Synergos: University for a Night

Celebrating 20 Years of Building Partnerships

Plenary Discussion
and Presentation of the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Awards
New York City, October 4, 2007

Key Speakers: Mariclaire Acosta, Special Advisor to the President, Organization of American States; Raymond Chambers, Co-Chairman, Malaria No More; William H. Gates Sr., Co-Chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Vincent Mai, Chairman and CEO, AEA Investors; Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa (via video); David Rockefeller; Judith Rodin, President, The Rockefeller Foundation; and Rajesh Tandon, Chief Executive, Society for Participatory Research in Asia

Moderators: Peggy Dulany, Founder & Chair, The Synergos Institute; Robert H. Dunn, President & CEO, The Synergos Institute

Welcome and Introduction

ROBERT H. DUNN: In honor of serving as the president of Synergos and on behalf of our founder and chair, Peggy Dulany, the members of our board and staff, I would like to welcome all of you to this 20th anniversary celebratory occasion. In the spirit of Synergos, I hope you will understand why I want to begin my remarks by extending appreciation, and that appreciation goes first to the sponsors of this event, our founding sponsor, JP Morgan with special thanks to the staff of the private bank. I'd also like to thank Marcos de Moraes and Brazil's Instituto Rukha, the Baillères family, Carlos Bulgheroni, the Mimi & Peter Haas Fund, David Rockefeller, Sr., who happily is with us this evening, and the Samuel Family Foundation.

Bob Dunn
Robert H. Dunn

I also want to extend a special thanks to Alissa Desmarais and the Synergos staff who have labored to make this a wonderful, enjoyable and instructive evening for everyone. So please join me in thanking them. [APPLAUSE]

For 20 years, Synergos has worked to address issues of poverty and equity and social justice, bringing people together across divides to collaborate and make the world a better place for those who may be impoverished or vulnerable. We have done this work in virtually every part of the world with the most wonderful set of associates and supporters and partners that any organization is privileged to have. I'm happy to share with you that if you can see the podium you'll see that there is no grass growing underneath my feet, and we are looking ahead to the next 20 years, determined to have an even greater impact on this world.

We have also made a decision to support these efforts by launching our Campaign for the Future in honor of our 20th anniversary. It's going to be a $20 million campaign for Synergos. Happily, as we announce it we're able to tell you that we have 12 of the 20 million dollars pledged, and that includes very generous commitments from among others David Rockefeller, who is seated in the front row, and Judith Rodin and the Rockefeller Foundation. And we are especially grateful to them for their gifts to this campaign. [APPLAUSE]

Some of you know only one aspect of facet of our work. Synergos is currently involved in critical issues that face us as a global society: HIV and AIDS for orphans and vulnerable children in South Africa, malnutrition in India, the rights of indigenous people in Canada, urban sprawl in Brazil. We work in every part of the world and we seek to engage with people, with communities, so that we can change systems, so that we can do it in a way that builds capacity locally and that allows for interventions that are sustainable over time. And with your help and support for this campaign, I know that we're going to be able to do even more in the future.

I would like to just take a moment and briefly introduce the distinguished guests who are on the stage with Peggy, and they include Mariclaire Acosta, a human rights activist from Mexico, Ray Chambers, a businessman who is currently among other things leading a Malaria No More campaign, Bill Gates, Sr., who serves as one of the three co-chairs of the Gates Foundation, and finally Rajesh Tandon, whose work in India and around the world has been inspirational in its support for empowering local communities and helping citizens participate in their societies and governments. So with that, I'm going to turn things over to Peggy.

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Peggy Dulany
Peggy Dulany

PEGGY DULANY: Thank you Bob. I'm sorry if I'm sitting here with a silly grin on my face, but there are so many friends out here, some of whom I've already had a chance to say hello to and some of whom I haven't, but I can feel you even though I can hardly see you with the lights. It's really amazing to have you all here for Synergos' 20th anniversary and thank you for coming.

In the next hour or so we're going to have a conversation, initially among the five of us, and then including as many of you as we can fit in. So back to the beginning. And Rajesh, I'm going to begin with you because you were one of the key thinkers who helped us invent Synergos. But in your own work with PRIA in India -- I want to make sure I stay next to the mike but I also want to look at you -- in your own work with PRIA in India you were recently able to get to ... if I've got the figure right, I think I may have added a couple of zeros; you'll tell me if I'm wrong ... you were able to get to 200 million people at the grassroots level for the electoral campaign. Can you tell us how on earth this happened, first of all, whether I got the zeros right, and secondly how it happened, and thirdly with whom you worked to make it happen?

RAJESH TANDON: Well thanks, Peggy, and it's a pleasure to be back here. I remember the first time. It was nine, 10 years ago, and I was privileged to be there as well. There are many reasons why you hear about India these days, and one of them is that it is the largest democracy. And for more or less the last 60 years, since independence, we have had a system of governments which has been fashioned on parliamentary democracy. But very simply, till as recently as 14 years ago we only had 4,000 plus elected representatives in national parliament and assemblies. But we know that simply we had no local government system before. Fourteen years ago the Constitution was amended, and we now have a local government system called panchayats in rural areas and municipalities and everybody else.

Rajesh Tandon
Rajesh Tandon (video)

And now we have 2.2 million and 4,000 elected representatives, so there is now some competition in politics. Since it is good for economy, we hope it is good for politics too.

But in some ways, politics in India as perhaps, the bigger it gets, has become the fastest growing family profession. And [LAUGHTER] just to give you an example, it is also, it has become a fine art. So some of our very famous politicians, they offered to assist the US Election Commission after the Florida fiasco a few years ago. [LAUGHTER] Because what we specialize in in India is how to win elections. [LAUGHTER]

So if we want to really provide routes to democracy, we have to deepen that democracy, and we have to innovate, attempt to change the culture. Now most of the elections at the national or provincial level are fought on the basis of primordial affinities: caste, kinship, religion, and maybe political party. But there is hardly any discourse on developmental priorities. So we thought that local government elections should be fought on the basis of issues which are locally relevant. So policy options on these issues should be debated by cabinets.

