Sally Lilienthal (1919-2006) founder of Ploughshares Fund, was born on March 19, 1919.
Sally Lilienthal was on a quest to change the world. It was 1981, and she had invited public service leader Lew Butler and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Owen Chamberlain down the wooden staircase to a living room balcony extending over a San Francisco cliff below.
Chamberlain, one of the world’s quietest people, spoke up: “There are lot of problems in the world. There’s one that’s so much bigger than all the others: nuclear weapons. If we can’t get rid of them, it will destroy civilization.”
“There was silence. Then there was a consensus,” recalls Butler. “We had a foundation.”
Within its first year, Ploughshares Fund had 62 donors and awarded $150,000 in grants aimed at eliminating nuclear weapons.
“When you’re talking about something as cosmic as a nuclear war,” said Sally, “it is harder to become personally and emotionally involved. That week, Lew and I had lunch in a Chinese restaurant and I got a fortune cookie that said, ‘You will best succeed in some profession consecrated to the service of humanity.’ I kept it taped on my desk at home.”
Forty years later, Sally’s vision of service to humanity lives on through the vision and mission of Ploughshares Fund.