My Washington: Jean Case

A Conversation with the Author of “: Five Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose”

Washington Life:  Tell us about your book “Be Fearless,” which is already a national bestseller.
: It’s a call to action for those who seek to live extraordinary lives. People all over the world have ideas about how to make a better world but are often held back by the belief that they don’t have what it takes. In the book, I debunk the myth that it takes something extra special to break through — such as genius, wealth or the right school — and highlight our research that uncovered five simple principles that are present wherever transformational breakthroughs take place. I introduce readers to fearless people from all walks who have made the unimaginable possible. Their single common trait was that they were passionate about changing the world. Their stories make clear that what separates fearless individuals from everyone else is not the absence of fear, but an ability to overcome it.

WL: You are the CEO of the Case Foundation, which focuses on “impact investing.” What does that mean?
Jean Case: We invest in people and ideas that can change the world, and we’re in the business of catalyzing movements and constantly seeking more fearless approaches to social innovation to tip individuals and organizations from good intention to meaningful action. One new realm of breakthrough — impact investing — combines the entrepreneurial spirit and discipline of business with the important mission of making a better world. As such, impact investments are defined as investments into companies, organizations, and funds seeking to generate both social and financial returns.

WL: You are also chairman of the National Geographic Society, the first woman to hold the job in its 130-year history. What exactly does the Society do?
Jean Case: Each year, the Society supports hundreds of scientists, educators, innovators and storytellers around the world who are protecting and exploring our most valuable resources — from oceans, wildlife and antiquities to human origins, migrations and climate change. I write about several in my new book, including National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala who is protecting and saving some of the last pristine marine ecosystems in the world. Enric is working with governments to establish twenty marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2020, including some of the wildest and remote pristine areas of our seas. To date, more than 19 sites have been established as new MPAs, constituting more than five million square kilometers of our oceans.

WL: On top of everything else you do, many people would be surprised to hear that you and your husband Steve Case own a vineyard.
Jean Case: Yes, we have an award-winning winery in Madison, Virginia — Early Mountain Vineyards. We are proud of our team who are helping forge the path of quality wine growing in central Virginia, a region that’s very much part of the evolution in American wine. USA Today named us the “Best Tasting Room in the U.S.” in 2016 and we’ve been nominated by Wine Enthusiast as American Winery of the Year. In late 2018 we introduced our new grand wine, RISE, and we’ve been especially pleased by the reception it has received. Steve and I are so excited about the momentum of Early Mountain and the region as a whole.

Jean Case’s top spots in and around Washington:

The National Geographic Headquarters and Museum featuring the work of National Geographic explorers, photographers and scientists and great artifacts from the last 130 years.

Capital One Arena. Steve and I are so proud of our friend Ted Leonsis and all he has brought to the city. We love attending Caps games, concerts and other fun events there.

Al Tiramisu. For more than 20 years we have enjoyed countless meals at this local institution. Chef Luigi Diotaiuti is a dear friend and we always look forward to him bringing out something special from the kitchen each time we dine with family and friends.

The Virginia countryside and backroads: From our farm in Warrenton and our winery in Madison to the countless parks and trails to the backroads that have me humming, “Take me home,” for me, Virginia has it all.

This article first appeared in the February 2019 issue of Washington Life Magazine.

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