Message from Peter Laugharn: Living Our Values in the World
Peter Laugharn, president and CEO of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, discusses our values and its impact on our work.
Conrad N. Hilton’s humble beginnings in rural New Mexico formed the fabric and foundation of his life. Grounded by the principles that embody the American spirit and ethic, Conrad N. Hilton dreamed big, thought big and acted big—building a worldwide hotel empire.
I joined the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation as President and CEO in January 2016, as the first non-Hilton family member or close business associate to lead the Foundation. I knew that my first order of business was to get to know who Conrad Hilton was and learn about the values that grounded him in his work as a hotelier and philanthropist. So the first thing I did was read his autobiography “Be My Guest.”
I am glad I did. I was inspired and deeply moved by the values Conrad Hilton expressed in his book. I asked the board and staff at the Foundation to come together and distill a set of values that were representative of everything we know about Conrad and of his son Barron, who served on our board of directors for 60 years and is following in the footsteps of his father, having committed to leave 97 percent of his fortune to the Foundation upon his passing.
I wanted us to consider how Conrad and his son Barron worked, how they thought and what they stood for throughout their illustrious careers as businessmen and philanthropists. We worked together to identify a set of five values, and today, at the foundation that bears the name of Conrad N. Hilton, we seek to exemplify the values practiced by our founder: integrity, thinking big, humility, stewardship and compassion. We incorporate these values into our philanthropic activities, as we strive to fulfill Conrad’s and Barron’s wish to improve the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged people around the world.
These five core values impact our work every day in the following ways:
- Integrity: We are guided by these values in our day-to-day work in many ways: we are guided by a moral compass that directs us to be honest and fair in all that we do.
- Thinking Big: We take inspiration from Conrad Hilton’s saying that “Nothing worth doing can be done without enthusiasm.” Rather than being daunted by the challenges we face, we have the optimism and courage to seek bold and innovative solutions.
- Humility: We seek partners to achieve solutions to challenging social issues, as we recognize the limitations of our funding relative to the needs of the world.
- Stewardship: We maximize resources in order to advance our mission with the goal of long-term sustainability for the programs we support. We value efficient operations, measurable outcomes, and investing in staff and grantee capacity.
- Compassion: We approach our work with genuine respect and concern for the lives of the most disadvantaged. We are inspired by Conrad Hilton’s Last Will and Testament to “love one another” and pay tribute to the spiritual life he lived.
As we all know, the risk with espoused values is that they remain at the level of superficial slogans. We are committed to making these values much more real than that. They will help guide us not only in good times, but also in navigating through times of turbulence or confusion, in framing difficult decisions, in negotiating between different points of view. In the Foundation’s work on relieving human suffering, we hope that these values will help us accomplish some of our own biggest dreams.