Philanthropist George Soros highlights a panel discussion on what winning looks like at the Open Society Foundation's Innovation and Impact Forum for Black Male Achievement.
George Soros, Open Society Foundations
Geoffrey Canada, Harlem Children's Zone and Open Society Foundations
Dr. Robert K. Ross, The California Endowment
Alexis McGill Johnson, American Values Institute
Michael R. Bloomberg is the 108th Mayor of the City of New York. He was first elected in November 2001, two months after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, a
time when many believed that crime would return, businesses would flee, and New York might never recover. Instead, through hundreds of innovative new policies and initiatives, Mayor Bloomberg has made New York City safer, stronger, and greener than ever.
Today, compared to 2001, crime is down
35 percent. The welfare rolls are down 25 percent. High School graduation rates are up 27 percent. Ambulance response times are at record lows. Teen smoking is down more than 50 percent. More than 600 acres of new parkland have been added. And the City has weathered the national recession in much better shape than most places, far outpacing the nation in job growth in 2010.
Born on February 14, 1942 in Boston and raised in a middle class home in Medford, Massachusetts, Michael Bloomberg attended Johns Hopkins University, where he paid his tuition by taking loans and working as a parking lot attendant. After college, he went on to receive an MBA from Harvard Business School. In 1966, he was hired by a Wall Street firm, Salomon Brothers, for an entry-level job.
He quickly rose through the ranks at Salomon, overseeing equity trading and sales before heading up the firm’s information systems. When Salomon was acquired in 1981, he was let go from the firm. With a vision of an information company that would use emerging technology to bring transparency and efficiency to the buyers and sellers of financial securities, he launched a small startup company called Bloomberg LP. Today, Bloomberg LP has over 300,000 subscribers to its financial news and information service in over 160 countries around the globe. Headquartered in New York City, the company has about 13,000 employees worldwide. As his company grew, Michael Bloomberg started directing more of his attention to philanthropy, donating his time and resources to many different causes. He has sat on the boards of numerous charitable, cultural, and educational institutions, including Johns Hopkins University, where, as chairman of the board, he helped build the Bloomberg School of Public Health into one of the world’s leading institutions of public health research and training. Already deeply involved in civic afairs, he officially entered public life in 2001, when he entered the race for Mayor of the City of New York. After entering City Hall, Mayor Bloomberg won control of New York City’s broken public school system and turned it around by raising standards, promoting innovation, and holding schools accountable for success. He spurred economic growth and job creation by revitalizing old industrial areas and strengthening key industries, including new media, film and television, bio-science, technology, and higher education. The Mayor’s Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan helped bring the City through the national recession as quickly as possible and helped avoid the level of job losses that many experts had forecast and that other cities experienced. He has also launched programs that encourage entrepreneurship, combat poverty, and help people acquire the skills they need to build careers.
His passion for public health has led to ambitious new health strategies that have become national models, including a ban on smoking in all indoor workplaces, as well as parks and beaches. Today, life expectancy is 19 months longer than it was before Mayor Bloomberg took office. His belief that America’s mayors and business leaders can help effect change in Washington has led him to launch national bi-partisan coalitions to combat illegal guns, reform immigration, and invest in infrastructure. He also created a far-reaching plan allowing New York City to fight climate change and promote sustainable development on an unprecedented scale. In acknowledgement of his leadership on these issues, Bloomberg was recently named Chair of the C40 Cities Global Climate Initiative. And he has been an equally strong champion of the City’s arts and cultural institutions, expanding support for them and helping to bring more than 80 public art projects to all five boroughs.
Mayor Bloomberg is the father of two daughters, Emma and Georgina.
Geoffrey Canada is the president and C.E.O. of the nonprofit Harlem Children’s Zone, a community-based organization that offers a comprehensive, cradle-through-college network of programs to help eleven thousand local children break the cycle of poverty through education. He is author of "Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America" and "Reaching Up for Manhood: Transforming the Lives of Boys in America."
