Patty Stonesifer 2003 Hopelink Luncheon
Thank you, Lori, for that kind introduction. It’s a great privilege to be among so many good friends and colleagues here today, and to honor the good work that Hopelink is doing.
It is also a great honor for me to be leading our foundation in these early years – helping the Gates family try to reduce some of the world’s greatest inequities, by applying their wealth in a strategic way.
We do this as you do – by starting with the simple premise of love of neighbor, and we apply this principle to all our giving.
But it’s not just our strategy – it’s our belief.
This theme is written into the scripture of every great religion: Love your neighbor as yourself.
I’m sure each of you applies this universal theme to how you choose to give of your own skills, your own resources your own influence – it’s why we’re all here today! At the Gates Foundation, we’re simply working to invest in our neighbors - here in the Pacific Northwest – and around the globe.
In the time I have with you today I’m want to share a bit about the work of the foundation, the inspiration I’ve received from some of the greatest leaders of our times, and some lessons learned from ordinary citizens who struggle to reach their own dreams.
Consider Megan, a 23-year-old mom from the Eastside. Last year, Megan packed up her 2-year-old son and fled a relationship plagued by domestic violence. She found temporary refuge at an emergency shelter. It’s a cycle of poverty that’s become all too familiar, and perhaps many of us have grown accustomed to living with the statistics Megan and her little boy represent.
But something amazing happened for Megan after arriving at that shelter. She met a social worker who helped Megan find transitional housing at Hopelink Place. There, Megan was paired with a case manager – an advocate who helped guide her through new education and career goals. Megan found a good job at the Puget Sound Blood Bank, increasing her income threefold. Today Megan has now moved into permanent housing, continues to excel at her job and is in school studying sports medicine. All while being a single mom. She’s now putting money away in an Individual Development Account (or IDA) – a savings program for low income individuals – where every dollar Megan puts into her IDA, is matched three-to-one through public and private sources. From an emergency shelter to this - Megan is now on her way to one day being a homeowner!
Just think of it: Hopelink’s tremendous outreach and Megan’s own brave actions led to this powerful and lasting result: dreams restored, two lives transformed.
And a lesson for every one of us that there are no simple statistics – there are simply neighbors who need a chance to rebuild.
Megan and her son are my neighbors. Lisa and her family are my neighbors. The 50,000 people Hopelink feeds, shelters, nurtures and helps to become literate each year – they are not statistics. They are my neighbors.
And Lisa, Megan, Doreen and the amazing staff – and the folks I meet around the world working to improve their lives and the lives of their families and the lives of their communities – they are also my teachers.
They make me think – are we doing all we can to improve the future? What if we EACH of us did just a little more? What if EACH of us did a lot more?
Of course, we would be foolish if we tried to respond to the needs of the sick and the young and the poor and the oppressed without first learning from the leaders who have done this before. Just as science is building on decades of discoveries and on generations of great minds, we stand today on the shoulders of the great leaders who set a precedent for compassion with action, and for achieving great change in the face of overwhelming odds.
One such man is Mahatma Gandhi. During a trip I took to India, I was able to visit the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial. While I was there, the director of the memorial gave me this banner, which hangs next to my desk at the foundation.
It is simply titled, "The Seven Social Sins” which Gandhi published in 1925.
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 guide of society’s ills – but it’s also a guide to overcoming them! I want to share that prescription with you:
We can build politics with principle when we support and elect the right government leaders to increase the right funding to the right programs. President Bush’s pledge earlier this year to earmark $15 billion to fight AIDS in Africa is a powerful example of progress in this area – our collective challenge now is to ensure that the money is actually allocated and distributed to the people and programs who need it most. That’s an important part of politics with principle. Closer to home, we know that the average person would need to make $16.25 an hour to afford a basic two-bedroom apartment in the Seattle area. Yet, our state minimum wage hovers at just over $7 an hour.