Secondly, the Constitution provided for a window of opportunity, and one-third of all local government seats are reserved for women. So now we have nearly 850,000 women elected representatives in India, the vast majority of whom are of course semi-literate, and making a transition for the first time from the kitchen to a public office. So in order to promote greater participation of women in excluded sections in the electoral process, in order to make sure that girls, when they reach the age of 18, and are not married, are also registered as voters, because otherwise, registration of voters for girls after they leave home, used to be defer voting until they were married. So they will be voters in their new family, not in the old family.

And in order to make politics focus on devlopmental issues, on policy options in fact, a large series of voter in these campaigns. And in doing so, we had to partner with three major constituencies. PRIA itself has had a lot of experience in going through the regular civic groups, but in the process we have developed a coalition of nearly 3,200 community-based organizations in those 13 provinces where this campaign has been launched.

And we had to work with state election commissions, which are constitutional authorities, because civil society campaign for political reform is much more nascent in India. And so the state election commissions had to bless this campaign and provide us the legitimacy that was needed.

And thirdly, we had to work very closely with media, with a view to become vigilant about the electoral process, so that free and fair elections take place. And I must say that not only voting percentages have grown because of this, but also new ones, first-time candidates they're daring to come into politics because they were provided assistance in fighting for nominations and campaigning, and to some extent the muscle and money power of the elections has been at least begun to be checked.

But it's a long way to go. If democracy is the best form of governance we've had, we believe that it needs to be further democratized and deepened in order to make it more inclusive. Only then can we generate the faith so that many people think democracy is good for us.

DULANY: Thank you, Rajesh. That is an incredibly inspirational story. We've been in meetings in the last few days. Some people in this room were in those meetings in which we were talking about, on the one hand, that we need to stay rooted in the grass roots and build from the bottom up. On the other hand they need to go to scale. This is an amazing story about hope.

So I wanted to turn to you, Ray, and ask you what you might consider to be a somewhat unusual question. Don't worry, I'm going to give you a chance to talk about the Malaria campaign. But I wanted to start with ... and I'll say the reason why I'm going to ask this question first. All of us who knew this work are liable to completely exhaust ourselves if we don't replenish ourselves in one way or another. And so my question starts with, what is it that not only gives you the motivation to do the work, but that also restores you when you get exhausted? And then following on that, if you could say something about your work. And I will let you choose whether you want to talk about the Millennium Promise, or Malaria No More or both. It's a great platform.

Ray Chambers
Raymond Chambers (video)

RAYMOND CHAMBERS: That's a difficult question. I had an investment firm with Bill Simon, former Secretary of the Treasury in the '80's, called Wesray Capital, and we were doing really well. And Bill came into my office one day and he said, "Isn't this great? We're at the top of Wall Street, but you don't look happy." And I said, "I'm not." He said, "What would it take for you to be happy?" I said, "Well, we could lose it and do it again." And he said, "You need a vacation." [LAUGHTER]

I was inspired by Eugene Lang and what he did with the I Have a Dream Foundation, so I decided to take 1,000 children in Newark and agreed to pay their tuition through college.

And I met one young man who was seven years of age. His name is Atif . And we went to see the first clouts of his group. We asked them questions, and then the teacher said, "Children, do you have any questions for the Board?" And this one young man said, "I'd like to compliment the Board on how nice they look today." [LAUGHTER]

And I said, "He's either going to be President of the United States or have a difficult life." [LAUGHTER]

He became part of our family, and I started to feel myself getting their energy, what I didn't have, just being in business. So I left business and let myself get to know Atif and these other children well. And I was taking Atif and his sister to buy a new pair of sneakers, and they have different fathers and his father died, and he asked if he could call me Daddy, and the social worker said, "That's the worst thing." But I said, "Go ahead."

And so we were in the car, and his sister said, "Why are you called Mr. C Daddy? He's not your Daddy." And Atif said, "Well my Daddy died. And I asked Mr. C and he said it was okay. Isn't that right, Daddy?" So he stuck his tongue out at his sister and let a minute go by.

And then he said, "Now that we've got that straight, Daddy, are you old enough to have a will?" [LAUGHTER]

And I thought that energy, the more I spent time with Atif and all this other children, and extended the work to the Mentoring Partnership, the Points of Light Foundation, and rebuilding Newark. I actually found myself feeling better than I had ever felt before. To close the loop, so that was over 20 years ago. Atif is now 28. He went through a lot of difficulties but we had a call from him last night. Several months ago we'd sent him to Uganda to our Millennium Village that's part of Millennium Promise in Uganda, that the University of Notre Dame oversees. And for the first time in his life, he realized there were people worse off than he, and number two, that he could make a difference and help them in their lives.

He called last night, and he never sounded better. He said, "I've never been happier." And he's the official liaison between the student body at the University of Notre Dame and the people in this impoverished village in Uganda. And when I finished listening to his message last night, I said, "He's now begun to experience that same satisfaction, that same energy, almost in a full circle."

And speaking of having villages, you know, we had taken 78 villages, and brought the Millennium development goals into those villages, and quadrupled the crop in one year. This is led by Jeff Sachs. The governments of four African countries are now taking on the Millennium Village strategy and the national strategy. But I learned about malaria about two years ago, being in Africa and seeing children that I thought were sleeping. They were in malaria comas. They never recover. And I learned that last year, 2 million children under the age of five died from malaria. And all those deaths were preventable with a $10 insecticide treating the mosquito net, and 50 million children have died since 1975.

I was in the Genocide Museum in Rwanda, looking at all the genocides in history, and it struck me that if these deaths are preventable, malaria may be one of the worst genocides, genocide by apathy. So we formed Malaria No More with the hope of working with all the partners that are in that space, the Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria], the World Bank, the President's Malaria Initiative, the Gates Foundation, to see if we could come up with one plan that if accurately executed over the next couple of years, would bring malaria down to the point where it was no longer a public health threat. And they brought in a lot of partners from the private sector. We did the American Idol: Idol Gives Back show, and raised $80 million in one night for malaria and AIDS.

