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United Way Kicks Off ‘Democracy in America’ Series To Encourage a Healthy Democracy Positioned to Meet Our Community’s Biggest Challenges

The Jan. 18 gathering featured Mike Rawlings, former mayor of Dallas, and Margaret Spellings, president and CEO of the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center.

January 23, 2024

2024 is an important year for United Way in Dallas, as well as for North Texas and our country. As our organization continues the march toward our Centennial Anniversary, we will also be closely watching this year’s presidential race, local elections and ballot measures, as well as other significant decisions that could impact education, income and health across the region.

At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we encourage all North Texans to take an active role in our democracy—because it takes a healthy democracy to advance the type of meaningful change we are working to create for our neighbors in this growing region.

Panel Discussion: Jason Downing, Margaret Spellings, Mike Rawlings

On January 18 we hosted the first event in the non-partisan Tocqueville Democracy in America series—an opportunity for our most engaged donors and investors to hear from high-profile speakers from different sectors of industry, government and philanthropy about the foundational principles that support our community impact work in North Texas. We were honored to feature two leaders with civic, community, government and policy expertise—and with strong ties to North Texas—who are investing in the future of our democracy both nationally and at home:

  • Margaret Spellings, president and CEO of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
  • Mike Rawlings, former mayor of Dallas and chairman of the Texas Delegation for No Labels 2024

The event included an insightful panel discussion featuring Rawlings and Spellings and moderated by Jason Downing, chief operating officer, Client & Market Growth at Deloitte LLP and co-chair of the Ruth Sharp Altshuler Tocqueville Circle. The conversation offered a rare opportunity to engage our Tocqueville audience in thought-provoking discussions on some of the most important topics on the minds of Americans, including North Texans.

More than 100 members of the $25,000 Circle of the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas Ruth Sharp Altshuler Tocqueville Society, as well as other distinguished guests, were in attendance. The event also included a curated art tour of Old Parkland, hosted by Michael Levy, chief executive officer of Crow Holdings.

Thank you to our 2023-2024 Tocqueville volunteer leadership for helping to make our first Democracy in America event a success:

  • Laura and Jason Downing, co-chairs, Ruth Sharp Altshuler $25,000 Tocqueville Circle
  • Erin Nealy Cox and Trey Cox, co-chairs, Ruth Sharp Altshuler Tocqueville Society
  • Mike Hsu, chair, Ruth Sharp Altshuler $100,000 Tocqueville Circle
  • Michelle Horton, chair, Women of Tocqueville

Jennifer Sampson, McDermott-Templeton president and CEO of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, explained that the Tocqueville Democracy in America series is designed to underscore the observations of Alexis de Tocqueville, a distinguished political thinker and sociologist who conducted a comprehensive study of America in the early 1800s.

“We believe that the sense of community cooperation and belonging as articulated by Tocqueville is essential to societal progress,” she said. “United Way’s focus on creating the access and opportunity for every North Texan to thrive drives our Aspire United 2030 goals, which require significant investment that transcends the capacity of foundations, corporations, philanthropists and other partners alone.” In other words, Sampson said, “Transformational goals like ours require transformational funding—the kind of funding associated with public dollars and public policy. And we know that public funding, and public policy, is influenced by an informed and educated population who are engaged in a healthy and functioning democracy—a democracy like the one admired and espoused by Alexis de Tocqueville himself.”

“Both Laura and Jason are personally generous to United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and make our work a philanthropic priority in their family,” she said. “The Downings never rest on their laurels. They push us to be excellent. They raise the bar, and they encourage us try new things, like launching the Tocqueville Democracy in America series. The Downings make our community stronger and we are eternally grateful.”

The event closed with an update on the 2023-2024 United Way of Metropolitan Dallas Campaign from Curt Farmer, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Comerica and United Way’s Annual Campaign chair. Farmer reported that, with continued community support, we are on track to achieve our fundraising goal this year, thanks in part to the recent generosity of supporters like Tom and Karen Falk and corporate partners that include PepsiCo Foods North America, and many others.

Stay tuned for details on upcoming Democracy in America events, which will be held in the lead-up to and throughout our Centennial Anniversary. Future panels will be just as compelling and will focus on how prominent business, community and media leaders are investing in longer-term efforts to guard, protect and invest in our democracy.


Join the Tocqueville Society

The Ruth Sharp Altshuler Tocqueville Society is a powerful force for good that includes some of our most generous supporters. Click below to learn more about joining this incredible group of change agents.