At the Communities Foundation of Texas’ 60th anniversary celebration themed “Generations of Generosity,” CFT president and CEO Brent Christopher said it best: “If there’s ever been a VIP house here at CFT, this is that room this afternoon.”
The space was packed with many distinguished guests, from civic leaders and philanthropists to nonprofit leaders and businessmen. Wes Wise, Adlene Harrison, Mary Poss, Mike Miles, Mary Suhm and Ruth Altshuler were among those gathered to hear Mayor Mike Rawlings and former mayors Laura Miller, Ron Kirk and Tom Leppert discuss philanthropy in Dallas.
Before the main event, Christopher talked about the state’s and Dallas’ high rankings on The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s list of 50 generous cities in America. Dallas-Fort Worth was ninth on the list, which is based off total contributions given; DFW has contributed $3.7 billion.
After brief introductions, Rawlings followed Kirk, Leppert and Miller on stage, where cozy chairs set the scene for a comfortable living-room environment.
Kirk told the audience about the moment he realized that he had to do something about the Trinity River, when he was showing the city to a group of visiting lawyers.
“[One of the guys] asked, ‘What is that ditch?’ I said, as Mark Twain once described, it’s a moist ditch. He turned to me and said, ‘It may as well be your Berlin Wall.’
“That’s what exhibited to me the power of experience when someone says something for what it is. It fueled my fire that it was unacceptable.”
When talking about the definition of philanthropy, Miller said, “Every single thing that I was involved with as mayor in city council always involved philanthropy, people giving their time to their city and their effort.”
About the regular citizens who make big changes happen, Leppert said, “My experience during my four years wasn’t all big donations; it was relentless little people doing the little things behind the stage.”
“We asked people, what do you find different about Dallas — compared to New York or wherever they were from — and time and time again people thought giving was part of the civic responsibility,” said Kirk, on what makes Dallas unique.
Leppert added, “There is no reason Dallas should be here. It’s not a port city, it’s not on the ocean, it wasn’t the crossing of trade routes. So I think of entrepreneuralism; I also think it’s an area that allows the individual to succeed, more than other places.”
Rawling chimed in on the subject of faith. “I’m amazed by the breadth and depth of the faith community in Dallas. … Everyone preaches giving all the time. Somehow I think faith has something to do with this as well.”
When the conversation drew to a close, Rawlings congratulated Suhm on a great job as city manager and reminded guests to participate in the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination. Immediately following, Christopher thanked the mayors and philanthropists for setting the example, and guests continued the anniversary celebration at a wine-filled reception.