And we're now on the path with this partnership to hopefully bring malaria to the point where it's not a public health concern by 2012.

DULANY: So just a follow-up question on that. The impact of that meeting, the conversation you had with him, skipping forward 20 years and then seeing these children who didn't recover from the coma, how do you look at that?

CHAMBERS: It's really difficult to see children so small with the same hope for their lives, and their parents having the same hope for their lives that we have. And I think whatever we do, however we do it, if we can do our best and try and change something around on this malaria tragedy, and equating that back with the children in Newark and Atif, not knowing what the outcome is going to be. But I'm convinced that if we reach out to help somebody less fortunate and then get detached from the outcome, it's our intention on the input that gives us the satisfaction in life that I've experienced over the last 20 years.


Mariclaire Acosta
Mariclaire Acosta (video)

Mariclaire, are you ready? You've been an incredible activist for human rights in Mexico and more broadly, and I'm wondering what in your own life led you to take on that huge challenge, and that's the first part. And then the second is, how do you make the connection between advocating for human rights and economic development?

MARICLAIRE ACOSTA: Well thank you. Thank you for that question. What led me to fight for human rights? Well, I come from Mexico, which as you all know is a country that has a lot of, well it had the first social revolution in the 20th century. And two million people died as a consequence of that revolution, and it changed the country. And both my grandparents participated in the revolution, like millions of other people. There's nothing exceptional about it. They did what they had to do in their lifetime. But what I'm trying to say I think is that I came from a family that had a very highly developed consciousness about social inequality and oppression, and what that means.

And also, from a family where people participate in public service, and gave the best that they had in their own capacity. My mother's mother was a nurse, and when my grandfather died she took over the family and when I was born she was one of the first nurses in the Social Security Institute of Mexico. And she would take me as a little girl to the slums and Mexico City, and to the hospitals and so on. So I was always very aware of the problem.

So it was just a natural thing to grow up and to think that you had to do something for your country and for your people, and then the next step was realizing that this is a universal issue, and that fighting for human rights is really fighting for. Fighting is perhaps a very strong word. But mobilizing around the issue of human rights is mobilizing around basic human dignity and basic conditions that all human beings need to develop and to be what they are. So that's sort of what led me there.

I was a university student in the '60s. There was a lot of student mobilization in those days, and there was a lot of repression, and I witnessed a lot of that repression, and I saw what the lack of democratic rights can do to a people and to a society. And so I chose that path. I chose the path of trying to deepen democracy and create conditions for citizenship as my life's work. And that's what I've been doing.

DULANY: Thank you. And the relationship to social and economic development?

ACOSTA: Yes. Well, if you believe in human rights as sort of the basic conditions for human dignity and civilized existence, then you have to believe that we all have economic rights and social rights and civil rights and political rights. And you can't really separate those. But I think what you have to do is find ways and means to bring those together. I've always believed that if we become empowered by participating in government or in our communities, that that is a first step towards making this realization of economic rights more real. And so one of the things that I have now been doing, after a lot of years of working more in the area of civil rights, is working with one very basic human right that tends to be overlooked, because nobody really thinks about it. And it's the right to be registered at birth.

It's a basic right. It's in the universal declaration of human rights, it's in all of the international human rights conventions and so on. But it's very often overlooked because it's so basic and fundamental, that we all tend to forget that if we're not lucky enough to be registered at birth, and have a birth certificate, we do not exist for the state. And therefore, we cannot begin to exercise any of our rights. We are invisible.

And that led me to the realization that in the part of the globe where I developed my work, which is in the Americas, about 18 percent of all the children under five years old do not have a birth certificate, and millions of people, of adults, don't have it. And therefore they cannot vote, they cannot access education or health services, they cannot own property. They simply are non-existent. They're invisible. So this is what I'm now trying to develop, is a program for universal civil identity in the Americas. [APPLAUSE]

DULANY: So this one's coming straight at you, Bill. The question I think will be of great interest to a number of people here, because not everybody who has wealth inherits wealth, and not everybody ever has wealth. You grew up, as I understand it, not among the super wealthy, and yet you're in this interesting circumstance where your son made a lot of money, and now you and Bill and Melinda are the co-founders and co-chair of this amazing foundation. And I'm just wondering, since you're Bill's father, what were the values in you that led you and him and Melinda to want to do this amazing thing. And how did you as a family -- because we have a number of people who are interested in this question of how families make decisions -- how did you as a family decide to do it, and what help did you get in terms of whether professional guidance or whatever, to do the amazing things that you've come to do?

Bill Gates Sr.
William H. Gates Sr. (video)

WILLIAM H. GATES, SR.: I don't think I really know the answer to that, Peggy. Bill grew up in a family situation where civic activity, civic obligation, charitable activity, charitable obligations, were part of the subject matter of the dinner discussion and he heard, particularly his mother, my late wife, talk about her activities, particularly with the United Way. So there was some familiarity and I think some sense of that sort of thing being a norm in family life.

And specifically, I do recall -- and this I think is relevant -- that when he decided to bring his company back to Seattle and operate it there, one of his early discussions with his mother was when he was going to have the United Way campaign among the employees, and he was a little impatient with that question. He suggested to his mother that he thought he had more important things to do with the company than to raise money for the United Way. But nevertheless that was the message that came. And very, very shortly thereafter they did do a United Way campaign, which may be some evidence of what the forces were that acted upon him.


From the time that he became prominent in terms of wealth, he had a lot of advice about creating a foundation, and he was resistant to that because he didn't feel -- and this is, I think, a pretty sophisticated observation -- he just didn't feel that he wanted another entity in his life. And I think many of you can relate to that, probably. Entities create requirements and activities that sometimes are in excess of their value. And he just isn't going to bother with that.

