Bruce Lansdale Memorial Part 2







In re-making the American Farm School to fit the post-war era, Bruce Lansdale knew that he could not do it alone, especially in a world where the values on which the School was founded found little support from the general public. The success of the institution preparing students combining high ethical values who would also be competent conducting their business in today’s world could only be accomplished with a strong and supportive board of trustees. Trustees of institutions like the American Farm School are more valuable than gold. What are the qualities which make for greatness in a trustee?

Qualities which make for greatness in a trustee

On November 7, 1985 at a Board of Trustees dinner honouring Mr. Henry R. Labouisse, Bruce Lansdale suggested that the following qualities contribute to greatness in a trustee:

  • Intimacy with the institution and staff, which stops short of involvement with their duties and responsibilities.
  • A deep concern tempered by objectivity.
  • A generosity of spirit guided by strong principles.
  • Inspired leadership which can delegate authority.
  • Concentration on detail as a guide to policy formation.
  • Compassion for staff and associates which doesn’t interfere with administration.
  • Cultivation of an outlook that deals with problems rather than personalities.
  • An involvement and concern for the students and other participants which reflects the institution’s primary goal.
  • Dedication to the institution’s mission with flexibility toward implementation of its goals.
  • The capacity to look at every side of every issue and then every side of every side.
  • Ability to verbalize the aims of the organization combined with an empathetic spirit which can listen as well as speak.
  • A willingness to sacrifice oneself which doesn’t demand a reward in return.
  • An eagerness and sense of pleasure in the endeavor which reflect on the spirit of the institution.
  • A realization that there is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.
  • An enthusiasm for the institution’s programs which is contagious to those involved.
  • A recognition that as in all strong federations there must be a meeting of hearts even if there is not necessarily total agreement of minds.
  • A primary interest in the creative potential of the institution rather than in its possessive nature.
  • A delight in the adventure of guiding its programs rather than a continual emphasis on its physical acquisitiveness.
  • A dogged devotion to the task of trusteeship – be it managing investments, understanding the nuts and bolts of the operation, providing specific assistance on fund raising, a devotion which does not stand in the way of the responsibilities of the staff.
  • A deep love for the institution which leads to a concentration by everyone involved on individual strengths rather than weaknesses.


Henry Richardson Labouisse, the perfect Trustee

Henry R. Labouisse, first visited the American Farm School in 1963 after being appointed U.S. Ambassador to Greece. Later that year he was elected a member of the Board of Trustees and in 1980 he assumed the Chairmanship following his retirement from Unicef, the United Nations International Childrens’ Emergency Fund, which as an organization, won the Nobel Peace prize while Mr. Labouisse served as its Executive Director.

Speaking of Mr. Labouisse’s role at the School, Bruce Lansdale said: “Harry was the perfect Trustee. He was intimate with the institution and staff but stopped short of involvement with their duties and responsibilities. He had a deep concern for the School tempered by objectivity. He was generous in spirit but guided by strong principles. He inspired leadership but delegated authority. He could focus on details and understand their implications for policy formation. He had the capacity to look at every side of an issue, and yet come to a conclusion. He would give himself without thought of reward or personal interest. He realized that there was no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit. He took a real delight in guiding the School’s program without any sense of physical acquisitiveness. He had a dogged devotion to the task of Trusteeship, whatever the assignment, whatever the problem, and so inspired other Trustees to function at the highest limits of their abilities as well.”

Henry Richardson Labouisse, the man


Address of Henry R. Labouisse

at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine

October 12, 1980

“The series of sermons, ‘For the Peace of the World’, comes at a particularly crucial time. A perilous war is at this very moment being fought in the Middle East; elsewhere, some countries are occupied by the armed forces of other nations; millions of people on four continents are refugees from violence and upheaval; and we hear an alarming amount of talk about increased armament and military build-ups.

The series is for United States Ambassadors, and you may wonder why a non-UN Ambassador should be addressing you today. When I asked “Why”, Dean Morton said that he would like me to talk about some of the social and economic problems which undermine the hopes for world peace.

When I look back upon the past forty years, during which I alternately served with the United States Government and the United Nations, I find that the issues of war and peace have been constantly with me, even though my work was – most of the time – removed from direct political action.

The Marshall Plan, with which I was associated, was a vast rescue operation aimed at bringing back economic health to the European countries ravaged by World War II. In the fifties, I found myself heading the United Nations agency dealing with one million Palestinian refugees in four countries of the Near East – the victims of a bitter conflict still unresolved today. The Cyprus problem, also still unresolved and aggravated, was already brewing twenty years ago when I served in Greece.

