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 Sterling Speirn

CEO of the National Conference on Citizenship


Sterling Speirn is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC), a public charity established by an Act of Congress in 1953 to promote active citizenship. He is the immediate past President and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (2006-2013), and was President & CEO of the Peninsula Community Foundation from 1992-2005, which is now the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

From these philanthropic platforms, Sterling has been a long-time investor in efforts to promote civic and community engagement as well as service and volunteering. He has championed support for local and national dialogues in partnership with organizations such as America Speaks, the National Center for Deliberative Democracy, Public Agenda, the Harwood Institute, Everyday Democracy, and many others. In reflecting on the challenges and seemingly intractable problems our country faces early in the 21st century, he has written “our common problems will only become tractable when we turn our powers of innovation and re-invention to the public-problem solving process itself. Indeed, our country’s democratic practices have undergone dramatic and remarkable change throughout our history in order to keep our system ‘by the people’ a living reality and not a mere slogan.”

Today, thanks to authorizing language in the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act enacted by Congress in 2009, NCoC uses Current Population Survey data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau to work with states and large cities to conduct Civic Health Index analyses and to partner with leaders and activists in these communities to promote civic renewal. At its annual conference NCoC strives to fulfill its Congressional mandate “to indicate the ways and means by which various organizations may contribute concretely to the development of a more active, alert, enlightened, conscientious, and progressive citizenry.”

Speirn currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Greater Washington Community Foundation and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences national Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship. Previously he has worked as a classroom teacher, poverty lawyer, and community health center manager.