When I was widowed and I had a conversation with him and Melinda about the fact that they were having a hard time keeping up with the requests that they had for charitable contributions and civic activities of one kind and another, and I offered to help them with that. They were delighted with that and said yes, by all means "Dad, let's do that." And then, all of a sudden to my complete surprise, he said, "Dad, I'm going to start a foundation." So that was the beginning of this, because he felt that somebody else could worry about the trivia that goes with having another entity.

We did that for two or three years, and then along in the -- I'm thinking about '95 -- along in the late nineties, we had started kind of a global health work, and were seeing all kinds of possibilities and opportunities that existed in that area. And he ... I talked to him one day about it and said, you know, son, one thing you might consider -- I think we had $100 million, or something like that, in the net worth at that time -- and I said, "Son, maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea if we had a little more coming to the foundation so we could tend to more of these things." And he said, "Well Dad, that's interesting. Melinda and I have been talking about that, and we've decided that we're going to add $24 billion to it." [LAUGHTER]

It was a long talk. [LAUGHTER]

And that's exactly what they did. It took about four quarters, and they added that kind of money to the foundation. And you know, at that point it was a function of seeing need, and responding to that. But I'm not going to dump the possibility that something about the atmosphere around the home in which he grew up gave him some tendency to think in terms of charitable activity, and a sense of -- particularly his dad's point of view -- that wealth is not something you should be proud of exactly.

Wealth is something that happens to you as a result of circumstances over which you had no control whatsoever. [LAUGHTER] He agrees with that. [LAUGHTER]

And that the major ingredient of being a wealthy person is a function of living in a country like our own, and having accordingly an indebtedness for the conditions in which you are able to live in creating the circumstances which generated this wealth, in his case totally amazing wealth, that you didn't, you really cannot think of it as yours. It is a fact that's created by the society in which you live and we believe that that generates some indebtedness.


DULANY: I loved what Ray said about acknowledging that you can only do so much, but you set the intention, and then if you know you did your best then somehow the sense of what you can do doesn't become personal. You don't have to be attached to it. So that's one thing that struck me, because I know a lot of us here get very deeply immersed in what it is we're doing and it's very hard not to feel discouraged when we fail, which we all do, especially if we take risks, which we should.

And the other thing that really struck me was some parallels between what Bill just said and what Rajesh and Mariclaire said, because it had to do, really, the connection was civic values. That was the term you used, Bill. But what Rajesh was really talking about was for a huge number of Indian people, particularly women, who had never had the opportunity to participate civically, they didn't have the family circumstance in which those values were transmitted, and through layers of solidarity, what you've really been doing is providing the opportunity for millions of women and men to develop the kinds of values that I really hope -- this is what democracy is or should be about -- I really hope that when one of the children of one of those women becomes the next Indian Bill Gates, that mother or father will be like Bill Gates, Sr., in other words, will have the civic values.

And I heard the same thing in what you said, Mariclaire, that what came through your mother and father led you through life. It was the values that were transmitted that naturally led you to what it is you're doing. To me there's a very fine line between giving money and giving of ourselves. I like to think of philanthropy as the money part being useful, but the real part in a sense being the giving of ourselves in whatever way it is that we do, and in combination.

So for the two of you who are social activists, who I happen to know have been giving of yourselves for your entire lives, it's bold. It's better than bold. And for the two of you who have gotten into positions where you've been able to give money as well as, in your case, really transmitting your values, and in your case, Ray, really building your philanthropy out of the values that you ... I really take my hat off to all four of you tonight, and thank you for being willing to share. [APPLAUSE]

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Questions and Answers

DUNN: We're going to invite questions, and the way we're going to do this is, if you raise your hand I'll take a cluster of questions, so that people on the stage have a chance to hear them and begin to think about the most appropriate way to answer them, and then I'll turn this back over to the podium for responses. So we have a mike. I see a hand in the back.

MICHAEL SONNENFELDT: Thank you. It's interesting, on our 20th anniversary that in years past we focused mostly on accomplishments of the speakers or the particular activities that they were involved with, and tonight we focused more on values and feelings to a degree we haven't in previous years. And I'm wondering if that's particular to the moment in time that we're in. And I would be curious if each of you would think about this moment as different from times past, and wonder if there's something particular about this moment in time that we find ourselves in that would prompt that kind of introspection about your work. What is most motivating each of you at this moment to be thinking through that lens?

DUNN: Thank you.

JIN ZIDELL: This could be addressed to any one of them on the panel. We all talk about our rights, the rights of others, and I'm wondering if you think there is a concomitant responsibility for every right one asserts, whether one is of the wealthy, privileged class or even more, as importantly, the underclass, that there is, for every right one assumes or asserts, is there a common embedded responsibility.

DUNN: Anyone else here while the mike is here? In the center, down front?

DANIEL ROSE: I think the audience would be interested in hearing each of our speakers discuss their most successful efforts.

Peter Karoff and Mahesh Sharma
H. Peter Karoff (standing) and Mahesh Sharma

PETER KAROFF: Peggy, you have said that the only real transformation is the transformation of the human heart. What does that mean? And it would be interesting to hear the others on the stage comment as well.

DUNN: Perhaps one more.

MICHAEL VON STUMM: We all have dreams, so when the question is brought up, what are your dreams for the future?

TANDON: These are difficult questions to answer, but from where I sit and where I work, I think the most important change that has happened at this juncture, in this moment, is a deep sense of injustice, not because we are living in terribly violent times. I think humanity has gone through more violent periods in the past. But the sense of injustice rising up is the possibility that we have capability on this earth, financial, intellectual and human capabilities to address all the problems that we face.

And that sense of injustice is what also transforms into a dream, that it should be possible. We have solutions to problems of malnutrition, the problem of malaria, the problem of hunger, the problems of exclusion. But next door, a few blocks from here, a couple of days ago the United Nations proclaimed Mahatma Gandhi's birthday on October 2nd as a universal day of non-violence. We have all that which, perhaps, a generation before us, 100 years before, today we did not have. We have the means, we have the solutions. But they aren't being rapidly applied around the world. And that sense of injustice, impatience, is what bugs me a great deal today.


