, Georgia, of being too provocative towards Russia. But now it appears that the same activities are happening in a different part of the world and the intention of modernizing Russia is really good, but if they continue with business as usual, there could very different consequences for them as well.” To listen to the entire program with Ambassador Kutelia, please visit our online audio archive.

To learn more about Russia’s history of espionage the US, read this article from the New York Times. For more information about the relationship between Russia and the Caucasus, read this article from the current issue of Foreign Affairs.

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Now is our time.”

—Vice President Al Gore

“This is our moment.”

—Geoffrey Canada

These quotations are from former Vice President Al Gore and Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone, each of whom spoke at the Council on Foundations annual conference. (Partial videos have been posted on the conference’s wrap-up page.) They argue that the next generation will tackle the problems that Baby Boomers have bequeathed to them. But Gore worries about the enormity and irreversibility of some of those problems. And Canada wonders whether our education system will prepare them.

Gore described younger generations as truly committed to improving and safeguarding the environment. But he notes that the rest of us may not “find the moral courage” to tackle the huge climate challenges and plant the necessary seeds of renewal for future generations. The youth cannot solve these problems alone—we must stand with them.

Canada previewed the documentary Waiting for Superman, due for release this fall, the thesis of which is that the key to success in American public education is luck. It is little more than a lottery system. The film, from the same producers as An Inconvenient Truth, may trigger action by everyday citizens in ways similar to what Gore’s film has done for the environment and climate change. Canada says that he has observed a rising level of “deep engagement” in America along the lines of ‘60s-era social activism, and he called on philanthropists to help leverage that momentum.

U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen expressed optimism about new leaders, heaping praise on Millennials, suggesting that today’s youngest generation of adults are showing a level of commitment to service and are giving back in a way that American society has not seen in a long time.

As optimistic as much of the discussion was, plenty of concern remains about the future of America’s youth. Patrick Corvington of the Corporation for National and Community Service referred to a report by Mission: Readiness, which notes that 75 percent of the country’s young citizens are unable to serve in the military because they dropped out of high school, have a criminal past or are physically or mentally unfit.

Will we invest today in equipping tomorrow’s leaders? That is the challenge to us all.

—Jane Wales

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Foundation leaders can no longer assume that policymakers share their view of the sector’s role—it is up to these leaders to tell philanthropy’s story in a way that can be appreciated and understood. This was among the conclusions of the members of the Aspen Philanthropy Group in their inaugural meeting last July. It was a key theme that emerged in a concurrent nonprofit sector-wide strategy session led by the Independent Sector in Colorado Springs. And it was a refrain at this year’s Council on Foundations’ Annual Conference.

At a time when state legislators are seeking to shift responsibility for financing social services from the public to the philanthropic sector, the Council legal team called attention instead to the US Congress, where some members have questioned the tax exemptions that foundations enjoy. The team reports that this Congressional sentiment is only shared by a few Members and that calls for change are at a “low simmer.” Nonetheless, according to the Council’s Kelly Shippe Simone and Chatrane Birbal, Congress is expected to consider tax reform measures, including tax exemption, next year.

While that gives nonprofit advocates time to make their case, APG would argue that the issue is not a matter of fending off legislation or of defensive moves more generally. Rather it is a matter of efficacy. Those who seek to advance the public good need to partner and to leverage one another so as to enhance their collective impact. Doing so first requires an understanding of their respective roles. Arguments between the public and philanthropic sectors are an indulgence we cannot afford, not at a time when the resources of both are reduced and public needs have expanded.

—Jane Wales

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The 2010 Global Philanthropy Forum Conference begins Monday. We’ll be live webcasting. Watch here: http://www.livestream.com/gpf2010

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