For a long time it seemed that the free society and the good society could be realized together in America.

This, I think, was the American dream.

–Richard C. Cornuelle
Reclaiming the American Dream


The United States is one of the most prosperous, enterprising, and philanthropic nations in world history. Gift-giving has deep roots in human history, but it has been in America where the possibility of a truly philanthropic society—a society in which people freely embrace their shared humanity and elevate what it means to be human—has come closest to reality.

In the minds of many today, however, humanity and freedom seem to be in tension. Responsibility for social welfare has accrued to bureaucracies (both governmental and nonprofit) and away from communities, voluntary self-help associations, and religious institutions.

Yet the remote, hierarchical, paternalistic entities of the twentieth century—whether governmental,commercial, or nonprofit—are increasingly brittle and ineffective. As a result, people are rediscovering their desire and ability to work together to create prosperity, educate their children, address neighborhood problems, and extend a genuinely helping hand to the poor.

Millions of Americans—indeed, millions of people in communities around the world—are envisioning and creating new ways for humanity and freedom to advance hand-in-hand. They are reclaiming the American dream.

The Philanthropic Enterprise seeks to document and support this emerging sense of hope– and to renew the belief that the day-to-day actions of ordinary people can add up to make a better world.