The United Way Tocqueville Society was founded in 1984 to deepen the understanding, commitment, and support of United Way’s most generous and community-minded investors. In his original letter to ten pilot cities dated March 15, 1984, Tocqueville Society founder, Dr. Thomas F. Frist Jr., wrote that the purpose of the fi rst Tocqueville Society in the nation was to “recognize and honor those concerned individuals who accepted a leadership role in making major financial contributions to United Way.” By the end of 1984, Los Angeles had established its own Tocqueville Society.
Only 26 years old when he came to the United States and Canada in 1831, Alexis Charles-Henri de Tocqueville traveled extensively, recording his observations of life in the young nations. Though he only spent nine months in North America, he gleaned an insightful view of American society. Tocqueville recognized, applauded, and immortalized American voluntary action on behalf of the common good. He wrote:
“I must say that I have seen Americans make a great deal of real sacrifices to the public welfare; and have noticed a hundred instances in which they hardly ever failed to lend a faithful support to one another.”
The observation on philanthropy made by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1831 is true today; Americans understand that advancing the common good means creating opportunities for a better life for all. The name Tocqueville Society was chosen because of Alexis de Tocqueville’s admiration for the spirit of voluntary association and effort toward its advancement.