GATES, SR.: I share completely that statement of the motivation. It's a function of consciousness of the problems that exist, and what follows of course is a sense of community about the sharing of responsibility for those problems. And not much of a "fan"of the human heart. I don't mean that at all, but my sense of things is that the business of our all being in this together is a rational, intellectual approach to each person's role in society, and I think that we know that a society can't really exist with huge disparities, and we have so many occasions and in history demonstrated that a society doesn't exist when you have huge disparities. But it goes beyond just some civics or political science idea. It is just the simple proposition that we are all in this together, whatever you think about the nature of our creation or anything else. It's just a sense that there's an unfairness in a world to have a huge portion of the people who live in it so horribly disadvantaged.

You know, to me the most interesting debate in our country is the fundamental debate about the balance between rights and responsibilities. I'm thinking in this room we all would just be so pleased if we could analyze and figure out a way to run our community in a way that the poor were not as disadvantaged as they are, that their opportunities were the same as yours and mine. But at the same time, I think most of us would disagree with some sort of major program of just doling funds to the disadvantaged people in our society, and that the tension between those two ideas, of generosity and just creating an opportunity and leaving it to people's own responsibility to take advantage of that, is the thing that we're balancing all the time. And it's very delicate, and I think we're fairly conscientious about it, and not doing a really bad job of it, although if I were the king of the universe I'd tend to be a little more on the generous side than on the responsibility side, quite honestly.

My most successful theme so far is the vaccinations that we've done in the poor world. We've vaccinated millions of children for a whole array of health problems, and there's isn't any question that lots of lives will be significantly changed as a result of that. And that's something that we take a whole lot of pride in. And what I .. if dreams are hopes, my hope would be that in the enormous, long-term characteristics of the things we're working on, I just want to live long enough to see some of them happen. [APPLAUSE]

DULANY: So I'm getting some signals from our time keeper that we need to speed this up. I apologize, but maybe you could each choose the one question that most appealed to you. Mariclaire?

ACOSTA: Yes. Actually, I wanted to tell a very short little story, and try to answer all of the questions. And what started me off was what is the most motivating thing or experience that I've had in my work. Well, many years ago in Mexico, in the state of Chiapas, there was a lot of violence, and again, there was an armed uprising. And a lot of civilians and innocent people were caught up in the middle of this terrible fighting. And there was one case that I as a human rights activist had to deal with, and it was a case of a woman who belonged to a community that was infiltrated by an organization who actually led many members of the community to invade a property.

It was a coffee growing property, and it was a very prosperous one, and there had been a lot of demands on the part of the members of the community to have some of that land allocated to them. So there was a festering social conflict there. Anyway, what happened was, as a result of this invasion, this woman was singled out as a ring leader and she was arrested. And she was arrested in a very brutal and arbitrary manner. Of course there was no formal proceedings at all. She was literally kidnapped by security forces and taken to a police station where she was raped and tortured brutally, and then left in prison for several years.

Well I met her several years after this had happened, and we took up her case, and so we took the case to court, in Chiapas. And of course nothing happened there. So then we went to the next step, and we covered the whole gamut of the human rights machinery until we finally got to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. And 10 years later -- and I did this as a human rights activist first, and then I was lucky enough to be part of the government, the Fox government, so I took the case when I was in the government.

Anyway, what happened was that 10 years later we finally got the Mexican government to acknowledge that yes, we have committed a terrible human rights abuse, that Julietta is her name, had been a victim of torture and arbitrary treatment, and we actually got reparation. I mean, we were able to prosecute the two policemen who had done it. They were obviously acting under orders. But we also got a reparation for her. And the reparation that she demanded was a public apology. And that's what she got. She got a public apology and a recognition on the part of the state that they had violated our own constitution, our own laws, and our human rights obligations. And that to me is the reason why I keep doing this work, and I think it embodies a lot of the things that I believe in, and some of my dreams and hopes.

I would hope that many more -- (a) that people don't have to invade properties in order to fight for social justice, that they can do it through peaceful means, and (b) that conflicts be resolved in a peaceful and civilized way, and that damage is repaired in the way that it was repaired in this case, if you can repair damage like what Julietta got. An apology was sufficient to restore her sense of dignity as a human person. [APPLAUSE]

CHAMBERS: I'd like to address the question about what's going on now that's caused this change in focus, not just here tonight but what we're seeing in the world. I do think there is a massive change based on the recognition of global interdependence, what Bill Gates spoke about at Harvard, recognition of the inequities in the world. Some of it comes from the rights and responsibilities that we have as citizens of the world, but we're seeing things that we've never seen before, the incredible number of top graduates from college applying to Teach for America. Facebook launched its Causes on May 25, and since then 5.2 million young people have downloaded the software and made a contribution to charity.

I think each of them, beyond addressing their responsibility for the inequities, are feeling something positive as a result of getting so engaged. And I think we're going to see that trend continue more and more, and I think my dream would be that every child born in this world would have an equal opportunity to realize his or her potential. [APPLAUSE]

DULANY: So Bill, you may not believe in all this verbiage about the human heart, but you have a very human heart. And I suspect that Peter's question was geared to elicit from you the following statement, which is that to the extent that there are people out there who have the capacity to work with others to commit themselves to realize the dreams that have been expressed from this platform, and they don't, then a transformation is required and it's a transformation that's deeper than simply what you do, because it has to come from what you feel and where you come from. So I didn't invent the phrase but I do believe in it, and that's what I believe it entails.

So Bob, are you next up? And I believe that we're now supposed to come down from the platform. Sometimes I get confused between who's me and who's Bob. That was me who's up next.

Top of Page

Presentation of the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Awards

Since 2003, we've also used this gathering to recognize and acknowledge outstanding individuals who've made a difference in bringing people together across traditional boundaries to solve problems. And I'm extremely proud to say, although I have to say I had something to do with it, that the first recipient of this award was my father, [APPLAUSE] who I'm so glad to have with me here tonight. And Dads, I want to thank you so much for your guidance and leadership and support, both personally, for Synergos, and in the world. Who you are and the work that you've done has served as a complete inspiration to me and to many others around the world, and for that I'm really grateful. So this award, as you know, is named in your honor, and to present our first honoree of the evening, I'm really happy to introduce Vince Mai. You can stay there for another minute, Vince, because I'm actually going to introduce you.

