2002 Independent Sector
Will We Stand Together?
Good afternoon. And thanks, John, for that great introduction and thank you all for staying through the final luncheon.
It has been an incredible few days, from the feedback that I've received about all of the conversations and work and networking that has gone on here. And we at the foundation feel very privileged to have joined the Independent Sector and joined with so many of you in trying to achieve the goals that you've not just laid out in the last few days, but in the decades and decades that you've been working on these issues—before we ever came to the same place. So we thank you for that.
Well, in that little video—this is the first time I saw it—you saw something of the work that Bill and Melinda have set in motion based on their simple belief—and those of you who have heard Bill speak before will recognize his voice in this—that the random geography of one child's birth should not be the determinant of whether he or she can receive a quality education or a chance at a healthy life.
Each one of you in this room serves an organization with a similar commitment to changing the world we live in, based on the values and ideals and the competencies that inspire your lives and your institutions. And over the last few days we've heard discussions of ways to protect human rights, to serve urban communities, and to fight poverty here and around the globe.
The rights we take for granted here are denied to millions around the globe. That is why we do the work we do, and you do the work you do. We have to stand with these folks and help them achieve the changes that they are seeking.
Yet, for all of our energy and enthusiasm, the enormous inequities of the world are unsolvable with the resources of just one family, just one institution, or all the families and institutions represented in this room today. One of our biggest goals must be to find a way to inspire the rest of the world with the same vision that drives us—that yes, the world's problems are indeed deep and urgent, but we can solve these problems. We know of interventions, we know of efforts, we know of solutions that can and will work.
Of course, we would be foolish if we tried to inspire the world to respond to the needs of the sick and the young and the poor and the oppressed and the disenfranchised without first learning from the leaders who have done this before. Just as science is building on decades of discoveries of generations of great minds, we stand today on the shoulders of the great leaders of the past who set a precedent for compassion with action, and for achieving great changes in the face of great odds.
A few years ago, I was able to travel to India to see first-hand some of the projects we fund for children's health. And there I was able to visit the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial. He is a great inspiration to me. You may recall that Gandhi was once asked what he thought of Western civilization. It tells you something of his wit and wisdom that he simply replied, "I think it would be a good idea."
Well, while I was there, the director of the memorial gave me a banner, which hangs next to my desk at the foundation, and whose message inspires me every day. It is a list simply called, "The Seven Social Sins"—a list that Gandhi published first in 1925 in a magazine he edited called "Young India." And here is his list of seven sins of society: Politics without Principle, Wealth without Work, Pleasure without Conscience, Commerce without Morality, Science without Humanity, Worship without Sacrifice, and last but far from least, Knowledge without Character.
Seventy-seven years later it's still a compelling litany of the sins that hold us back around the world.
But rather than thinking of this as a litany of our ills, in my mind I've inverted this list into a set of prescriptions that guide my own life and work. So let me share just a few of those with you today.
We can and must demand politics with principle. Yesterday's luncheon with Senator Wofford was enough to inspire all of us that we can promote politics with principle when we work closely with our government leaders to increase the right funding to the right programs.
There are dozens of examples of this effort in this room, but one is Peter Goldberg, the president of the Alliance for Children and Families, who is working with many of you to ensure that the new welfare reform legislation addresses serious problems, such as lack of child care services for mothers who want to return to work. This and many other examples that you can cite represent politics with principle. And we must not only demand it, but we have to stand with those who seek it, whether they are seeking election or the activists moving these issues forward.
We also must demand commerce with morality every day. We can promote commerce with morality if more businesses, like many of yours represented here, consider the social consequences in the development, the selection, the pricing, the availability of their products, and in the treatment of their employees, and in the communities where they work and the environments that they affect. Corporate social responsibility should not be a buzz phrase, it should be a norm. And we can and must demand that of the corporations around us.
A hometown example of this comes to mind. Starbucks, a Seattle-based organization, has done more than revolutionize the coffee shop, it's also built into its organization community building programs, where employees reach out to local nonprofits to work in the communities that they serve. Where they serve coffee, they serve the needs of the community too. Kiehl's, a very hip product organization, is donating the sales of one of its body cleansers to YouthAIDS, an organization promoting AIDS prevention among teens.
We can all cite dozens of corporations that are bringing corporate social responsibility to life; that instead of it being a heading on a slide show, it is a basic part of their corporate culture. And we must not only demand this from our corporations, we must support those corporations who pursue it when we see it.
