Mrs. Margaret S. Hart passed away on Sunday, January 27, 2019. She was an important donor of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs for over 50+ years and a wonderful partner in building a program series focused on Latin America.
Her deep involvement with the Council began in the 1970s, when her late husband, Augustin “Gus” Hart, served as a chairman of the Council’s board of directors. Gus Hart had a distinguished career at Quaker Oats, building the international division of that company before retiring as vice chairman in 1980. Mr. Hart also had a lifelong interest in Latin America and served as chairman of the board of the InterAmerican Foundation during the Nixon administration.
Latin America was important to the Harts. They visited the region often in the 60s and 70s when most Americans were more interested in Europe, seeing our southern neighbors as the home of drugs, crime, dictatorships, assassinations, coups, and guerrilla fighting. The Harts would return from incredible trips to Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, and beg their friends to give Latin America more consideration. They loved the beauty of the landscape, the warmth of the people, and the energy of the music.
After Gus Hart passed away, Mrs. Hart and the family endowed a lecture series in his memory that would serve as a platform for prominent leaders of Latin America to deepen public understanding on the evolution and growth of the political, economic, and social development goals within the region. It started in 2001 under the auspices of an annual Gus Hart Lecture, where great leaders from around the Americas came and spoke about current affairs and politics. Mexican presidents such as Ernesto Zedillo and Vicente Fox, Chilean Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz, among others, delivered the keynote Hart lectures at the Chicago Council each year to audiences of hundreds of people.
In 2007, the Council’s leadership and family reconceptualized the award. Rather than just a one-night lecture, they agreed to create a lasting relationship with an emerging leader from the region. The goal was to identify someone who had already had an impressive and influential career but who had decades ahead of them to continue shaping the future of their country and region. The Council convened an expert selection committee made up of board members and family members, built a robust outreach list, and began the competitive selection process.
From 2008-2016, the Hart Fellowship was awarded to extraordinary leaders from across the Americas who were committed to promoting government transparency, democracy, freedom of speech, and rule of law. Each year, the committee identified recipients who were on the cusp of breaking news, each spending a full week in Chicago immersed in workshops, media interviews, private briefings, and university lectures. Their weeks would culminate with the annual Hart Lecture, where the Council’s network of Latin American aficionados would come in from across the country to partake in the unique, intimate gathering.
Thanks to Mrs. Hart, the Chicago Council deepened bonds throughout the region each year.
Argentina: In 2008, the Council hosted the first Gus Hart Visiting Fellow, Nicolas Ducote, then-founder of CIPPEC in Argentina, a nonprofit organization committed to government transparency and public policies. Today he is the mayor of Pilar, a suburb of Buenos Aires.
Chile: In 2009, the Council awarded the Visiting Fellowship to Claudio Orrego, then-mayor of Peñalolen, Chile. To this day, he continues to engage audiences with his dynamism and passion for addressing inequality in cities, delivering public services through smart technologies, improving resilience and infrastructure, and ensuring community well being. He has returned many times to Chicago since 2009, is a frequent speaker at the annual Chicago Forum on Global Cities, and is currently a Distinguished Fellow on Global Cities.
Venezuela: In 2010, Mrs. Hart was eager to host a deep discussion about Venezuela. The award was given to Henrique Capriles Radonski, then-governor of the State of Miranda. Little did the committee know that after spending an incredible week with Capriles learning about the false promises of the Chavez regime, Capriles would soon become the leading opposition candidate in the historic 2012 presidential elections. He continues to fight tirelessly for democracy and human rights in his country.
Colombia: In 2011, Sergio Jaramillo, then the High Commissioner for Peace, was awarded the fellowship. He was the lead negotiator with the FARC peace process and a captivating speaker on the complexity of addressing reparations and justice after Colombia’s 50-year long civil war.
Brazil: In 2012, the committee decided for the first time to test giving the award to two recipients in the same year. Denis Mizne had been a founder of an anti-gun violence campaign—Sou de Paz (I am for peace)—and then serving as the executive director of a major foundation on education. Sergio Fausto was the intellectual analyst and director of the Henrique Cardoso Foundation. Together, they explained that despite all the hype at the time for Brazil’s future, the country had serious internal challenges with which to grapple, later depicted in The Economist’s 2013 cover “Has Brazil blown it?"
Mexico: In 2013, the committee chose to focus on Mexico, one of the United States’ most important trading partners and neighbor. Salomon Chertorivski, who had previously served as the youngest Minister of Health at the national level, received the award as he was just taking a new position as the secretary of economic development for the Mayor of Mexico City. Chertorivski helped launch several long-term collaborations between Chicago and Mexico City, including the economic partnership, and today is a Distinguished Fellow on Global Cities at the Council.
Cuba: In 2014, Yoani Sanchez, the famous Cuban blogger who had a global following of millions of readers despite not having access to the internet in her country, was awarded the fellowship. Not only was choosing Cuba a historic gesture but this also marked the first year the award was given to a woman leader in Latin America. After a weeklong immersion in understanding present-day Cuban society and politics, President Obama announced later that year he would re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba and open a US Embassy in Havana.
Nicaragua: In 2015, the committee has become concerned with the high levels of violence stemming from Central America that was driving large waves of migrants to the US border. They awarded social entrepreneur Felix Maradiaga, the managing director of Pioneer Capital Partners, with the weeklong visit to Chicago.
Peru: In 2016, Carolina Trivelli, Peru’s first minister of social development and inclusion, was honored for her dedication to financial inclusion, rural development, and social policy in Peru.
Today, the committee is in the process of reviewing candidates for the next fellowship, focusing this year on an emerging leader working on reducing urban violence in the Northern Triangle.
Mrs. Hart always had a keen interest in Latin America and an eye for the topics our audiences should know about. She was passionate and full of wit, hosting dinners in her home and personalizing her welcoming remarks at the keynote lectures. She never shied away from controversial topics or adventures; in fact she sought them out, eager to learn more and promote healthy debates.
"She lived a wonderfully long life,” her daughter Kitty Lansing said, “and the work of the Chicago Council meant a lot to her.” She meant a lot to the Council too. She left an invaluable mark by creating a program stream that without her support and leadership would not have come together. Join us in honoring her, and remembering her energy, goodwill, and humor. Rest in peace Mrs. Hart. And thank you for all you have done.