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Nancy & Bruce Mosbacher

In spring 2016, the Mosbachers made a $5 million gift to Stanford University to endow the directorship of Stanford’s Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL). PHOTO: Chrisman Studio

Strengthening Democracy Around the Globe

Spring 2016

"Americans generally think of themselves as exceptional only in a positive sense," says Francis Fukuyama. But "other democracies around the world in recent years have actually been working better than the United States in a lot of respects."

Thanks to a new gift by R. Bruce Mosbacher, '76, JD '79, and Nancy Ditz Mosbacher, '76, Stanford is expanding its work on issues of good governance around the world.

In spring 2016, the Mosbachers made a $5 million gift to Stanford University to endow the directorship of Stanford's Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL). CDDRL is one of six research centers at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), Stanford's premier research institute for the study of international issues. The Mosbacher Directorship at CDDRL is the first endowed directorship among FSI's centers.

"Democracy is facing challenging circumstances around the globe," Mr. Mosbacher explains. "The education and training of policy-driven leaders has never been more critically needed." Since 2002, CDDRL has collaborated with academics, policymakers, and practitioners around the world to understand how countries can overcome poverty, instability, and abusive rule to become prosperous, just, democratic, and well-governed states. 

"That [the Mosbacher Directorship] would be filled by Professor Fukuyama was a final and convincing factor in our consideration," says Mr. Mosbacher. Prof. Fukuyama, the Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at FSI and a world-renowned political theorist, recently published a two-volume work on political order and decay that has become, in the words of FSI senior fellow and former CDDRL director Larry Diamond, "a global phenomenon."

Prof. Fukuyama, who describes the Mosbachers' gift as transformative, has two priorities for his directorship: developing new ideas for effective political governance, and collaborating with practitioners to support on-the-ground implementation. His goal, he says, is "to bring actual change in improving the quality of democratic politics around the world."

Two unique CDDRL programs will help accomplish this goal. The Draper Hills Summer Fellows Program draws mid-career professionals to Stanford from all over the developing world for a three-week program of networking and academic training, while the Leadership Academy for Development (LAD) partners with institutions in developing countries to equip public officials with the tools they need to overcome context-specific barriers to policy change.

"A lot of people who have gone through these programs have gone on to play important leadership roles in furthering democratic governance in many different countries," says Prof. Fukuyama, who brought LAD to Stanford when he joined the faculty nearly seven years ago. For example, Laura Alonso, a 2012 Draper Hills Fellow, now leads Argentina's anti-corruption office, while other CDDRL alums work to improve democracy in Ukraine, Georgia, and elsewhere.

Closer to home, another consideration played into the Mosbachers' gift. Their son, Jack, '12, is a graduate of CDDRL's Fisher Family Undergraduate Honors Program, won the center's outstanding thesis award, and worked closely with Prof. Diamond, his mentor, for several years as an FSI research associate. The relationship between the Mosbachers and Diamond continues to this day.

"They're an amazingly close family," Prof. Diamond says. "If you want a model of a truly sweet, loving family, it's hard to look further than the Mosbachers."

Both Prof. Diamond and Prof. Fukuyama point out that the Mosbachers' gift is particularly helpful because it will provide long-term funding for CDDRL. The Mosbachers have consistently and discreetly supported scholarship and health care initiatives at Stanford for decades. The Mosbacher Directorship is their first public gift.

"We've always been private about our charitable activities," Mrs. Mosbacher says. "While initially reluctant to make a public, or named gift, we are hoping that we might inspire others to find a special connection at Stanford to support."

"It's a reflection of the quality of CDDRL's scholarship that the Mosbachers have been moved to make such a generous and public gift," says FSI Director Michael McFaul. "Their support ensures that our scholars can continue doing work that is critical to understanding and addressing the most important global problems of our time."

The Mosbachers' gift arrives at a perfect time. After years of building a strong and unique program, CDDRL now has, in Prof. Diamond's words, "a lot of connections with governments, organizations, agencies, and networks that can directly affect public policy and development practice" in dozens of countries around the world.

"Our family has been blessed by our association with Stanford.  We are grateful for the opportunity to be of service and support to it," Mr. Mosbacher says.

This article originally appeared in CDDRL News