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Red Cross Chairman Addresses House Committee
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Katie Lawson
March 16, 2007

On March 14, Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, Chairman of the American Red Cross, along with Karen Hastie-Williams, Chair of the charity’s Independent Governance Advisory Panel, participated in an open hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Capitol Hill. Addressing the committee, McElveen-Hunter urged Congress to take legislative action to help the Red Cross modify its existing Congressional charter and enact pivotal changes to the size and structure of the Red Cross governing board.

The Chairman of the Committee, Tom Lantos (D-CA), opened the hearing by addressing fellow committee members as well as witnesses McElveen-Hunter and Hastie-Williams. Calling the hearing the first step toward legislative action, Lantos commended the Red Cross for taking on the daunting task of assisting the American people in times of crisis. Read Rep. Lantos' remarks here.

Chairman Bonnie McElveen-Hunter makes the case for Red Cross Governance Reform.
Chairman Bonnie McElveen-Hunter (left) makes the case for Red Cross Governance Reform.

In early 2006, the American Red Cross Board of Governors created the Independent Governance Advisory Panel to complete a “deep-dive” audit of Red Cross governance and create examples of “best practices” used in both the non-profit and for-profit sector. In late October 2006, the Board produced American Red Cross Governance for the 21st Century: A Report of the Board of Governors, a comprehensive and scholarly report that proposed a streamlined Board focused on governance and strategic oversight.

“Our goal,” explained McElveen-Hunter, “was not to simply look at governance reform but to become the governance ‘gold-standard’ and to lead by example in the not-for-profit arena.” McElveen-Hunter emphasized and the Board’s full backing for the governance changes, which had not been previously reviewed since.  McElveen-Hunter also fielded questions from committee members. Read Bonnie McElveen Hunter's remarks (PDF).

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), ranking minority member of the committee, was among members who asked questions about the reforms.  She also thanked the Red Cross, particularly for disaster relief efforts in her home state.  “As a Member of Congress from Florida’s 18th District, I particularly note its [Red Cross] efforts to respond to numerous hurricanes and tropical storms that have afflicted the residents of my state,” Ros-Lehtinen observed.

In her remarks to the committee, Karen Hastie-Williams asserted her full support for the proposed governance changes. She believes that narrowing the Board of Governors from 50 members down to 12-25 by 2009 is a necessary step in strengthening American Red Cross leadership. Read Karen Hastie-Williams' remarks (PDF).

On March 15, the Senate passed its version of the governance changes, known as “The American National Red Cross Modernization Act of 2007.”  The bill now heads to the House.

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