We can and must in the 21st century, demand science with humanity. We can promote science with humanity if we make sure the phenomenal breakthroughs that are happening all around us, and are going to accelerate during this century, reach those who need the most—that new vaccines reach every child everywhere, and that research and development for new drugs, whether it's in our universities, our pharmaceutical companies, or our biotech companies, address the needs, address the issues of the poorest of the poor.
The health program at the Gates Foundation, as you saw, is focused on accelerating the research and development of new vaccines, new drugs, and new diagnostics—or tests—against malaria, against AIDS, against the parasitic diseases costing so much in the social and family and economic structures around the world.
Why would a foundation address that issue? Let me tell you, some of the numbers are astonishing. The FDA approved 1,500 drugs in the last 25 years—1,500 new drugs to improve life. Yet less than 20—just one percent—were specifically for the illnesses taking lives in the developing world. Less than one percent. And of the $70 billion spent globally each year on medical research and development, only 10 percent is devoted to the diseases that cause 90 percent of the health burden on this planet. Ten percent against 90 percent of the health burden.
We're committed to pushing harder to ensure that product development in the health sciences proceeds in these critical areas. But we do need your support.
And then once these new technologies are proven, be they health technologies or digital technologies or other forms of technology, we must work with governments and others—Independent Sectors around the globe, influential leaders, business leaders around the globe—to ensure that these products are rolled out quickly to the people who need them most.
If we can find an AIDS vaccine, the cost for every month's failure to deploy—every month we fail to get that vaccine out—costs 500,000 lives. If it takes us a year to get our act together in deploying an AIDS vaccine, we will lose 6 million lives—equivalent, essentially, to those lives lost in the Holocaust. What would we do now if we could have predicted that loss? Well, we can predict this one if we are not ready to deploy the new health technologies as they become available.
It's a disgrace that has already happened. It has taken us more than 15 years to make the hepatitis B vaccine available to those who need it most, where that vaccine could prevent an enormous amount of suffering. And it's a global disgrace that it has taken us more than 50 years after we discovered an effective vaccine for polio, more than 25 years since we saw polio vanish from our midst, to even begin to approach eradication of this terrible disease.
So we must not only reduce the gaps in product development, we must reduce the lags in deployment of new technologies. Because if we don't, new technology is just going to become one more factor separating the privileged from the poor and widening the gaps that we despair of today. If we do that, if we work to push deployment and decrease that lag, then we will see science with humanity.
And we can and must demand knowledge with character. We promote knowledge with character when we stand up and say it is simply not acceptable that in most of our urban communities in this country, less than 50 percent of our kids are graduating from high school. Less than 50 percent of our kids are graduating from high school. We need to stand up and insist that as community leaders and as government and as private entities, we must provide opportunities for all students no matter where they live.
We know that today's large anonymous high schools do not serve the new student bodies well. Here in Cleveland, for instance, less than 40 percent of high schoolers are graduating. I spent this morning visiting East Technical High School and meeting with the mayor and the CEO, which is their superintendent of schools, Barbara Byrd-Bennett. And they have made a district-wide commitment to transform their large high schools into smaller learning environments and to try to ensure that all students have an opportunity not just to graduate, but to graduate ready for college, ready for work, and ready for civic leadership. The discussion there was heartening, and we heard from individual students working on this effort, teachers, and leadership around the city.
And here today is Hilary Pennington, president of Jobs for the Future. And she is one of the partners with the Gates Foundation committed to creating 70 new small high schools that not only ensure that students graduate with a high school diploma, but also graduate with an opportunity for significant college credit, ensuring that they are college-ready, that they are ready to pursue college, work, and civic leadership.
By providing a rigorous and more personalized learning experience, we believe high schools can help thousands and tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of students who, with today's system, are unlikely to even graduate from high school.
Barbara's efforts, Hilary's efforts, and the work of hundreds of like-minded groups—many of you represented here—and thousands and thousands of education and parent leaders around the country are committed to building knowledge with character as a fundamental tenet of our education system. And when we see that effort, we must stand with them, whether it means voting for the right funding or supporting them when radical change causes radical response.
