The Pittsburgh Foundation

The attack on the U.S. Capitol was an attack on community life itselfDemocracy must be protected, election lies must stop and government must not be distracted

Taken in January 2021, the photo above shows the Peace Monument, also known as the Naval Monument or Civil War Sailors Monument, framed by the Capitol dome on Capitol Hill in Washington. Photo by Susan Walsh | AP.

By Lisa Schroeder
President & CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation

During the Jan. 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of thousands in which six people died, historical treasures were desecrated and offices ransacked, people around the world watched the images they were seeing in disbelief while Americans seemed to cry out in one chorus: “This cannot be happening!” But it was happening, chronicled in real time and through documentary footage that continues to pour out.

For months and without any evidence, the president of the United States challenged the legitimacy of the presidential election. The drumbeat of tweets and speeches reached a crescendo at a rally he hosted just hours before the attack when he encouraged his supporters to march on the Capitol. The timing was set to have the crowd disrupt the Congressional certification of the states’ votes affirming Joe Biden as president and Kamala Harris as vice president, and the intent was to overturn the election that Trump lost.

As the debris is cleared and evidence emerges, leaders from nearly every sector of society – state and local governments, business, civic and educational institutions, national nonprofits and hundreds representing our own foundation community – have decried the violence.

At The Pittsburgh Foundation, we join in that condemnation of an all-out assault on one of the three branches of our government, a direct attack on democracy itself. As a foundation dedicated to improving life conditions for everyone in southwestern Pennsylvania, we cannot give in to lawless efforts that will derail our imperative to provide equitable support to every citizen.  

The events of last week have been emotionally draining and therefore dangerously distracting for communities across this country that are reeling from the explosion of COVID-19 cases. Every facet of the federal government must be focused on assisting states and regions such as ours to repair damaged local economies that maintain our national stability; and to save lives by increasing hospitalization capacities and dramatically increasing vaccination numbers. We also need every branch of state and federal government working with us on systems and policy changes that will bring about the racial equity that is centuries overdue.

We condemn those who engaged in an attempted coup, as well as those who have perpetuated lies about the integrity of the November presidential election that now “feel true” to millions of Americans. After counts, recounts, audits and 60 lawsuits dismissed by the courts, it is important for those of us outside of politics to speak the truth publicly: the 2020 presidential election had historic turnout, was secure, ran smoothly and produced an accurate count. Our responsibility is to call out political behavior that fabricates the truth and fuels violence, including spotlighting Pennsylvania with a false narrative of a fraudulent election.

The century-old community foundation network across the country relies on a “big tent” model to bring together board members, volunteers, donors and civic partners across a wide range of ideologies and backgrounds. The wonderful result of that collaboration is hundreds of millions of dollars granted out each year to support the best possible quality of life for all residents in our region.

None of this would be possible without agreement at the county, state and federal government levels to a basic set of facts. The urgent business at hand for us as a community foundation is to make sure that residents in the communities we serve have the means to recover from the most significant crises in our lifetimes. Constant challenging or ignoring of basic facts distract our attention from providing help where it is needed most. We desperately need our government to work, and we, the people, are the only agents who can make that happen.

Read a group letter signed by over 100 philanthropies condemning the political violence and calling on leaders to protect democracy.