Alexis McGill Johnson
Alexis McGill Johnson is a thought leader and a bridge builder whose work spans politics, academia, social activism, and cultural strategies. Throughout her work, Alexis has explored the shifting paradigms of identity and race-based politics in the post-civil rights era, increasing civic engagement among youth and people of color, and the implications for demographic and ideological changes of these constituencies on national politics. Her career and philanthropy have always, at their core, focused on improving the lives of young people, with an emphasis on youth of color. She is a frequent commentator on FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, and in press.
Currently, Alexis is serving as the Executive Director of American Values Institute (AVI), a consortium of researchers, educators, and social justice advocates whose work analyzes the role of bias and racial anxiety in our society. AVI's goal is to develop and introduce a research-based, empirically supported set of interventions into today's racially polarized and fraught climate. Alexis is serves as Board member for Planned Parenthood Federation of America where she will assume the role of Chair this April.
Upon earning her undergraduate degree in Politics from Princeton, Alexis began her career in academia by enrolling in a doctoral program at Tale University. For six years, Alexis developed and taught several courses on race and urban development, power, poverty, and social movement theory at both Yale and Wesleyan Universities. Never satisfied with the insular boundaries of the Ivory Tower, however, Alexis searched continually for other venues and audiences to discuss the real life concerns and experiences of her generation. In March 2002, she found such an outlet in Savoy Magazine where she wrote an article about mobilizing the Hip Hop generation entitled: 'Can the Hip Hop Generation become the Next NRA?' An interview for that article with Russell Simmons, the legendary 'Godfather of Hip Hop,' created a unique opportunity to serve as Political Director of the Hip Hop Summit Action Network, Simmons's voter mobilization organization.
From July 2003 through the following year, she worked with Mr.Simmons and his national network of artists and cultural participants to devise the strategic plan for the HSAN. In July 2004, Alexis accepted an offer as Executive Director of Citizen Change, a nonprofit established by Sean Diddy Combs that educated young voters through grassroots and tailored social media efforts. During the 2004 election cycle, Alexis worked with Combs and his team at Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment on an unprecedented media and marketing campaign marked by the now ubiquitous slogan 'Vote or Die!' to educate, motivate, and empower young people about the process of voting. Mixing traditional grassroots mobilization with non-traditional consumer based marketing methodology created a new model for reaching young people and people of color that led to the most massive grassroots mobilization this generation had ever seen.
Since 2004, Alexis has remained a committed political activist and strategist for a variety of artists, organizations, and political candidates. That opportunity has allowed her to keep researching and testing various models of cultural engagement.
In addition to PPFA, Alexis also serves on the boards of Center for Social Inclusion, Air Traffic Control, and Citizen Engagement Lab, and is a Founder of The Culture Group. She previously served on the board of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
She and her husband, Rob Johnson, live in New York with their two daughters, Sara Jean (3) and Dylan Katherine (11 months).
Dr. Robert Ross
Robert K. Ross, M.D., is president and chief executive ofcer for The California Endowment, a health foundation established in 1996 to address the health needs of Californians. Prior to his appointment in September 2000, Dr. Ross served as director of the Health and Human Services Agency for the County of San Diego from 1993 to 2000, and Commissioner of Public Health for the City of Philadelphia from 1990 to 1993. Dr. Ross has an extensive background as a clinician and public health administrator. His service includes: medical director for LINK School-Based Clinic Program, Camden, New Jersey; instructor of clinical medicine, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; and faculty member at San Diego State University’s School of Public Health.
Dr. Ross has been actively involved in community and professional activities at both the local and national level. He served as a member of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, and on the boards of the National Marrow Donor Program, San Diego United Way and Jackie Robinson YMCA. He is a Diplomate of the American Academy of Pediatrics, served on the President’s Summit for America’s Future and as chairman of the national Boost for Kids Initiative. Dr. Ross received his undergraduate, masters in Public Administration and medical degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
He has received numerous awards and honors including the Council on Foundations’ 2008 Distinguished Grantmaker of the Year Award, "Youth Advocacy Humanitarian of the Year" award; the "Outstanding Community Service Award" from the Volunteers of America; the "Leadership Award" from the Hospital Council of San Diego and Imperial Counties; and the National Association of Health Services Executives "Health Administrator of the Year Cita- tion." He was also a recipient of the national Public Ofcials of the Year Award presented by Governing Magazine in 1999. Other honors include awards from Planned Parenthood Southern Pennsylvania, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and West Philadelphia Economic Development Corporation. He also was a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar from 1988 to 1990, focusing on urban child health issues.