We can and must demand wealth with work. We promote wealth with work when we invest our resources, both our fiscal resources as well as our service resources in people here and around the world. Each of us has an opportunity and an obligation to give back, whether it's 25 cents or $2500 or 25 hours of service a month. This is something that most of us learned in our home from our parents. It was built into the assumption of who we are.
But we need to make sure that every child and every family and every citizen understands that this is part of what we must do. In building wealth, we must also work not just for ourselves, but for others. And we need to foster a situation where, later this week, that child who decides to forego the big bag of candy and instead is rattling that can for UNICEF, understands the value of that kind of work. Or the tortilla maker in Honduras who actually uses a significant part of her earnings to support the orphans in her village. Or the young executive who recently gave a million dollars to Rotary's effort to eradicate polio, when the last elements of polio are not in his community or in his state or in his country, but all around the globe—in India, and other hard-to-reach places where we still have work to do.
I'm sure each of you could cite hundreds and hundreds of heroes who are quietly going out and doing work of this sort in the community and giving of their resources. But when we do know them, when we do see them, when we do learn from them, we must stand with them and draw the attention and the respect and the acknowledgement—and the inspiration for ourselves—that their example demands.
Well, these principles, Gandhi's principles inverted in this way, have become my own guide for social action. But as we know, it takes a lot more than good guidance to really get things done. It takes determination to stand together and do it. And again, we must look to others for examples.
Before I close, I'd like to share one last experience that gave me new insight but, in particular, additional resolve to do all that I could and to help our institution do all that we could.
In 1999, President Nelson Mandela actually came to Seattle to meet with us at the Gates Foundation, to talk about our work in Africa, and in AIDS, and in other efforts. And it was a phenomenal thrill. But I was also able to follow him around the community the rest of the day. And later in the day, he was talking to Seattle leaders in a room very much like this one. He stopped and looked out at the audience filled, very much like this one, with community leaders committed to making a change, to addressing the needs of those who need them the most. And he very quietly and simply and elegantly, in his way, just said, "Will those of you who took personal action, any action big or small, to end the terrible injustice of apartheid please stand up."
And then he said, "And will those of you who took personal action, something, anything, big or small, to help me walk free from Robben Island please stand up."
And the next 60 seconds were among the most uncomfortable moments of my life thus far. Because—and it was the same for everyone in the room—those of us who had done nothing wished we had done something, and those of us who had done something wished we had done far, far more.
The power of the moment was magnified by the bearing of President Mandela. There was no anger in his question. There really was no recrimination. He was not judging us; he was simply asking us to judge ourselves.
And I thought to myself when we did—besides the obvious, that we all felt we came up short—why had we not done more? His was a cause that mattered greatly to all of us. Perhaps we thought our efforts wouldn't matter in the face of such an enormous problem, in the face of such enormous inequity. Perhaps we had given up without really trying, without demanding action of ourselves.
And I fundamentally believe that, while we could go through a litany of all the dangers facing us, this is one of the greatest dangers in the world today. It's not that we're unaware of the problems. The danger is not enough of us believe there are solutions. Not enough of us believe that we can and should make the changes that are in our power to change.
So that gives us our mission. That gives all of us our mission. We know we can change the world by changing the world's belief as to what is possible—and by showing them what is responsible. If we show that there are affordable, effective solutions to the problems we face, whether they are problems of encouraging more service, fixing our high schools, moving health technologies, preventing the spread of lung cancer around the globe—if we can prove that there are affordable, effective solutions to these problems, we can create a demand for action. We can create a demand for change.
I've thought about these things a lot since I faced these soul-searching questions from President Mandela, and I made a commitment to myself then and there, that when it came to reducing inequities—to giving children a chance to learn, to giving a children a chance to be healthy, a chance to live their dreams, I wanted to be able to say I had done all I could and that our foundation had done all we could, and that I'd taken every chance given to me to encourage others to do what they could, whether those others are the presidents of countries, the influential leaders, those in the marketplace, or those in the Independent Sector.
And you can do that, too, taking the solutions you know, delivering on them, and challenging others. If together we can prove there are solutions to the problems that paralyze so many who are well-intentioned but are paralyzed with doubt or disbelief, then the next time a leader like President Mandela stands in front of a room like this one and says "What about you? Have you taken action against inequity and injustice?" then I will stand, and you will stand, and you will stand, and hopefully people around the globe will stand together and say, "Yes. Yes, we have. We did all we could, and what a change we made."