Dear Eisenhower Fellows and friends,
As we turn the page on 2021, we reflect on the path just taken and the road ahead with a mixture of pain and pride, fatigue and renewal, sorrow and hope.
There are no words in any language to express the depth of our pain and sorrow over those we’ve lost these last two years of the Covid pandemic, a modern plague that spread from the East across the seas to envelope the globe.
Even now, despite the incredible progress the world has made with life-saving vaccinations and new treatments since the virus first appeared, new variants and mutations appear regularly, disrupting daily life for weary people everywhere. For longer than anyone ever could have imagined, Covid largely has kept us apart, restricting travel, dividing families and eroding personal and professional ties nurtured over a lifetime.
Yet despite the obstacles to physically convening and the unthinkable loss of so many dear friends and members of our global family, Eisenhower Fellows never have succumbed to despair.
Every day, in every corner of our planet, our Fellows fight Covid, heal the sick, serve the forgotten and underserved. Eisenhower Fellows are scientists, first responders, leaders in government, business and other fields combating climate change and social inequities. They are teachers, doctors, our artists and storytellers, the people who inspire us by their example.
They stir our pride and renew our faith that this, too, shall pass, that their work will make the world a better place.
At Eisenhower Fellowships that work never has stopped. The pandemic has led us to innovate continuously and use new digital tools in new ways to strengthen our programs and drive our engagement with our extraordinary leaders around the world.
We began with our first all-virtual program in EF history last year. This paved the way for our new hybrid programming model, the hallmark of all future Eisenhower Fellowships, combining virtual and in-person engagement.
This fall we successfully hosted two days of dynamic events around our Annual Awards dinner, bringing together some 229 people, including Fellows from 29 countries, for the first in-person gathering in Philadelphia in more than two years. Our Chairman, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, spoke for everyone when he said he left our gathering inspired by our Fellows’ work and optimistic about the future.
As we look to 2022, the special light of Eisenhower Fellowships shines brightly. Since Covid hit the world, thousands of people have become newly aware of our work. Hundreds of outstanding young leaders now routinely apply to be selected as Fellows in each of our programs. Our staff is more resilient, creative and diverse. And five distinguished new Trustees have joined our Board, further diversifying and strengthening our governance with new perspectives, ideas and energy.
More than 6,300 program partners in the U.S. who have hosted visiting Fellows over the last decade have re-enlisted to receive future Eisenhower Fellows, virtually or in-person. They represent a legion of experts from all fields at our disposal, eager to share their knowledge and engage with our leaders to expand their horizons, confident that the ripple effect of their impact will be felt around the world.
Bolstered by their support, we look forward to exciting new hybrid programs next year. In April we plan to host an innovative regional Africa Program, bringing to the U.S. 25 outstanding leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa combating the negative dimensions of climate change across the Sub-Continent. In the fall, we plan to resume our annual Global Program bringing Fellows from all fields to the U.S., and throughout the year once again send American Fellows to China and elsewhere overseas.
We have other initiatives underway to advance our work against racial injustice, deepen our commitment to women’s leadership and plan for the next great EF global gathering sometime in 2023 to address the many pressing issues facing our world.
At the same time, we are intensifying our strategic planning to map the next chapter of our evolution. Conversations about how we might best adapt to a fast-changing world and apply new technologies and the abundance of lessons learned over the last five years—particularly during this period of pandemic—have been underway for many months among our Trustees, Fellows, staff and friends of EF. Our ultimate objective is to maximize the impact of Eisenhower Fellowships through deepened engagement with and among our exceptional leaders around the world.
To this end, we are reaching out to every living Eisenhower Fellow in a staff-wide initiative to update our contact information and upgrade our network engagement. We recently introduced a new EF mobile app to help all our Fellows connect. In the basement of the EF house, we are immersed in a massive project to digitize our entire historical archives. Externally, we are refining our handsome new website to further enhance its accessibility and user experience so we can better promote the work that our amazing Fellows do around the world each day.
In the last two months alone, I have taken that outreach far beyond Philadelphia, traveling to physically meet with Trustees and dozens of Fellows in Spain, the Middle East and multiple trips to California, New York, Washington and Chicago. At each stop, I’ve tried to reinforce the powerful message of renewal sent to our entire network by the more than 90 Eisenhower Fellows from around the world who overcame Covid restrictions to travel to Philadelphia in October.
Against all odds, we are together again. Eisenhower Fellowships has emerged from this period of pandemic stronger, more creative and more comfortable embracing continuous change. The searing experience we have weathered has helped set the stage for the best yet to come.
Underlying all this is a core concept illuminating our way forward through the Covid haze. Our traditional EF shorthand for the organization now also stands for Engagement and Flexibility, the new mantra for everything we do.
As we gather in gratitude with our families for the holidays, and remember those we have lost, we salute the resourcefulness and dogged determination our Fellows and staff have shown in refusing to submit to the pandemic.
In this, and in everything we do, we deeply appreciate the generous support of our Trustees and donors who invest in furthering our mission. Without them, none of this would be possible.
The work of our exceptional Fellows to build bridges of trust across borders and cultures never has been more vital. If you believe in this mission, and would like to advance that work, please give generously here.
If you already have supported our work with your donation this year, please accept our heartfelt thanks for your commitment. Your leadership and example inspire us to do even more.
From all of us, to you and all of yours, a safe and happy holiday season. We look forward to being with all of you again soon.
George de Lama
President, Eisenhower Fellowships