Throughout their lifetimes, Donald and Joyce Rumsfeld have witnessed and benefited from the tremendous opportunities that free political and economic systems provide for individuals, as well as had a deep respect for the honor and dignity of public service. They have also seen the significant value of high quality leadership and understood the critical need for individuals of moral character and integrity to step up and serve in all sectors and walks of life, both in the United States and around the world.
Having had the opportunity to be involved in public service in a wide variety of capacities over six decades, including roles both military and civilian, domestic and international, legislative and executive, the Rumsfelds have a profound appreciation for those who serve their nation. To learn more about Don and Joyce Rumsfeld’s backgrounds, please visit our Leadership Page.
Following Donald Rumsfeld’s second tour as U.S. Secretary of Defense from 2001-2006, the Rumsfelds discussed starting a Foundation to focus some of their philanthropic efforts on a few key areas of interest where they were motivated to provide support and make an impact.
Prior to the creation of the Rumsfeld Foundation, the Rumsfelds had long been involved in philanthropy. To this day, the Rumsfeld Family Fund, previously the Joyce and Donald Rumsfeld Foundation founded in 1985, continues to support a wide range of charities from national parks and educational programs to cultural and health initiatives.
The Rumsfeld Foundation was established in 2007 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit private foundation.
At the outset, the Rumsfeld Foundation’s programs and support fell under four main focus areas: supporting the military, veterans, the fallen and their families; providing grants to U.S. graduate scholars interested in entering public service; providing Fellowships to rising leaders from Greater Central Asia to come to the U.S., as well as supporting microfinance organizations working with entrepreneurs in developing countries.
A gyroscope was chosen as the Foundation’s logo, reflecting the Rumsfelds' sense of optimism and belief in the guiding principles of the “inner gyroscope” of the individuals the Foundation would support – their centers of gravity continuing to guide them along paths of service, leadership and integrity.
As its programs have grown over the years, the Foundation’s mission and focus areas have evolved along with new developments and advances in its activities. Prior to entering its 10th year in operation in 2017, the Foundation shifted its focus areas to feature its two current key spheres of focus ̶ Public Service and Greater Central Asia. Moving forward, the Foundation aims to further support the young leaders involved in both Fellowship Programs in those realms and to continue to support the needs of returning veterans and the broader military community through top-rate organizations. With this increased focus on the Foundation’s core programming and growing alumni networks, the Foundation made its final grants to global microfinance organizations at the close of 2015. While no longer a part of its current work, the Foundation continues to believe in the efficacy and impact of microfinance in promoting self-sufficiency and creating economic opportunity for those in poverty around the world.
With this refined commitment to its two focus areas, today the Rumsfeld Foundation’s mission reads: Encouraging leadership, public service and free political and economic systems at home and abroad.
In honoring the opportunities afforded to the Rumsfelds by a country of free systems, the Foundation is dedicated to enhancing and creating new opportunities for individuals of character and integrity. In turn, the Foundation hopes that the individuals it supports will give back in service and leadership both in the U.S. and in countries around the world. The Foundation is also committed to honoring and encouraging those who step up to serve, both in and out of uniform.
SUPPORTING LEADERSHIP AND PUBLIC SERVICE
The Rumsfelds value the variety of opportunities they have experienced as part of the nation’s military community, through the eyes of the son of a service member, as a Navy pilot, as a military spouse and family, as well as a two-time U.S. Secretary of Defense. Given this background, the Foundation believes that providing support to the U.S. military community and their families, and honoring their service and sacrifice, is essential.
Alongside those leaders in uniform, dedicated civilian public servants are instrumental in shaping the future of our nation. The Rumsfelds have had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with talented and honorable public servants. Of particular note to the creation of the Foundation, during his second tour as Secretary of Defense, Don Rumsfeld learned that a number of his most skilled and reliable colleagues at the Pentagon were only able to receive their graduate-level education through financial assistance provided by a foundation. He saw how much that graduate education benefited those individuals, and in turn, enormously benefited the United States. It is critical that individuals of such caliber contribute their knowledge and talent in service to the country. Thus, the Rumsfelds determined that encouraging and supporting rising U.S. leaders interested in service or policy fields is of great value to our nation and its future.
ENCOURAGING FREE SYSTEMS
The Foundation firmly believes that free systems, both economic and political, provide the most opportunities for people around the world.
Rumsfeld often notes that one needs not look further than a satellite photo of the Korean peninsula to understand the stark difference between command economies and political systems and the ingenuity and opportunity that free systems encourage and provide.
With a respect and understanding for the fact that all nations have their own histories, cultures, neighbors and evolutions, as well as a firm belief that each nation needs to chart its own path, the Foundation does submit that moving towards freer political and economic systems is of benefit to all. Additionally, those nations that already benefit from free systems should support others around the world who are on their own journey in that direction.
While at varying stages and on individual national journeys of evolution, a region that the Foundation believes is important and should be engaged with and supported is that of Greater Central Asia, to include Central Asia, the South Caucasus, Afghanistan and Mongolia.
During his time as U.S. Secretary of Defense from 2001-2006, Rumsfeld traveled extensively in the Greater Central Asia region and recognized that it was an important region making a difficult transition. When he left office and considered what the Rumsfeld Foundation might focus on, he recalled meeting talented and interesting individuals during his visits to those countries, and reflected on the lack of interaction between the United States and the countries of the Greater Central Asia region. He concluded that it would be beneficial to focus on providing opportunities and building connections for rising regional leaders through a Fellowship Program in the United States.
Thus, the Central Asia-Caucasus Fellowship Program, established in 2008, connects talented rising leaders from across the 10 countries of the region, as well as fosters better understanding and stronger relations among the United States and the countries of the region. The Program provides unique opportunities for regional leaders and encourages them to contribute to their nation as well as to the development of the broader region.
The Foundation also supports the connectivity and activities of the Fellowship alumni's growing CAMCA (Central Asia-Mongolia-Caucasus-Afghanistan) network, to include hosting the annual CAMCA Regional Forums.
The story of the Rumsfeld Foundation is one intimately tied to the experiences and values of its founders. While the Foundation looks forward to the continued growth and advances of its programs and networks in the years ahead, the mission and commitment to encourage leadership, public service and free systems will always remain at the core of the Foundation’s efforts.