In 1965, I joined UNICEF – by definition a non-political agency. In the fifteen years of my tenure, the issues of war and peace came to me and my colleagues in two different ways:

First, UNICEF was repeatedly called upon to assist children – and sometimes large groups of population of all ages – during emergencies resulting either from natural disasters or from armed conflicts such as the civil war in Nigeria, the Vietnam war, the strife which brought about the independence of Bangladesh and, very recently, the war in Cambodia (now renamed Kampuchea). In such situations, UNICEF helps children wherever they can be reached, on all sides of the conflicts, without regard to race, religion or political beliefs. As an example, my last official field trip as Executive Director of UNICEF took me, last November, to Phnom Penh and our assistance programs inside Kampuchea, then to Vietnam, then back to Bangkok and the vast relief operation in the camps sheltering hundreds of thousands of displaced Cambodians along the Thailand border.

But what I want most to comment upon this morning is the other kind of potential threat to peace that UNICEF’s work for children in the 100 poorest countries of the world has brought constantly and vividly before my eyes.

It is what I have sometimes called the “quiet emergency” – a situation which persists from year to year without making headlines. It is the shocking contrast between the way of life which exists for most people in industrial countries and the deprivation, hunger and extreme poverty which affects about one billion men, women and children in the developing world.

The staggering statistics vary, of course, from country to country – but here are a few bare facts concerning the majority of the developing countries:

  • The infant mortality rate is from 5 to 10 times that of the industrialized countries; life expectancy at birth is almost one third shorter;
  • About one-fourth of the population suffer from malnutrition; millions, particularly children, die as a result of malnutrition each year;
  • It is estimated that only about 20% of the rural populations live within walking distance – say five or six miles – of any kind of adequate health facility; most of the people live and die – often tragically young – without ever receiving any modern health care;
  • About three-quarters of the rural population has no access to safe water;
  • In the poorest countries, a third of the children of primary school age (and nearly half of the girls) are not going to school.


Such are the realities of life in vast areas of our planet. Let us remember that prolonged deprivations – emotional as well as physical – endured by children during their early years can result in permanent damage. They can also engender bitter frustrations which provide fertile ground for future conflicts. I have difficulty in erasing from my memory a parade of children I attended not too long ago in an African town. Groups of children carried signs and banners, most of them optimistically worded, praising cleanliness, safe water, good studies at school. But there was one very different sign, carried by a little boy, which said: “I wept the day I was born, and every day explains why.”

It is indeed a cruel irony that the simplest human needs should so often be given low priority in the development process, and I would like to comment briefly upon some of the reasons why considerable efforts made so far have had only limited results:

  • In many cases, when big projects were started in developing countries to build up national infrastructure and industry, the expected social and human benefits have not, in fact, ‘trickled down’ to the poorest levels of society – to the villagers and slum dwellers. Most of them are just as poor as before.
  • Besides, the efforts made by developing countries have often been based on sophisticated and expensive models from the industrialised world. In very poor countries, the shortage of trained personnel and the lack of funds have made it impossible to extend essential services as health and basic education beyond a small percentage of the population.
  • Moreover, in many countries, rapid population growth automatically cancels even the slender progress that is being made toward meeting the needs of the poorest communities.


As if all these problems were not bad enough, some recent events have added new and formidable obstacles to their solution. In his 1980 report, the President of the World Bank, Robert McNamara, emphasized the deterioration of global economic prospects and the resulting very grave consequences for those developing countries which must import oil and which, at all times, have limited resources and fragile economies. For these countries, in the past two years alone, the new surge in oil prices has more than doubled the cost of importing energy. Simultaneously, the continuing recession in the industrialized nations is severely limiting demands for Third World exports. Mr. McNamara stresses that there will have to be major adjustments in the policies of all countries and a sustained effort on the part of the world community to make possible a vigorous economic recovery. The developing countries themselves, of course, will have to carry the main burden of the effort, but they will need all the help they can get.

I will not discuss further such complex economic problems, but I do want to say a few words about the change of emphasis which is already taking place in the social and human sectors of the development effort. There is more and more recognition of the fact that new methods must be used to bring to the populations most in need the essential services they have never known so far. The idea is to enlist the active participation of the communities themselves, at the level of the villages and the city slums, in order to make relatively simple services – such as primary health care and basic education – available to all deprived areas at low overall costs. For several years, the World Health Organization and UNICEF have been promoting this approach, particularly in the field of primary health care. A somewhat similar approach has been used for a long time in China, where an immense population seems to be reached by most essential services.

If we try to appraise the results of the multinational development effort in the past 30 years, we find a mixture of good and less good. Some important progress has been and is being made: for example, in the 38 lowest income countries, life expectancy at birth has increased from about 42 years in 1960 to 50 years in 1978 – reflecting a substantial reduction in infant and child mortality. Another example relates to the improvement of the social status and education of women and girls, an absolutely crucial factor in the entire development process. It is estimated that the percentage of girls enrolled in primary schools in those countries has almost doubled since 1960.

On the other hand, there have also been tragic difficulties and delays – and some failures. But, the experience of the last decades should not discourage us; rather, we should learn from it, try new approaches and seek with determination to vastly increase and broaden the scope of our efforts.

