Spring 2024 Bulletin

From the President

A headshot of David W. Oxtoby, a man with short gray hair. Oxtoby wears a white dress shirt with a navy blue tie and gray suit.
Photo by Martha Stewart Photography.

As I write this final Bulletin message of my presidency, my thoughts about endings seem to naturally wander back to beginnings. In my first Annual Report message, I noted that upon taking on the role of president of the Academy in 2019, I quickly came to appreciate that the true essence of the Academy lies in building connections among our community of members—and the disciplines, experiences, and perspectives they represent.

What I could not conceive in 2019 was the nature of the remarkable journey on which our Academy was about to embark. Our members came together to ensure that the Academy rose to the unprecedented challenges of this era in the spirit that our founders intended in 1780. 

Little more than a year into my term as president, the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Thanks to this remarkable community of members, the Academy did not merely survive—it thrived. Our virtual events engaged more members in more places than ever before, we concluded a successful $100 million fundraising campaign—exceeding the goal ahead of schedule—and we convened our members to address the challenges that the pandemic posed in education, the arts, the sciences, international affairs, and more. 

Our members continued to convene to address each new challenge as it emerged. Incidents of police violence and the ensuing protests for racial justice inspired the Board to issue a rare public statement on anti-racism and to act on that statement through our membership diversity initiative and the new Legacy Recognition Program. The January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol underscored the importance of the Academy’s work to help strengthen democracy by implementing the recommendations in the 2020 Academy report, Our Common Purpose. The conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza lent new urgency to the work Academy members have been pursuing in the areas of humanitarian health assistance and in exploring the implications of such conflicts for the global nuclear order. And the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision overturning affirmative action had far-reaching implications for many Academy members and Affiliate institutions, who have been gathering regularly to assess the situation and collaborate on ways to respond.

Not only am I proud of how our members have come together to address these crises through the work of the Academy, but I am also awed by the many ways our members have individually helped to lead America and the world through this turbulent era. Included among our members are some of the pioneering researchers who helped develop the COVID-19 vaccines; leading voices for racial justice in academia, business, and philanthropy; dedicated public servants striving to strengthen democracy and resolve global conflicts; and education leaders working to ensure that young people have access to a more hopeful future.

I, for one, do have hope—and I have many of you to thank for that. It is a hope borne not only of what we have achieved together but also of what lies immediately before us, including Academy work in the areas of artificial intelligence, climate action, economic opportunity, higher education, international affairs, and the humanities and culture.

It has been the honor of a lifetime to join you on this journey as president, and I look forward to continuing it as an active member for many years to come. Thank you.

David W. Oxtoby