I’m sure this gap contributes to the fact that tonight in Seattle, more than 2,500 women and children will sleep in emergency shelters, or in their cars, or in some other makeshift situation with a relative or on the couch of a friend. We must raise our voices to insist that our leaders to do more to bridge this gap.
Then we will have politics with principle.
We can build commerce with morality if more of the businesses that we support and lead consider social consequences in the development, selection and pricing of their products. If they work to build their employees and improve the communities where they live, like the sponsors here today.
We can build science with humanity if we make sure that the breakthroughs of the 21st century are made available to the people who need them most, that vaccines reach every child everywhere and that our research and development, whether it’s in our universities or in our corporations, address the needs of the poorest of the poor.
This belief in science with humanity has helped shape the foundation’s giving. The global health program at the Gates Foundation is focused on accelerating the research and development of new vaccines, new drugs, and new tests against malaria, against AIDS, against the diseases costing so much in the social and family and economic structures around the world.
Why did we choose to address this issue? Easy. It’s of powerful importance to our neighbors.
Today one in 12 children dies before the age of 5 almost totally from preventable diseases such as measles, malaria, diarrhea, and other common childhood illnesses. One in 12 children dies not from mysterious diseases, but from diseases we can prevent.
Yet we can do so much to correct this for so little. For $30 we can fully immunize a child, yet 3 million children will die this year for failure to receive that $30 worth of vaccinations. For 33 cents we can prevent a child’s death from diarrhea with oral rehydration therapy. Here in Seattle we call this Pedialyte. But it’s a simple solution of sugar, salt and water. And we can save the life of a child with pneumonia for about 25 cents for five days of antibiotics.
We see that where the demand for health spending is greatest, the supply is the very lowest. The FDA approved 1,500 drugs in the last 25 years – 1,500 new drugs to improve life. I imagine most of us in this room have taken them. Yet less than 20 –just one percent – were specifically for the illnesses taking lives in the developing world. Less than one percent in 25 years.
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 world’s health burden.
Rich governments are not fighting these diseases because the rich world doesn’t have them. And the private sector is not developing vaccines and medicines because the poor world can’t buy them. We’re investing many millions in the search for an effective AIDS vaccine – and many wonder whether it is worth it. It’s going to be hard, it’s going to take a long time, it’s a serious scientific puzzle.
But let me tell you why it’s worth it. For every single month we cut off the time it takes to deliver an effective AIDS vaccine, we prevent 500,000 new infections. That translates to 6 million lives a year that can be saved with an effective AIDS vaccine –essentially the same number of people that died in the Holocaust. What would we do now if we could have predicted the Holocaust? Surely we would have acted to avert this disaster!
We must reduce the gaps in product development, and we must reduce the lags in purchase and deployment.
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 separate us today. But if we do this right – we will see the incredible power of the combination of 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, including here in Seattle, about one third of all students are not graduating from high school. Another third graduate, but aren't adequately prepared for college. And if you're a minority student, the statistics are even more grim. Nearly half of the African American, Hispanic and Native American students in this country will never see their high school graduation day.
Why is that? There are many reasons. But we do know one thing – that today’s large, anonymous high schools do not serve these students well.
But there is a ray of hope – data and direct evidence show that small, personalized high schools of 300 to 500 students can cost-effectively create a great experience for high school students. We have seen achievement rates and graduation rates skyrocket as big high school systems transform to smaller personalized school systems. By 2005, we hope to support over 1500 new, or newly transformed high schools, 300+ in Washington state alone.
One of these schools is the Truman Center, in Federal Way. Truman used to be a place for the district’s unwanted students and teachers. Now it is exactly the opposite: two smaller schools of real learning – and hope.
In just one year, dropout rates are way down, while the percentage of students going on to college and technical school has more than doubled.
We can build wealth with work – when we reflect upon the extraordinary resources that have been created in this city over the last decade and put them to work again investing in people here and around the world.