Vince is, first of all, a wonderful person. He was born in South Africa and has a deep commitment to social justice, among many other things. He helped found the International Center for Transitional Justice. In fact, he's been engaged in meetings there for the last day or so. And Vince, I would like to please welcome you to present our first award.

Vincent Mai
Vincent Mai (video)

VINCENT MAI: Thank you Peggy, thank you for your kind words. And good evening, ladies and gentlemen. What to say about Nelson Mandela that has not been said? Today he is the leader and spokesman for humanitarianism throughout the world, the absolute leader. In embracing humanitarian principles, he speaks out for mankind's most elevated ideals: respect for others, forgiveness and reconciliation, compassion, and eradicating the staggering level of poverty that is such a blight on the world today.

Building on the historical experiences of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela's predecessor, as the great 20th century revolutionary piece, Nelson Mandela has taken the ennobling stance that Dr. King so powerfully described in one of his speeches, and I quote, "I refuse to accept the view that mankind of so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war, that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality."

We all know the remarkable story of the events of 1991 when Apartheid was dismantled with the help of several people in this room tonight, I might add, leading to the birth of South Africa's first democratically elected government, with Nelson Mandela as the first democratically elected president. I grew up in South Africa and left there in the early 1960s, when I thought that it would be impossible to see those events transformed into the reality they became. I never imagined I would be able to go back to South Africa and that I would see that beautiful country that so many of you know, and that it would become a beacon of democracy for the rest of the world.

What I had failed to understand was that Nelson Mandela was a truly transformative leader who had the potential to change the world. His dignified and determined commitment to humanitarian principles made him South Africa's George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson all rolled in one. He became the leader of black South Africans, colored South Africans, white South Africans, Indian South Africans. He became the spokesman for conservatives, for liberals, for Socialists. He was embraced by trade union leaders, by business leaders, by artists, and yes, even by South African rugby players. And he never, ever compromised his principles. Now that is a leader, and what a remarkable, remarkable accomplishment.

Having seen in South Africa that freedom is virtually meaningless to those without basic life necessities, Nelson Mandela refused to rest on his laurels. As many of you know, only two months ago he had the remarkable accolade of having a larger than life statue of himself unveiled in Parliament Square outside the Houses of Parliament in London, right alongside statues of Winston Churchill, of Benjamin Disraeli and Abraham Lincoln. Characteristically, he used the occasion to express the following powerful sentiment. And I'm quoting Nelson Mandela, just two months ago: "Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times, times in which the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation. Poverty and obscene inequality rank alongside slavery and Apartheid as social evils. Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life."

May the citizens of the world heed this powerful call to action, as I know everyone in this room does, and tackle urgently this most important and critical humanitarian challenge of our time. With that, it is my pleasure and honor to present the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award to Nelson Mandela, to ask David Rockefeller, very appropriately, to receive this award on Nelson Mandela's behalf. [APPLAUSE]

David Rockefeller
David Rockefeller (video)

DAVID ROCKEFELLER: I can't think of a greater honor than to have an opportunity to say a few words about one of the people who I admire the most, and I am delighted to do so. But before I do, I'd just like to say how exciting it is that Synergos has now been in being for 20 years. And I think each year those of us who have been connected with it have come to realize how important it was to establish it, and to bring together people from all over the world, many of whom are here this evening, to participate in achieving its very worthy objectives.

And of course it's hard for me to say that without adding that one of the things I'm most proud of is that the person who's played a key role in that has been my daughter, Peggy. [APPLAUSE]

Admittedly, I'm very prejudiced, but I have no questions that I'm right. And she is a very remarkable lady and I'm very proud indeed of her.

Many of you, though, may think it a bit strange for me to accept an award honoring Nelson Mandela, which bears my name. Actually I agree with you. [LAUGHTER]

But the circumstances are admittedly somewhat exceptional, and I would not think it appropriate to do this for anyone other than Nelson Mandela, whose health makes it impossible for him to travel here to accept the award. His accomplishments and unique qualities are well-known for all of us. In my view, Nelson Mandela's compassion, integrity and willingness to reconcile with conflicting groups in South Africa, established a model that we would all do well to embrace. Therefore, I'm very honored to accept this award on behalf of Nelson Mandela, and do so with a sense of great honor that I can be associated with him in this regard. [APPLAUSE]

Thank you. No one is more deserving of that award.


MAI: Thank you David. As David mentioned, Mr. Mandela could not be with us this evening. But he has very kindly done a video, with the remarks that he would have liked to make if he were here. So now we're going to play the video of Nelson Mandela accepting the award.

Nelson Mandela (video)

NELSON MANDELA (BY VIDEO): I regret not being in a position to be with you in person. Allow me the opportunity to thank my friends David Rockefeller, Peggy Dulany, The Synergos Institute for conferring on me this prestigious David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award. All of us in Southern Africa are keenly aware of David's accomplishments as a business and civil society leader. David has been the consummate bridging leader who has throughout his life brought people together across social and economic divides. In his determined and quiet way, David supported and inspired others to achieve great things.

I would like to thank David and his daughter Peggy for all they've done to support the movement for democracy and social justice in South Africa. I also join you all in applauding the efforts of the Gates family. Through its exemplary and ground-breaking work in global health and education, the Gates Foundation is tackling the route causes of poverty and inequity through collaboration and innovation on a large scale. We are grateful to Bill and Melinda Gates for setting such an impressive standard for the 21st century. We would not have been able to win the struggle against Apartheid without the support, advocacy and partnership of many friends around the world, including some of you present this evening.

We have also learned about the transformative power of dialogue and multistakeholder engagement. Today our mandate is in some way broader and the path forward less clear as we face complex challenges of poverty, lack of access to education, health care and jobs, and the struggle to conquer HIV-AIDS. That is why I have charged the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, and the Mandela Rhodes Trust, to work hard at bringing people together in dynamic new partnerships to overcome these challenges in South Africa and across Africa.