To me, the heart of the matter is this:

Will the decision makers, in both affluent and poor countries, have the foresight and political will to place as one of their principal objectives the breaking up of the cycle  of poverty and misery which keep in bondage the deprived populations of the Third World? If the will is there, the means then must be found, for concrete solutions are perfectly possible. Just to take one example: widespread malnutrition exists in several continents, yet our planet does not really lack food. Even during the worst famine years for some developing countries in the 1970s, the world as a whole was growing more food than was necessary to feed adequately every man, woman and child on the earth. The same is true for other basic resources, for energy, for water. As pointed out by the eminent British economist Barbara Ward:

“The failure of world society to provide a ‘safe and happy life’ for all is not caused by any present lack of physical resources. The problem today is not one of absolute physical shortage but of economic and social mal-distribution and misuse.”

This may be the time for us Americans to take a look at our own record.

The United States is a great and generous country which has accomplished miracles to help less fortunate nations and individuals. Among the American public, and particularly among our young people, there is great concern about problems such as the environment, world hunger, human rights, the plight of refugees that we have welcomed here by the hundreds of thousands. But those same public-spirited and sensitive Americans probably do not realize that, as a provider of foreign assistance to the Third World, our contributions have steadily declined to a level that our former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance recently qualified as “disgraceful”. Measured as a percentage of our gross national product, our total foreign aid assistance puts the U.S. today in the fifteenth place out of the seventeen non-communist major industrial countries. The communist countries, of course, are way behind us all. In 1965, the U.S. was in third place. In the days of the Marshall Plan, the U.S. was overwhelmingly the first, and almost the only provider.

Foreign aid has no American constituency benefiting directly from it and, in this election year, I do not hear any voice raised by candidates in its favor. What I do hear are repeated pleas to increase our military expenditure which will amount this year to more than $150 billion. In this trend we are not alone. The increase of military power seems to dominate world priorities and, for the eighth year in a row, world military expenditure increased faster than the rate of inflation: the total of such expenditures in the world is estimated at more than $500 million this year – about one million dollars a minute.

I am enough of a realist to know that, at this dangerous time of history, all nations, including our own, must be able to defend themselves against potential adversaries. But I am profoundly convinced that, by neglecting or postponing the indispensable offensive against extreme poverty, against malnutrition, disease, illiteracy, unemployment, we are, in the long run, putting all our societies – rich and poor – in the greatest peril. In our closely interdependent world, it will simply not be possible to prolong indefinitely a situation where poor and extremely populous countries are getting poorer, while affluent ones are getting richer and consume an extravagant proportion of our planet’s resources. Economic and human contrasts of such magnitude are, to my mind, basically more dangerous to world stability than are ideological differences or military build-ups.

As we all know, it is not only in the Third World that the fight for an acceptable quality of life must be carried on. Contrasts between rich and the needy exist not only between countries but within each nation. We too, in the United States, have our poor and hungry, and it would not take us too many steps outside this great cathedral to find areas of acute human deprivation. Moreover, some problems such as drug addiction, vandalism, crime and violence, child abuse, appear to be on the increase in industrial countries – as a result, perhaps, of the frustrations of life in large cities and of the gradual disappearance of traditional family values.

At a time of recession and inflation, of mounting prices, of high unemployment and political uncertainties, many Americans are, at this moment, justifiably concerned by their own difficulties. Even if our government and the Congress had the foresight to place greater emphasis on measures aimed at relieving human suffering and improving the quality of life, it would be awfully tempting to try to deal first with the problems of our country and to postpone action in the rest of the world.

I, for one, do not believe that we are at liberty to make such a choice. We can and should carry the fight on both fronts: the first reason is that when poverty and deprivation among great masses of humanity get down to the level of widespread hunger, remedies simply cannot wait; the second reason is that, while we are part of any global solution because of our capacity for aid, we are also part of the problem because of our extremely high standard of living and excessive consumption. It is also, I venture to say, a matter of conscience. Commenting on the industrial countries’ imperative responsibility for sharing the world resources with less fortunate nations, Willy Brandt, the former Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, once said:

“Morally, it makes no difference whether a man is killed in war or is condemned to starve to death by the indifference of others.”

So what can we, as individuals, do about all this?

In the first place, those of us in a position to do so can share more of our material resources and devote much more of our work and our time to helping those in need. But, above all, let us raise our voices to make clear to our political and other leaders that we want a re-ordering of our national priorities – that our policies must give much more attention and concrete support toward meeting the essential needs, at home and abroad, of the vast number of people now living in crushing poverty, with little or no hope for the future.

A final word to conclude. Projections for the world’s population by the end of this century – only twenty years from now – are that our planet Earth will then have 6 billion inhabitants. About 40% will be children under 15 years of age. This gives us an idea of the dimension and the urgency of the work to be done. I pray that the generations of the next century will live in societies less cruel than our own and that there will be a great deal more justice and a great deal more peace all over the world.”

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