Seattle is known as a city of great innovation. Besides Microsoft, we’re home to essentials such as a Starbucks latte, Costco retailing, and a rapid online order from Amazon.com. How tremendous would it be if 10 years from now, Seattle were to be known as the city that applied our innovative spirit to serving our neighbors most in need.
I’ll give you a real-life example of this innovative spirit, a very personal one! You might know that I was once a volunteer at Hopelink. But long before, I learned the golden rule growing up in Indianapolis, part of a big active family very engaged in “loving thy neighbor.”
Just a few years ago my mom and dad visited me in Seattle to see first-hand how Hopelink’s innovative approach to feeding the hungry worked. I had been telling them all about Hopelink: the way they consolidate food as in a grocery store and enable families to “shop” for food, how this ensures that instead of providing families with a “handout,” they can select for their own nutritional requirements, and in the process preserve dignity and control. I might add that Washington now ranks second in the nation for incidence of hunger, and Hopelink’s food distribution has never been so vital.
Soon after my parents returned home to Indy, my dad found an old building, convinced his civic organization to buy it, and convinced a dozen area churches to consolidate their individual food pantries and combine their efforts (and their food) into a food service like Hopelink. What an incredible change. Each week hundreds of families now “shop” in that location on the South Side of Indianapolis.
In just a few minutes I promise I’ll step down and you’ll hear from the next speaker, Jeff Brotman. Jeff’s going to invite each of you to become an active participant in helping to rebuild dreams. He’s going to describe ways in which you can support our neighbors here in King County through Hopelink. Our community is so fortunate to have such smart and compassionate leaders – Jeff’s not just a great business leader, perhaps more important, Jeff’s a dedicated civic leader – lending his skills, his resources and his influence to make this a far better community.
But before I welcome Jeff, I'd like to share one last experience with another global leader that gave me new insight but, in particular, additional resolve to dream big and do all that I could personally.
A few years ago, President Nelson Mandela came to Seattle to meet with us at the Gates Foundation. On the second day of his visit, when he was speaking at a breakfast in Seattle – in a room like this one, to a group like this one, full of civic leaders committed to change, he said quietly and simply and elegantly:
“Would all 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.”
The next 60 seconds were the longest, most painful minute of that decade for me and many others in that room. The power of the moment was magnified by the bearing of President Mandela - there was no anger in his question, there was no recrimination, he was not judging us, he was simply asking us to judge ourselves.
And to a person, we found we came up short. Those of us who had done nothing wished we had done something, and those of use who had done something wished we had done far, far more.
I asked myself that day and almost every day since – why didn’t we act? Why didn’t we do more? We all believed his cause mattered. Perhaps we believed our efforts didn’t matter. We had given up without really trying, without demanding action of ourselves.
And I fundamentally believe that this is one of the greatest dangers in the world today. It's not that we're unaware of the problems. It’s not that we’re apathetic – we CARE!
So often we fail to act. And why don’t we act?
Whether we’re learning from Gandhi, from President Mandela, from Megan, from Doreen and her team – we need to listen to those who teach us through their actions under ordinary and extraordinary circumstances – each of us can do more.
By your very attendance here today, by your participation as donors to Hopelink, it is so clear that you understand this challenge to act – that you understand this social prescription.
But let’s get beyond understanding to action. Can’t we each do a little bit more – give a little bit more of our money, skills, influence to ensure we do not find ourselves lacking when asked? If we each vow to push ourselves just a little bit further to follow the prescription just a little bit more closely, then together we ensure that the next time a Nelson Mandela stands in front of a room like this in this community and asks, “What did you do to make the future better? What did you do to stop injustice? To serve your neighbor? To improve your community?” we will have a long, long list to share with him.
Then we will all be able to stand. And we will stand together because we’ve really reached out – reached out and given others a chance to rebuild their dreams. Thank you for helping to rebuild dreams with Hopelink.