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Conference Information

Several years ago the President and First Lady began talking about the need to focus national attention on the importance of honoring, sustaining, and expanding the American tradition of giving. In their discussions with experts from around the world they found:

  • Philanthropic giving is (and has long been) practiced by every segment and level of American society. We need to celebrate this fact and communicate that everyone has a role to play, a gift to make whether through dollar donations, gifts of items, or gifts of their time.
  • Private voluntary action characterizes American democracy and is one of our deepest core values: the United States remains unique in the extent to which it looks to philanthropic giving to support public purposes.
  • Giving is a form of citizenship that strengthens communities and civil society.
  • Giving, like citizenship, must be taught, and is best learned by doing.
  • American philanthropy, like America itself, is changing and many new creative forms of giving will characterize the new century.
As a means to address the importance of our philanthropic tradition and to emphasize the responsibility all American's have to teach and sustain this tradition, the President and Mrs. Clinton convened The White House Conference on Philanthropy: Gifts to the Future, on October 22, 1999. This conference highlighted the unique American tradition of giving, discussed the diverse and changing face of philanthropy, and explored how we can sustain and expand this tradition for future generations.

The conference was held in the East Room of the White House, during the afternoon of October 22, 1999. The first two hours of the conference were broadcast live via satellite, presenting an extraordinary opportunity for communities across the country to participate in the conference and engage in a local dialogue on the subject. Over 3,443 sites received the signal and several public broadcasting networks transmitted it as well. 154 sites in 42 states registered directly with the White House and many of them sponsored their own conferences or forums.

Participants in the conference, both at the White House and via satellite, were individuals who are engaged in philanthropy- donors, experts, youth, program leaders, and innovators. Together they represented the wide range of racial, ethnic, economic, and religious groups involved in American philanthropy.

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