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Letter from Cambridge: Sending the Elevator Back Down

Michael Weishan '86

The other day while randomly flicking through channels, I caught a glimpse of an interview with Kevin Spacey. He’d been asked a question about why he spends so much free time working with young actors. His answer was remarkable. Quoting mentor Jack Lemmon ’47, Spacey said: “I believe that if you have been successful in the business you wanted to be successful in, and if you have achieved a lot of the dreams you’ve dreamed… it’s your obligation… to send the elevator back down.”

Sending the elevator back down.

For years, I’ve been looking for a simple way to describe the work we do at the Foundation. It’s various and variable, covering fields as diverse as historic preservation, educational programming, scholarships, and non-partisan research to acquaint our students (and alumni) with the daunting challenges we face as a College, a nation and a globe to successfully transit the 21st century. But I couldn’t have found a better phrase than this: Sending the elevator back down.

That’s what we do. Plain and simple. We — in this case, I, a dedicated group of alumni, our House Masters, our affiliated faculty, you, our alumni supporters — we all attempt to take some of the incredible good fortune we’ve experienced and pass that forward. Whether that’s through exploring the path to global health equity with Larry Summers and Dean Julio Frenk, gathering our students fireside in the Suite to talk openly and intimately with world leaders, preserving our memories in the Gold Coaster, or working to extend the history and legacy of FDR at Harvard, we strive to make fruitful the fields of our future.

But to continue, we need your help. Over the last year, we have nearly doubled our historic preservation, educational programming, and scholarships due to exceptional demand. Requests to tour the Suite now come almost weekly; our student seminars have expanded in number from one to twelve; our Global Fellowship summer study grants from one to three. Yet individual contributions supporting these efforts have fallen sharply. A common perception is that we receive substantial funds from the University or from major corporate sponsors. We don’t. We do all this solely through the contributions of dedicated volunteers and the generosity of people like you.

Now, I’d like to ask you, fellow Adamsians, to consider helping our efforts. (Or, if you already have in the past, to do so again.) There are many easy ways to do this, from sustaining monthly gifts via credit card, to direct donation of money, of airline frequent flyer miles, of stocks, bonds, or securities. We’re a registered 501(c)3, and for US residents, your contributions are tax deductible.

I know you receive appeals from many quarters. But we like to think that this very special place, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Foundation, nestled in the best of all the houses, Adams, in the bosom of the world’s top university, Harvard, is in a unique position to allow us to shape the talent of the future.

Please help us make sure the next elevator up is packed to capacity.