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N. Bush: Address to World Summit 2020

Address to World Summit 2020, Seoul, Korea, February 3-8, 2020


Thanks to my friends Tom McDevitt and the good folks like Tom Walsh and others from the Universal Peace Federation. It is an honor to be here and to address this respected group.

I’ve been to Asia over 100 times since marrying my wonderful wife Maria 16 years ago. This is her very first trip ever to this region. Coming at this time reminds me of the senior citizen who was driving on the highway when he answered an urgent call from his wife. She said, “Herman, I just heard on the news that there’s a car going the wrong way on Highway 401. Please be careful!” “Edith,” said Herman, “It’s not just one car. It’s hundreds of them!” When we got on the plane and everyone had anti-viral masks on, it made us wonder whether we were going the wrong way.

I want to thank those of you who have expressed condolences on the passing of my amazing parents. George and Barbara Bush lived lives that reflected the values of the Universal Peace Federation: looking for the best in others, treating everyone with respect, leaning into everything they did with love. When asked what was most important in their lives, they would say: faith, family, friends and service to others.

My parents participated in events such as this and always appreciated the Moon family’s commitment to promoting service to others. They understood the power that comes from embracing universal values and seeking peace. We share a common humanity, and when we work with people of different religious, cultural, economic, and political backgrounds, the problems we worry about the most will go away.

I often think about how amazing the path of human development has been. How a relatively weak and disorganized species that faced threats to survival by the natural elements and by fierce predators has evolved into the dominant force on earth. Humans have a unique ability to record findings, findings that are passed down from generation to generation, with know-how always advancing. The sharing of these findings have led to remarkable medical, engineering, and scientific breakthroughs. Humans are living longer, millions of people in the past century have been lifted out of poverty, we fly in big comfortable airplanes from all over the world to Seoul Korea to be here today. Communications systems are getting faster and faster with higher and higher capacity for delivering more and more data. Humans are more connected now than ever before and the rate of change is mind boggling. 

If you just take a moment to look around while you are out and about you can’t help but marvel at how incredible God’s hand is in the world he created for us and how far humans have come as a species.

With all the positive developments, there are growing challenges to sustaining life on earth that need to be addressed urgently. The United Nations identified a list of 17 challenges in establishing the Sustainability Development Goals that set an aspirational global benchmark to be achieved by 2030. The UN has designated the coming 10 years as the Decade of Action.

The human population will grow from 8 billion to over 10 billion by 2050. While farms are becoming more efficient, farm lands are being over produced and drained of nutrients. Water supplies are shrinking. How will we feed 10 billion people?

Climate change is real and the ramifications of this phenomena are far reaching. Rising sea levels erode inhabited lands, more frequent and more violent natural disasters require more and more human resources for recovery.

How will we deal with increasingly complex challenges related to the spread of infectious diseases? Viral agents are mutating in ways that get around our natural immune systems and that weaken the impact of scientifically developed remedies. Did you know that according to the World Health Organization, the seasonal flu will cause up to 650,000 deaths globally this flu season? One of my brothers and my assistant both had flu shots and both are just recovering now from debilitating flu symptoms.

There is a growing concern over income inequality: the rich are getting richer, and the middle class and the poor are finding that it is more and more difficult to advance. Cities all over the United States, and I suspect all over the developed world, face challenges related to intergenerational poverty. Kids born into poverty have a tough time getting out. Our prisons are full and children raised by parents that have been incarcerated have an 80% chance of being incarcerated themselves someday.

Education is the key that opens the door to advancement, and literacy is the platform skill required for humans to realize their fullest God-given potential and yet in the United States an alarming number of kids graduate from 3rd grade without having the prerequisite skills required to succeed as a student.

There are many, many challenges that need to be addressed: homelessness, the refugee crisis and immigrant resettling, senior care, gun violence, mental health, higher suicide rates, the breeding of terrorist cells, the opioid epidemic … the list is too long to rattle off here.

