Update From the Foundation

Let’s go to work

December 9, 2016

Version 2

Below are remarks delivered by Compton Foundation Vice-President, Rebecca DiDomenico, at the December 1, 2016 reception for the Foundation’s Women, Peace, and Security Initiative partners in Washington DC.

 Welcome everyone and thank you for being here.  I have a story to share with you this evening:

When I was a young girl visiting my grandmother in New York, she led me up to the attic to play games once cherished by my mother and her brothers. While I played, my grandmother would spend hours perusing through trunks where she stored her epistemological writings.  I remember very vividly, the time she read me the letter that was written to her upon the death of her youngest son, John Parker Compton when he was only nineteen.  She read it out loud until she reached the part where the heartbreaking sentence lurked, that he was shot down by a sniper. Her voice trailed off and she choked over the words as her tears fell onto the letter.  As a young child, I don’t think I understood her grief as originating from the senseless killing inherent in all war, but certainly witnessing her profound sorrow made an indelible mark that has stayed with me all these years.

When I joined the Compton Foundation board over eighteen years ago, I began to experience first hand what my grandparents had selflessly created out of that life changing tragedy.  Their devotion to activism was the alchemizing agent that transformed grief into not just intellectual idealism but deep, heartfelt and practical acts in the service of humanity.

As an artist, I am not a stranger to activism as it has always been at the center of my own transformational practices.  So, becoming part of a board was not just another iteration of that service but an amazing opportunity to expand my sense of philanthropy.  I have always known that civil societies rely on the unique consciousness of an artist to envision, reframe and enrich the state of the world.

Toni Morrison writes…

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work.  There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear.  We speak, we write, we do language, we make art, that is how civilizations heal.”

Shortly after Obama was elected, and in the aftermath of a hugely challenging Bush administration, I was walking through a beautiful California forest with our executive director, Ellen Friedman, dreaming of bold moves that might help turn our country around.  It became clear that networking grant opportunities could be more impactful in our areas of interest and the Women, Peace and Security Initiative was born.

The more we learned about this field and the growing body of research that under grids it, the more it seemed like the perfect fit for the innovative, cutting edge work that the foundation has been engaged with throughout its history.  Because peace is inextricably linked with equality between women and men, it follows that gender equality should be elevated to a core issue.  So, instead of reacting fearfully to the inevitability of rising and falling political administrations, I believe we need to live by the guiding feminine principles of life, relationship, conflict resolution, spirituality and governance of the head bowing to the heart.

During my tenure as board President, we were gifted the time and space to re-envision our mission as a Foundation through the lens of courageous storytelling.  Supporting visionary leaders and others working in the cultural spaces to bring about social change

stirred our collective awareness and compassion.  Stories are what makes us human.  Luminous metaphors and shared archetypes bring us into accord with one another, to make whole pictures out of apparent fragments and dualities.  Storytelling is the invisible bridge that we walk across as we learn about one another.

I am beyond happy to be standing here amongst such beautiful, courageous people: People with the heart, the creativity and the drive to see through the limitations of the collective consciousness.  Leaders, visionaries, artists and filmmakers who are telling a different story, stories that bring light to the unique role of women in the peace and security movement, stories that value and teach empathy, compassion and connection in the face of disconnection and discrimination.  It is no secret that the voices of creatives have the capacity to illuminate dark times.

Dostoevsky wrote simply,  “This world will be saved by beauty.”   Not some ideal external beauty, but the deep and abiding truth inside us all when we stand unified in love.  The way each of us is aware of our own inner life, our spirituality is key to the real revolution.

Therefore, I am deeply grateful to be here with all of you who have dedicated your lives to, not just some abstract version of peace but to the authentic work of building peace internally and joyfully witnessing its external reverberation into the world.

Arundhati Roy (ah-ruun-dah-tee) said it this way,

“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it.  To deprive it of oxygen.  To shame it.  To mock it.  With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness– and our ability to tell our own stories.  Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.

The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling–their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.

Remember this:  We be many and they be few.  They need us more that we need them.

“Another world is possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

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