Alexander and Elizabeth Kendall: Taking a Stand Against Misinformation

Alexander and Elizabeth Kendall, RAND Policy Circle members

Donor Profile Alexander and Elizabeth Kendall

Alexander and Elizabeth Kendall joined the RAND Policy Circle because they wanted to make a difference, and saw their support of RAND as an investment in the search for facts over factions.

Alexander and Elizabeth Kendall stayed up late on the nights after the 2016 election, talking about the future. They were young parents, academics at heart, and what they saw was a country moving away from discourse and deliberation in favor of win-at-all-costs politics on all sides.

“How are we living in a world where 'alternative facts' is a term?” Elizabeth would ask later. “Let's take a step back. Who's going to cut through the nonsense?”

The answer, they decided, was RAND.

The Kendalls recently joined the RAND Policy Circle, a community of donors whose support allows RAND to pursue objective, nonpartisan answers to some of the most difficult questions that America and the world are facing. They wanted to make a difference, they explained, and saw their support of RAND as an investment in the search for facts over factions.

“It felt like one thing we could do as a family,” Alexander said. The tone of the election drove home the need for careful analysis, reasoned decisions—disagreements over policies and proposals, perhaps, but not over basic facts. “Apparently, that's up for debate,” Alexander said.

The Kendalls knew of RAND as a research organization with a reputation for rigor; they live in Santa Monica, not far from RAND's headquarters campus. She's 34 years old, an attorney by training. He's 35, a private investor with a distant connection to RAND: A relative worked in the computer sciences department in the 1960s.

“When there's so much misinformation out there we need information from a trusted source like RAND.”

It was his idea to call RAND as they sat up one of those nights after the election, talking about what they could do. They had been generous in their philanthropy before, mostly on behalf of schools they had attended. Now they wanted to play a direct role in countering what they saw as a rising tide of misinformation and hyper-partisan decisionmaking.

“We wanted to make sure that policy is being made with facts, with reason, regardless of topic,” Elizabeth said. “How can we contribute to these principles that are so important to us?”

That question has taken on new urgency at RAND. President Michael Rich has pushed back in recent months against what he describes as a national epidemic of “truth decay.” Polarization inflamed by truth decay, he has said, is the gravest threat facing America: “When everyone has their own facts, then nobody really has any facts at all.”

The Kendalls have taken up that challenge, beyond their financial support. They have made it a point to go to RAND events and talks that are open to them as Policy Circle members. Elizabeth recently attended a lunch hosted by Brian Michael Jenkins, senior adviser to the president at RAND and an international authority on terrorism.

“I'll come home from these events and it's like, ‘Elizabeth, I have to tell you all about…' whatever topic they were discussing,” Alexander said.

That's what the public discourse in America needs more of, they said. They describe their support of RAND as a vote for more independent research, more analysis, more good, hard facts in the hands of people making decisions—and the people who elect them.

“When there's so much misinformation out there,” Elizabeth said, “we need information from a trusted source like RAND.”

Learn more about how RAND is responding to "truth decay"