Point of View: Wilson Center Activities

by Michael Van Dusen, deputy director, Wilson Center

Jan 02, 2003

The Woodrow Wilson Center strives on a daily basis to commemorate the ideals and concerns of Woodrow Wilson by fostering research, study, discussion, and collaboration among a variety of individuals. A nonpartisan institution, the Wilson Center is engaged in the study of national and world affairs and promotes free, open, and informed dialogue. The Center is less interested in the headlines and more interested in understanding what is behind them, less interested in the immediate policy dilemmas and more interested in the shape of the next five years or more.

Energy, spirit, and diversity are quite apparent in any snapshot of life at the Center. Whether it is former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s November speech at the Center on access to fresh water as a fundamental human right, four members of the Center’s staff having an early December dialogue with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on key global challenges, or the NAFTA at Ten Conference looking back to look ahead, the Center has provided an important forum for the scholar, the policymaker, the businessperson, and the representative of the nongovernmental organization—a place to reflect on, discuss, and project today’s issues into the future.

With the generous and essential support of the United States Congress, a myriad of foundations, and hundreds of individuals, the Center tries to live up to its reputation to attract and maintain contacts with preeminent scholars and policymakers, and to study key issues of national and global governance, the role of the United States in the world, and future challenges. Center staff and scholars also deem it useful and relevant to delve into the historical context of today’s pressing public policy issues.

To round out a snapshot of recent life and work at the Center, it is worth mentioning the now signed Memorandum of Understanding between the Center and the Corporation for National and Community Service. This collaborative effort establishes a competition to award and administer a national service scholars program that promotes quality research on civil society, voluntarism, the nonprofit sector, and public policy in the United States. This tie provides the Center with the opportunity to work with another important and growing institution in Washington.

It is a pleasure to work in this superb Center, now a fixture on Pennsylvania Avenue, with its talented staff and the more than 150 scholars who are in residence during a year’s time. There is rarely a dull moment, and there are many good listeners. Participation and interest are always welcome.