With Synergos and the Gates Foundation, we share a vision of a transformed democratic and non-racial Southern Africa that guarantees equal dignity and social justice for all. I would particularly like to congratulate Synergos on its 20th anniversary, and on two decades of solidarity and support with partners in Southern Africa. I hope you will all continue to join with us in building partnerships for justice around the world. I thank you.

DULANY: I'd like to introduce to do that very function Judith Rodin, who all of you know I'm sure is President of The Rockefeller Foundation, which has played a key role over a number of generations and continues to and will in the future in crafting innovative strategies to address some of the world's most critical issues. And I'm happy to say that Judy has incorporated an orientation toward partnership into her work, and probably the most famous one so far is the Rockefeller Foundation-Gates partnership around agriculture in Africa. So Judy, it's my great pleasure to welcome you to the podium. [APPLAUSE]

Judith Rodin
Judith Rodin (video)

JUDITH RODIN: Thank you so much, Peggy, for those kind words.

I shudder to imagine that I can do justice to an introduction after President Mandela but I will try. And I will take right from his line, and that is, he is celebrating, as we all are here, the power of partnerships. And I celebrate Synergos and you, Peggy, because for two decades partnership has been the Synergos watchword. We're all here, I think, because we share the bedrock idea that we can only create change around the world by partnering, by engaging local communities, by cultivating local expertise and institutions, and by bringing people together from across so many sectors because these problems are so complicated, they're so difficult, but they're not intractable if we partner.

Bob, to you and your colleagues, all of us are excited about your efforts to expand and elevate the work of Synergos, and we thank you. We have found you a terrific partner, and we're looking forward to continuing to work alongside you.

I think the recognition that this work requires us to work together, to think together, to break down boundaries, to get rid of silos in our own work, these are problems that require not only partnership and collaboration, but they require the knowledge, the energy, the interest, the substance that is coming now from so many different disciplines in order to find innovations and find new solutions, and to work together with policymakers and philanthropic leaders and scholars and community activists and donors, is a real privilege for all of us. And leaders in this effort really, who have been so extraordinary and have provided a beacon for so much work in the areas of global health and global development, are our colleagues at the Gates Foundation.

And so it's a special privilege for me, a real honor for me to introduce this year's second David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership awardees, Bill Gates, Melinda French Gates, and William Gates, Sr. We honor them for their leadership and work in promoting health and development and education around the world. They are revolutionizing access to vaccines, and Bill, Sr. talked about it a bit tonight. It is stunning to go around the world and travel with them or travel after them, and really hear how many lives they have touched and what an extraordinary impact they are making on village after village, country after country, child after child.

They are working on developing antiretroviral drugs, new kinds of vaccines, other tools to fight dreaded diseases in the developing world, and they are supporting ground-breaking research, fundamental research to discover health solutions that are effective and importantly affordable. They're partnering with beneficiaries to help more people in more places lift themselves out of poverty and hunger, helping small farmers improve productivity and access to markets, and facilitating access to loans, new forms of insurance to individuals, and families and communities, so that they can get enterprises off the ground, weather setbacks and build assets.

Here in the United States the Gates Foundation's High School Reform Program is generating a dramatic impact on the small schools movement, and on the shape and substance of the high school curriculum all around the United States, of course, but we're seeing it and feeling it locally in New York City and watching its impact. And they're wiring millions of low income Americans into the information economy of the 21st century, expanding access to technology through public libraries in low income neighborhoods.

But we honor the leaders of the Gates Foundation, these extraordinary three individuals, tonight, more than for just what they do but truly for how they do it, for reaching out for strategic partnerships, leveraging investments, focusing always on the results of their work and much less on who gets credit for it. I've watched them time and time again as they think through ideas and they roll up their sleeves and they dive into knowledge and they examine data and they fight about the difficult issues. They're not looking for easy solutions. They're looking for the right answers, and they pick big problems and they worry through them.

John D. Rockefeller, Sr. talked about scientific philanthropy, something that we feel privileged to try to emulate, and it is very much a cornerstone of the work of the Gates Foundation and we've been privileged to partner in an alliance for an African green revolution and work we're doing in vaccine development and work we're doing in New Orleans, and watching them and thinking with them and learning from them has just been an extraordinary treat, and we are all grateful.

A century ago, John D. Rockefeller, Sr. and Andrew Carnegie founded the field of philanthropy by giving large sums of wealth to support innovative solutions to the biggest problems of that day, not to, as John D., Sr. said, put Band-Aids on weeping wounds, but to attack root causes. Today the Gates family is brilliantly building on that tradition, re-defining the landscape of philanthropy for the 21st century, pushing far beyond the hide bound parameters of traditional grant making, developing and searching for and demanding scaleable and sustainable interventions, and demanding measurable outcomes and impact.

William Gates, Sr. is representing the Gates family tonight, and it's my honor to present to him this award. After a career in public service and the law, he serves today as the co-chair of the Gates Foundation, guiding its strategic direction and advocating on behalf of poor and vulnerable people around the world. He is also a co-founder and co-chair of the Initiative for Global Development, among so many other important roles that he is fulfilling.

We at the Rockefeller Foundation are very proud to represent the philanthropic tradition of so many of us here tonight, especially David and Peggy and the family as we celebrate this award. Bill, we are honored to work with you and work alongside you and Bill and Melinda. We are inspired by your genuine sincerity, by your enormous generosity, enormous and wonderful personal dedication, and the extraordinary impact that you've had as individuals, as a family and as a foundation. On behalf of all of our colleagues, congratulations. [APPLAUSE]

ROCKEFELLER: Thank you, Judy. Bill, it's a great honor to present this award to you in recognition of the many contributions the Gates family has made over the past decade.