It is frightening that while humans face these challenges, we are experiencing a highly disruptive moment in terms of global leadership, a growing anxiety among people all over the world. The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer was released two weeks ago at the World Economic Forum.

They share that none of the major institutions – business, nonprofits, government, or media – is trusted. Under twenty percent of the general population express confidence in the system. Sixty-six percent of people said they do not have confidence that their current leaders will be able to successfully address their country’s challenges. And 73 percent are looking for change.

This trend has both very positive and very disconcerting ramifications. On the negative side, there seems to be less civility today than before. There are deeper divides and less commitment to collaboration. Walls are being built, enemies are being made, good people are being maligned and are often being replaced by the inexperienced and vitriolic.

On the positive side, many people are calling for change and taking action. This phenomenon is best reflected recently by young activist Greta Thunberg who, like millions of others, are using what they have, where they are, to create change.

My father started Points of Light, the largest organization focused on promoting voluntary service and social responsibility in the world, because he recognized that governments alone cannot address human challenges. He recognized that there are thousands of non-profits, faith institutions, and corporations that use human capital to solve problems, to lift individuals to realize their full potential, that build communities, respond to crises, and address the aforementioned challenges to sustaining life on earth for generations of humans to come.  

I am extremely proud to chair Points of Light. In recent years it has been amazing to see how the way people engage today is changing.

In addition to volunteering in a traditional way to mentor a kid, clean up a neighborhood, feed the homeless, and teach an adult how to read, more and more people these days are making conscious decisions based on core values of doing good. They choose to work with companies that have established a culture of service; they choose to buy products from companies that are socially responsible; more and more people are creating their own social enterprises to find new, innovative ways to address systematic change.

Points of Light believes when people look back at this time they will see an era of sustained, meaningful civic engagement, fueled by a global community of people driven by our common humanity, ready and willing to do good. We are defining this era as The Civic Century. And there is a role for everyone – individuals, nonprofits, and especially businesses.

A recent CEO Study on Sustainability from the United Nations and Accenture found that only 21% of CEOs feel business is currently playing a critical role contributing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. However, 71% of CEOs believe that with increased commitment and action, businesses can play a critical role.

We need to spread the word. More business leaders need to take responsibility for how their company can contribute to the solutions. According to the CEO Report, here are some top ways for business leaders to get it done:

Number 1.  Personal commitment at the very top; c-suite commitment drives change.

Number 2.  Get educated! From the c-suite to the street, visit and learn globally if you can and seek local solution–leaders too. Grow your ability to imagine your company as sustainable in every way – not just net zero. Assign someone to lead this work and mainstream it into your company.

Number 3: Get focused – where does it make sense for your organization to focus energy? What are your organization’s priorities? It is completely expected that your business could look to address both development and business goals.

Number 4: Integration of Sustainable Development Goals into your strategies and organizational purpose. Don’t take it on, build it in!

Number 5: Engage and educate your most valuable asset, your employees. How do their departments and habits contribute to more sustainable practices? How are you incentivizing their behaviors?

Number 6: Look for partners – whether from groups like Corporate Social Responsibility Forum or global organizations like Points of Light or Impact 2030. How do you engage and communicate with your customers and vendors as you commit to achievements around the Sustainable Development Goals? Your leadership extends to these important networks!

And number 7: Measure and communicate the impact. One of the biggest evolutions in the CSR space is connecting business value to measures around social impact.

And believe me when I say: Doing good IS good for business. This year’s Edelman Trust Barometer showed globally 73% of people believed companies can take action to both increase profits and improve conditions in communities where they operate.

And according to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer special report, 81% of consumers said a major consideration for brand purchase is now “I must be able to trust the brand to do what is right.” 

Last year the UN reported that if we don’t harness the power of people, we will not hit the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. So now, in this Decade of Action, more than ever it is critical that businesses roll up their sleeves and get involved.

For every individual, every faith institution, and every corporation it is time to commit, to recommit, to double down on being a part of the solution, to being who the world needs us to be.

Thank you.



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