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Peter G. Peterson Commits $1 Billion Toward Solving America's Most Significant Economic Challenges

Here’s some news that could have a major impact on our field. The newly-formed Peter G. Peterson Foundation is committed to enhancing public understanding of the nature and urgency of key sustainability challenges that threaten America’s future, to propose sensible and workable solutions to address these challenges and to build public will to do something about them. It’s new president is former U.S. Comptroller General David M. Walker, one of the few people at high levels of the federal government who understands the importance and potential of empowering citizens to address national (even global), “wicked” problems.

The following press release can be found at the The Peter G. Peterson Foundation website (thanks Leanne Nurse for bringing it to our attention)!

Peterson Launches Foundation to Target ‘Undeniable, Unsustainable and Untouchable’ Threats to the Nation’s Future and to future Generations of Americans

U.S. Comptroller General David M. Walker to Serve as President and Chief Executive of the Foundation

NEW YORK, Feb. 15, 2008 — In a move to address the most critical sustainability challenges that threaten America’s future, Peter G. Peterson today announced the formation of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, and his commitment to fund at least $1 billion over the next several years toward addressing these challenges.

The targets of the effort will be the most substantial economic, fiscal and other sustainability challenges of our current age, including: the explosive growth of Federal entitlement programs; unaffordable healthcare costs; unprecedented trade and budget deficits along with abysmally low savings rates, and the associated skyrocketing foreign debt; unsustainable
and gluttonous energy consumption; an uncompetitive educational system; and the threat to our collective future from the proliferation of nuclear warfare materials.

“I have been around a very long time, and I have never seen so many simultaneous challenges that I would describe as undeniable, unsustainable and virtually untouchable politically,” said Mr. Peterson, Senior Chairman of The Blackstone Group and former U.S. Commerce Secretary. “We’ve reached the make or break point in American history. These problems have reached tidal proportions and festered for more than two decades due to political irresponsibility — now is the time to put politics aside and put the country first, and begin to solve these problems with courage and clarity. This is the moment in our history when we do what is necessary to remain a first class country.”

Leading the new foundation as President and CEO will be David M. Walker, 56, who has served as Comptroller General of the United States for the last nine plus years, during which he has headed the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and has been in effect the USA’s chief accountability officer. Mr. Walker will work directly with Mr. Peterson and the Directors of the Foundation in setting the Foundation’s goals and priorities as well as running the organization’s day-to-day activities.

“Dave Walker is an ideal choice to lead this foundation because he has tremendous focus, credibility and insight. He has a track record of commitment to these issues and is leaving a front row seat at the center of our government, where he acquired an insider’s knowledge of and perspective on America’s long-term fiscal and other challenges and the factors that influence them,” said Peterson. “Dave fully understands the stakes for our future, and I am confident he will serve as a powerful, credible, non-partisan and no-nonsense voice of reason on behalf of the Foundation and our mission.”

The Peterson Foundation will focus on drawing attention to and solving the most critical social, economic and environmental problems that threaten the nation’s economy and imperil the American way of life for future generations. The Foundation will seek innovative means to advance its agenda, relying on both traditional and non-traditional platforms to spread its message and call Americans to action. When fully staffed, the Foundation will engage or employ policy advocates, field educators, and digital media professionals in order to mobilize key constituencies and develop programs to support its agenda. Critical to the Foundation’s efforts will be engaging and activating young Americans and their parents, the business community and the media.

The Foundation will finance efforts to raise public awareness and understanding, as well as develop and implement sensible policy solutions. The Foundation today announced the first two recipients of grants will be: The Concord Coalition for the Fiscal Wake-up Tour and Sam Nunn’s Nuclear Threat Initiative (in partnership with Warren Buffett). A number of other grant possibilities are currently being considered.

Peterson believes the nation’s political leadership has fallen prey to short-term thinking and lacks the courage to clearly spell out the difficulties, contributing to a state of denial. “If Americans are told the truth, and if they feel the required sacrifices for our common future are fairly shared, I have enormous faith that they will respond with a commitment to identify and implement the right solutions,” Mr. Peterson said.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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  1. Is there still time to keep America preeminent economically? Is there still an opportunity to reverse the trends of budget deficits at all levels of government, and the dismal rate of high school graduation?

    I am hopeful that enough people of knowledge, achievement and empathy will participate in becoming part of the solution. The Peter G. Peterson foundation may just be the catalyst this country needs to keep the American dream alive for future generations.

    Herbert Molano

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