On Friday the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (WWICS) announced that local kingpins Peter Secchia and Rich DeVos are recipients of this year's Woodrow Wilson Awards. Secchia is receiving the award for public service in honor of his role as ambassador to Italy during the first Bush administration many moons ago. DeVos is getting the nod for [ahem] corporate citizenship.
Yes, dear readers, I know your eyes are rolling at the idea of DeVos getting recognition as a model coporate citizen when he is the man who perverted the American dream into the Amway multi-level marketing scheme and never put a dime into any public project in River City unless there was business angle for either him or his late partner, but you need to understand the purpose of the Woodrow Wilson Awards. It's a fundraising gimmick for the WWICS.
The WWICS is a creature of the federal government. It was created in 1968 as a "living memorial" to the allegedly idealistic public policy-making of our 28th president, Woodrow Wilson. (Funny how Wilson's implementation of racial segregation in federal employment is one of his "idealistic" policies that doesn't get much mention.) Your federal tax dollars subsidize 45% of the center's budget. The remainder has to come from donations.
So the fund-raising arm of the WWICS targets a community with a couple of bigwigs with plenty of deep-pocket friends and hangers-on to hand out the Woodrow Wilson Awards to those bigwigs at a benefit dinner. This year the WWICS put River City in its sites to raise funds from Secchia, DeVos, and friends at a celebration on April 19th at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. In the recent past the WWICS targeted Portland, Oregon, and downriver Detroit in the same way.
All to what end? Well, when was the last you heard of a policy paper from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars? Hmm. I'm sure what they do there is all too high-minded for working-stiff taxpayers like us to know about, let alone understand. At least we can take comfort that the WWICS provides pleasant sinecures for distinguished ex-congressmen, like the current executive director, Lee Hamilton of Indiana.