On Incentives

"Never penalize those who work for us for mistakes or reward them for being right about markets. It will go to their heads, is counterproductive and, in any event, material compensation will not correlate with their ability to predict the future next time."

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INMED Gala 2017

I have always been somewhat reluctant on occasions like this one to express thanks.  The reason is quite simple.  I know I will forget some very important people.  Nonetheless, I cannot let this evening go by without expressing my appreciation to the President of Peru, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, and, of course, Ambassador Carlos Pareja, and his most helpful and gracious wife, Consuelo, for sponsoring this evening.  Also the most generous Angels of this event, Pamela and Bill Michaelcheck, Johnson and Johnson, the Grey HealthCare Group, and — of course, the many other benefactors and those of you who have supported this event.  Then, of course, there is Gretchen Teran who did so much, and the staff of INMED, to make this evening possible. 

But, I want to talk to you for a moment about INMED.  It is in existence for one reason – to address the problems faced by those who are poor.  As has been said before, poverty is, unhappily, the punishment for a crime one did not commit. 

So, what do I ask of you.  I ask you to bid for the auctioned items far more – far more than they are worth.  And if you lose out on the bid, forget the item and simply leave a check anyway for what you bid.

The truth is though, your name won’t be attached or even remembered for your good deed.  You simply won’t get visible credit.  For we are not poets or composers who are assured immortality by their works.  But what you have supported will have an effect.  Thousands of kids simply won’t have worms in their intestines.  You will have made a difference.  You know many do great stuff in their lives for which they are not identified or get credit.  There is a woman here, Arunma Oteh, the Vice President and Treasurer of the World Bank.  You never heard of her.  She won’t be remembered 50 years from now.  But she raises 40 billion dollars a year to eradicate infant mortality, poverty, starvation.  There’s a guy here, my old friend, Pete Linsert, who had an idea several decades ago.  He found a way to extract Omega 3 fatty acids from algae in the sea.  It turns out that Omega 3, a fundamental building block of life, was not in any infant formula for babies.  He found a way to put it in.  Because of what he did, it is now in 100% of infant formula in this country and elsewhere throughout the world.  Few know Pete’s name.  That’s okay, Pete, for what you have done will last forever.  And, of course, there is Linda Pfeiffer, who has devoted virtually her entire adult life to INMED. 

You may say however, that’s big stuff.  “What’s my contribution going to accomplish?”  The answer is that one day a little girl, not yet born in Peru, will grow up free from debilitating illnesses to be President of Peru or Secretary General of the United Nations or President of the World Bank.  Or she will discover some wondrous way to rid the world of cancer.  That is real immortality, not just for her and for the honor of Peru – but – for you because it would not have happened without you.  Yes, you do make a difference.  Robert Herrick, the English poet, 400 years ago, put it this way:

“She by the river sat
 And sitting there she wept
 And made it deeper by a tear.”

Thank you all.