Remarks by George M. Logothetis, Chairman and CEO of the Libra Group at the 2015 Concordia Summit
REPRODUCED FROM FRIDAY OCTOBER 2, 2015
Last weekend I went with my colleague Moe to the Bronx and spent the afternoon there. Moe grew up in the Bronx with a single mother, and surrounded by suffocating hopelessness. Against all odds, he worked his way up to working for the Chief of Staff of the President at the White House. And he now runs the DC office of Libra.
What Moe showed me affected me deeply. This is only nine miles away from where we are right now; 14 subway stops; a 20-minute cab ride. Moe would tell me about this friend of his who was shot over there; that friend of his who was killed over here.
The annual banner that is at every neighborhood reunion displaying more and more young men killed every year; an ever-reducing number of old friends.
One of the great attributes of America is the social mobility of its people. The opportunity to strive for a better life is more readily available. Yet only nine miles from the center of Manhattan is abject social immobility. People live in a virtual trap where one of the handful of escapes is sports, which are realistically available to so few; drugs, which are tragically available to so many; or death.
I met some incredible people. Wise, giving, desperate in their desire to help the young men and women of their community. But I also saw untapped talent, unspent capital, many ceilings and limitations. That is simply not acceptable, which is why we are launching an Entrepreneurship Award in the Bronx that will encourage, fund and mentor the winners. Also some of the educational institutions there will soon qualify to send students to the global internship programs of Libra. Both of these initiatives are in partnership with My Brother’s Keeper, an incredible and inspiring initiative launched by President Obama.
At Libra, we have seen so many times first-hand the impact and profound change that our programs have had in other parts of the world. They change the lives of so many people for the better, and not just those who win or qualify, but also those around the participants and winners. It inspires them. It shows them a different road. It allows people to see what they can do instead of being limited by what they cannot do.
We take much pride in providing the oxygen of possibility to those oppressed by perpetual and daily impossibility. Be it young kids in Greece, Haiti, and now, the Bronx.
That’s their story, which you may be surprised to know not so long ago was our story. My grandparents’ story. My parents’ story. My story.
The story of Libra was that our aspiration for the improbable allowed us to achieve the impossible. Yet we have always tried to do it with a very strong social conscience. We tried to keep the marriage between business making and social giving healthy. We strove for our philanthropy to be more routed in empathy and empowerment than transactional and finite. We tried to delink the idea that a winner had to be at the expense of a loser.
In our own small way, we are trying to redefine capitalism.
Should we not collectively agree that it is not impossible to balance success and progress with the awareness of suffering and the corresponding moral responsibility to do something about it? The reality is that we cannot help everyone, but that does not give us license not to help someone.
This is not just bleeding-heart idealism. This is practical, and in the interests of all of us. For when everyone is empowered and included, we all win as a society. We all gain. When large sections of society are burdened by a sense of cynicism or exclusion, we all lose something.
When you raise a person, you raise a community. When you raise a community, you raise a society. And when you raise a society, you raise a nation.
We all as individuals and as a society have been given so much by those who have preceded us. Their struggles led to our progress. Their fights led to our freedom. The insidious threat is that we could so easily take it all for granted, and sometimes we all do. It is only looking through the lens of history that we can constantly remind ourselves of the debt we owe to those who came before, and the duty we have to those who will come after.
We dare not disappoint either.
George M. Logothetis is the Chairman and CEO of the Libra Group.