Photo by Jamie Thrower

Moving Forward

A Farewell Message From the President

President, Jennie Watson, reflects on her 18 years at the Haas, Jr. Fund including the last two years as president.

From the
Perspective Series

In my 18 years at the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, including the last two years as President, I have had the opportunity to witness firsthand the transformation that can happen when people stand up for fairness and justice. 

I have been inspired by the resilience and the determination of frontline leaders who are working every day to tackle tough and seemingly intractable problems, from homelessness and poverty to discrimination and inequality. And I have been alarmed, like so many others, by what has happened as our politics and our culture have become infected by division and hate. 

But as I step away from leading this organization at the end of 2018, I do so with confidence that the Haas, Jr. Fund and our partners will persist and ultimately succeed in the work of strengthening our communities and our country.

With a highly engaged and expanded Board of Directors, a visionary and energetic new President in Cathy Cha, and a dynamic and committed group of grantee partners, the Haas, Jr. Fund is ready to write a new chapter in its storied history of partnership and action to advance the bedrock values of fairness, equality and opportunity.   

These are the values that bind us as human beings and as neighbors. And I believe we can build a better, brighter future if we keep giving voice to these values, if we keep leading with facts and not letting others define them, and if we keep sharing stories that move people to action. 

Like the stories of Dreamers striving to get an education and support their immigrant families to thrive … or transgender Americans standing up for their humanity and their rights in the face of efforts to erase their very identity … or children in our local schools who deserve a high-quality public education so they can build rewarding, fulfilling lives. 

Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. believed that all people should be able to live and raise their families with dignity and respect, and they started this foundation to help build a society in earnest pursuit of this vision. In the middle of today’s considerable challenges and the daily affronts to the values so many of us hold dear, it’s a vision that can seem starry-eyed. 

But from the civil rights movement of the 1960s to this century’s struggle for marriage equality, I am inspired by how our country has shown time and again that we can drive out hate and darkness and open the door to love and light. I am also inspired by how the people of the San Francisco Bay Area continue to show the power of a community coming together—whether through the Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund or the public’s enduring support for Crissy Field.  

In another century, and at another time of division and uncertainty in our nation, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote, “Never give up, for that is just the time and the place that the tide will turn.” 

They are words to live by, and they remind us of what can happen when we lead with empathy and compassion, and when we keep working together for change.