Monday 23 March 2009

Dateline: Washington

Arrived in Washington for a week of meetings (25 in all!) with Not-For-Profits and Foundations, Think Tanks, academics and administration officials. Although planned for some time, it will be particularly useful to check out how the recession is playing out here, both for NFPs and for the Government. My splendid Director of Strategy, Seb Elsworth, is with me to keep me in check and ensure no diplomatic incidents!

It's the 4th Sunday in Lent; Mothering Sunday or Rose Sunday as it is often known, when the Priests wear rose coloured vestments. I spotted the Pope on a newscast here resplendent in a shimmering pink Chasuble; not a statement of his solidarity with the gay community unfortunately! We went to the Communion service at the National Cathedral which is Anglican. Obama came here for Prayers on Inauguration Day. Though the American Anglicans are impossibly PC (gluten free wafers I ask you!) the service was still much as it would have been in any Parish Church back home.

Indeed, when you get there it's as though you have been transported back to an English Cathedral Close, not unlike York Minster in fact. This is a Cathedral built in the traditional Anglo-Gothic style. Bodley, the English architect recommended by The Archbishop of Canterbury started it off in 1907. It was only finished in 1990; when I was here in 1974 they were still working on the West Towers and Rose Window.

It's a triumph of voluntary effort married with the professionalism of the skilled craftsmen and workers who built a Cathedral in the same way all our English Cathedrals were constructed: though this one has a gargoyle of Darth Vader. It took over 90 years of voluntary fundraising and not one dime of Federal help. The result is magnificent.

The similarities with the UK don't end with the Church though - the news here is all about the recession and in particular the row over the massive bonuses paid to the huge insurance giant AIG who have been bailed out by the taxpayer (or "you the taxpayer" as the newscasters always say). Congress is threatening to introduce taxes to claw them back. News is also leaking out of other banks who were bailed out and yet also payed large bonuses, and there are arguments about whether the Government should have known and stopped them. Amazingly AIG are also contesting a tax bill with the US Government! Obama is facing his first real criticism. His press conference on Tuesday evening is being heavily trailed.

So the arrogance of the banking and finance sectors is truly global. I guess I will see just how global are the issues facing the third sector.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

See the new CABE report published on 23rd March which proposes shifting grey expenditure (roads and airports) to green expenditure (trees, roofs etc) for excellent climate change reasons. You can plant millions of trees for that kind of money and help keep us cool as the planet warms. Link that to volunteers.