When Robert S. Brookings and a group of like-minded reformers established the Brookings Institution nearly a century ago, they were guided by the simple but profound belief that good governance results from good ideas and that good ideas are based on respect for facts, rigorous thinking, rational debate, and civil discourse. It is a testament to our founder that his vision has guided us across the decades and continents, into the era of globalization and the digital age.
Brookings brings an unparalleled breadth and depth of expertise to the most pressing challenges to governance, with experts working across disciplines to develop comprehensive solutions. As we near the end of our first century of doing this important work, we remain true to the trinity of values that has been at the heart of what we do since Brookings was founded: Quality, Independence, and Impact.
Quality. We’re proud to be found on the Internet at brookings.edu. It’s a subtle but deeply important symbol of our commitment to upholding the standards of intellectual rigor maintained by the world’s most respected educational institutions. Our institutional reputation for excellence derives from the individual excellence of our 270 resident and nonresident scholars, who collaborate across fields of expertise—and in many cases across the globe—to generate fresh, bold ideas.
Independence. By any measure, our government is more polarized than it was a generation ago, with intense and destructive partisanship in Washington and many state capitals. In this environment, Brookings’s independence is our greatest asset. It means that policymakers across the ideological spectrum take our ideas seriously and value our analysis. It enables us to convene people with diverse views for reasoned, honest debate.
Impact. At Brookings, we strive to make sure that the product of our thinking influences the thinking and action of people who can make our recommendations a reality. Often, our own scholars and Trustees pass through the revolving door between Brookings and the U.S. government. In recent years, as we’ve globalized Brookings, our talent pool has benefited other governments and international institutions. While never faltering in our commitment to high-quality research, we’re investing in dissemination through both traditional and emerging channels.
For nearly a century, we’ve stayed true to our original purpose of improving the way that communities—from the local to the national to the global—govern themselves. We also recognize that our ability to achieve real impact stems from how we govern the Institution, including fostering an atmosphere of intellectual freedom for our scholars. We have been entrusted with upholding Mr. Brookings’s legacy and we owe it to our predecessors—and our successors—along with our Trustees and generous supporters, to manage our human, financial, and physical resources.
Perhaps Mr. Brookings would not recognize many aspects of the world we live in today, with our nearly instantaneous exchanges of information over cyberspace and the fragmented nature of domestic and international politics. Yet we have no doubt he would be proud of this Institution and our continued commitment to his vision of providing good ideas to improve governance.
John L. Thornton
Chair of the Board