Ever since George Soros announced that I would take the helm of the Open Society Foundations, people have asked me if I have a particular goal that I would like to accomplish here.
The answer is both yes and no.
Throughout my career, the work I have found most satisfying has been to help to clear away the obstacles that prevent oppressed people from making their voices heard and their power felt. That’s why I worked to build a new kind of public defender service in Harlem in New York City, and it's why I worked over many years at the Vera Institute of Justice on the transformation of South Africa’s justice system. It’s why I’ve been doing work while at Harvard with government officials and civil society leaders in Papua New Guinea, Jamaica, and other young nations.
So, yes, I hope to continue that work at the Open Society Foundations; but, no, that’s not really my job. My job is not to pursue my personal vision, but to let those we support pursue theirs.
When George Soros created the Foundations, he placed an enormous amount of trust in the people he met on the ground. He saw people trying to make their own societies more open, and he wanted to provide them with the resources to sustain their fight.
From the very beginning, the Open Society Foundations have focused on furthering the goals and ambitions of such people, in South Africa and Eastern Europe at the start, and today in virtually every part of the world. My job, like all the jobs within the Open Society Foundations, is a privilege, a trust, and a responsibility—a responsibility to keep at the fore the goals of the people on whose behalf we work. It’s not about pursuing my own ambitions, but leading an organization that supports the ambitions of people overlooked in their own societies, oppressed by their own governments, or simply striving to fulfill the promises of our time.
It is the success of their quests—not mine—that will be the true test of my tenure at the Foundations.