During his tenure at The California Endowment, the foundation has focused on the health needs of underserved Californians by championing the cause of health coverage for all children, strengthening the capacity of community health centers, improving health services for farm worker and ex-offender populations, and strengthening the pipeline for bringing racial and ethnic diversity to the health professions. He was also named by Capitol Weekly as one of California’s most inffluential civic leaders in health policy in 2006.
The California Endowment was established in 1996 to expand access to afordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. The Endowment has regional ofces in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno and San Diego with program staf working throughout the state. The Endowment makes grants to organizations and institutions that directly benefit the health and well-being of the people of California. For more information, visit our Web site at www.calendow.org.
George Soros came of age in Hungary at a time when it was a battleground in the decades-long conflict between fascism and communism, the two great totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century. A personal experience of this conflict--including the violence, foreign occupation, anti-Semitism, and other forms of intolerance that went with it--as well as a personal fascination with philosophy shaped Soros’s thinking in later years and influenced his successful strategies in both finance and philanthropy.
Born in Budapest in 1930, Soros survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary during World War II as well as the postwar imposition of Stalinism in his homeland. Soros fled Communist-dominated Hungary in 1947 and made his way to England. Before graduating from the London School of Economics in 1952, Soros studied Karl Popper’s work in the philosophy of science as well as his critique of totalitarianism, The Open Society and Its Enemies, which maintains that no philosophy or ideology has the final word on the truth and that societies can only flourish when they allow for democratic governance, freedom of expression, a diverse range of opinion, and respect for individual rights.
Later, while working as a financial analyst and trader in New York, Soros adapted Popper’s thinking in developing his own application of the social theory of "reflexivity," a set of ideas that seeks to explain how a feedback mechanism can skew how participants in a market value assets on that market. After concluding that he had more talent for trading than for philosophy, Soros began to apply his ideas on reflexivity to investing, using it to predict, among other things, the emergence of financial bubbles. In 1967, he helped establish an offshore investment fund. In 1973, he set
up a private investment firm that eventually evolved into the Quantum Fund, one of the first hedge funds.
Soros’s memories of anti-Semitism in wartime Hungary prompted him, in 1979, to begin providing financial support for black students at the University of Cape Town in apartheid South Africa. In 1984, Soros created an education and culture foundation in Hungary. He later supported dissident movements in Eastern Europe’s other Communist countries, helping people to organize themselves at a time when popular organizations were banned, to voice their opinions when dissonant opinions were considered anti-state propaganda, and to promote tolerance, democratic governance, human rights, and the rule of law when a one-party dictatorship exercised a monopoly on power.
As the East bloc crumbled during the late 1980s and the Soviet empire collapsed in the early 1990s, Soros expanded his funding in an effort to help create open societies in all of the region’s countries. He demonstrated his commitment to critical thinking and democratic political development by establishing Central European University in 1991. In 1993, he founded the Open Society Institute. Over the past three decades, Soros’s philanthropy has spawned a network of foundations dedicated to promoting development of open societies in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States. To date, Soros has given over $8 billion to support human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education in more than 100 countries.
Soros’s most recent book is Financial Turmoil in Europe and the United States: Essays (2012). His other books include The Soros Lectures: At the Central European University (2010); The Crash of 2008 and What it Means: The New Paradigm for Finance Markets (2009); The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of The War on Terror (2006); The Bubble of American Supremacy (2005); George Soros on Globalization (2002); Open Society: Reforming Global Capitalism (2000); The Crisis of Global Capitalism: Open Society Endangered (1998); Soros on Soros: Staying Ahead of the Curve (1995); Underwriting Democracy (1991); Opening the Soviet System (1990); and The Alchemy of Finance (1987). His essays on politics, society, and economics appear frequently in major periodicals around the world.