Quite frankly, your family constantly amazes me. Your son played a leading role in transferring the fundamental framework of modern business, and now the entire Gates family has deepened and broadened the reach of American philanthropy by making vast new resources available to confront the global problems of poverty, ignorance and disease. In doing this, you recognized that dollars are not the most important element. Effective philanthropy requires personal commitment, accountability, creativity and collaboration if it is to succeed.

The Gates family has incorporated all these components into its philanthropy and as a result given many of us renewed hope that these complex problems can indeed by conquered. My congratulations to you, sir. Now at this time, at least I know there is an award here, and I'll try to find it. [APPLAUSE]

GATES, SR.: Well, thank you very much David and Judith, I'm really just honored so very much to receive this award. I speak on behalf of Bill and Melinda and myself, and I want to insert that I'm one of those who sometimes has a hard time saying things, and I apologize for that, but I do want to say that I am very proud of my son and his wife. [APPLAUSE]

As I say, I'm humbled to be here, and just a bit giddy. I'm giddy, because among David Rockefeller, President Mandela and me, I am the baby of the group. By a good six years as a matter of fact. So I don't often get to be the young Turk in any gathering any more. It's delightful.

I'm humbled because these two men, David Rockefeller and President Nelson Mandela, have taught our family and our foundation more about the meaning of the fight against inequity than most anybody else, ever. At the Gates Foundation we get a lot of press, and some of the credit goes to us on the basis of our doing philanthropy in a whole new way. They speak of entrepreneurial and venture philanthropy. When I speak to folks, as I speak to you tonight, I deny that we're doing something new and different. I point out that the Rockefeller Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation and many others have for years and years been doing just exactly and in exactly the same way what we are trying to do, and we are entitled to no credit for having originated something new in the world of philanthropy.

David, we've learned from your family's work in countless ways, including as partners in the new, African farmer's effort, the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa. That project builds on the example of your foundation, which was started back in the 1950s and has been an inspiration to us. President Mandela has been a model for those of us at the foundation since he visited us back in 1999. We were just getting started. To have a leader of his stature and courage and inspire us at that crucial juncture in our development gave us a whole new sense of purpose, and the motivation to get our sights set high, higher than they had been.

When President Mandela made that Seattle visit, he gave a speech to a group of community leaders that is one of the most precious memories that I have, and that exists around the foundation. Toward the end of his talk he asked two questions. First, 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 at that gathering were long and painful. The power of the moment was magnified by the bearing of Nelson Mandela. There was no anger in his question, there was no recrimination. And to a person, every one, including those few who were standing, felt that they had come up short. Those who had done nothing wished they'd done something. And those who had done something, wished they had done more.

And what we took away from that moment was a sense of urgency. We do the work in philanthropy business because we believe that all lives have equal value. And we do it because of President Mandela, because so much injustice plagues the world. And we know we can act now to do something to help to bring it to an end. The next time he asks us his questions, all of us want to be able to stand up and to say, yes, we took action. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE]

DUNN: Before we adjourn to dinner, there's just one more piece of business in honor of this 20th anniversary celebration. We'd like to thank all of you who have played such a pivotal role in the evolution and development of this organization. And interestingly, we did not coordinate this, I'm going to invite hopefully everyone in this room eventually to stand tall, and if Nelson Mandela were with us, I think it would be a wonderful and happy moment for him because of the nature of the group that's assembled here tonight.

Peggy Dulany and Bob Dunn
Robert H. Dunn and Peggy Dulany

I'd also like Peggy not to stand until later, and I'd like to ask everyone to please hold your applause until I signal that the time is right. So an organization doesn't do wonderful work for 20 years without the help of lots of extraordinary people, and you are assembled here tonight, we want to recognize all of you.

I'd like to begin with those who were involved in conversations with Peggy when Synergos was just an idea, the pioneers. Some of you became associates, some of you became Board members, some staff One of you was my predecessor serving as president, Bruce Schearer. So if you are in that cohort, family and early advisors and counselors, associates, would you please stand. You can hold your applause, thank you.

Next, there are many people who served as ... you can stay standing, if you don't mind, except for David who gets an exception. Those of you who through the years have served as members of the Board and staff of Synergos, would you please stand? Synergos has created two wonderful networks of leaders, one, our global philanthropists circle, and the second, our senior fellows. If you're one of our global philanthropists or senior fellows, would you please stand. No organization prospers without resources from those who believe in the work they seek to do. And so if you have been a donor or a supporter of Synergos through the years would you kindly stand as well.

And many of you who are here have held the success of this organization in your hearts, have wished us well, have served as partners or collaborators, have offered us your ideas and support in so many ways. If you fit into this category, please stand. This is the family of Synergos. We're so proud of all of you. Now, it's only appropriate that we think of some way as well to acknowledge the person who indeed was the founder of this organization. And here I face a real dilemma. Those of you who know Peggy know that she is a modest person. And so if this were not the case I would talk to you about all of her magnificent qualities. We are in a spiritual space this evening, which is so appropriate, because Peggy is such a spiritual person. And her ideas and her open heartedness, her caring, her creativity, her genius, all of these are things that I could say about her but it would be wrong because she's a modest person and I would embarrass her. So I wouldn't think to do that.

And as I imagine doing it, it also seems selfish, because there is so much love for her in this room. So what we decided to do was to invite people to express their good wishes and their appreciation and respect and affection for her, through a whole series of notes and letters. We have this album for her, and I should just tell you that it includes writing and photographs and poems, and various oddities which Peggy will discover as she goes through the book. And even thanks to a couple of our very good friends, Cherie Nursalim and [Enki Tan, and Kim Samuel Johnson, the book includes reference to the fact that a species of fish is now going to be named in Peggy's honor. So as she joins me at the podium, it's my hope that you will salute one another and salute her, and extend your very best wishes for 20 more wonderful years for Synergos. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

We thank you for your attention, we thank our wonderful guests for their thoughtful comments, and we invite all of you to join us downstairs. In the tradition of University for a Night, we've organized table conversations which we hope will only enhance the pleasure of the evening for you, stimulate and inspire you, and introduce you to people hopefully who will be future collaborators. We'll see you downstairs in just a moment.