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Who Will Take the Stage at SECF's 49th Annual Meeting?



This November, SECF members will converge on Louisville, Kentucky, for an Annual Meeting focused on philanthropy’s role in bringing people together to address the challenges facing our communities. At the 49th Annual Meeting: Come Together. Bridge the Divide. we will explore how foundations operate in a polarized environment and also look inward, examining what grantmakers can do – and can do better – in order to best help the South and its people.

This year’s theme is clearly reflected in our lineup of keynote and plenary speakers, each of whom will be able to speak to this moment in our country’s history, while also offering insights on the importance of community and the need to invest in our future.

Our opening keynote speaker, Mark Gerzon, is author of 2016’s The Reunited States of America: How We Can Bridge the Partisan Divide. At a time when partisan politics seems to color every aspect of life, Gerzon offers real-world examples of how citizens of all political stripes have found common ground on some of the most divisive and difficult issues we face today – issues that philanthropy can help address in powerful ways.

This year’s closing keynote, Lonnie Ali, is a strong champion and advocate for her hometown of Louisville, but also a national leader recognized for her work in support of people with Parkinson’s disease. Ali is also a lifetime director at The Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, dedicated to preserving and sharing the legacy of one of the most famous and inspiring athletes in American history.

Interviewing Lonnie Ali will be Michael McAfee, president and CEO of PolicyLink, a national research and action institute advancing racial and economic equity. A previous Annual Meeting speaker, McAfee has led PolicyLink since 2011. In that time, the organization has emerged as a national leader in building cradle-to-career systems that ensure children and youth in our nation’s most distressed communities have a pathway into the middle class. McAfee is also the catalyst for the creation of the Corporate Racial Equity Advantage, the first comprehensive tool to guide private sector companies in assessing and actively promoting equity in every aspect of their business operations and strategy.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and presidential historian Jon Meacham will join us in Louisville as our Thursday afternoon plenary speaker. His latest book, The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels, will be released May 7. The book takes readers through America’s past, showing that periods of intense partisanship are not new – and have always given way to periods of progress and unity. Meacham’s book also devotes significant space to people, causes and controversies rooted in the Southeast, from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement – and beyond.

The last day of the Annual Meeting will begin with a plenary session featuring Dr. William C. Bell, president and CEO of Casey Family Programs. Since 2006, Dr. Bell, a Mississippi native, has led Casey’s efforts to influence long-lasting improvements to the safety and success of children, families and communities throughout the country. Dr. Bell has devoted much of his career to child welfare, including extensive experience on the front lines as part of New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services.

These speakers, of course, are just the start of what awaits you at the Annual Meeting! In the weeks ahead, we’ll announce other speakers and sessions – including who will be on the stage at this year’s Breakfast of Champions!

Registration for the 49th Annual Meeting will open Tuesday, May 15. Come back to SECF.org for more news about this year’s agenda. We can’t wait to welcome you to Louisville!

David Miller is SECF's director of marketing and communications.

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