Thursday was a very special day. My dear friend Katharine Henderson was inaugurated as the incoming President of Auburn Theological Seminary, and my did we celebrate both her and Auburn! The opening event was a panel discussion with some of the most incredible women I have ever met, and it was truly magical. Our moderator was Lynn Sherr, award winning broadcast journalist from ABC news ( pictured right), and an expert on Susan B. Anthony. We were brought together by Katharine as women of diverse faith backgrounds, but with much in common, a desire to make the world a better place. This panel was religious diversity in action! We talk often of why having a multitude of perspectives at the table can lead to better and more inclusive outcomes, and if you were there in the room on Thursday ( and I hope you can soon watch it on YOUTUBE) you would have been given the visual of that. My other panelists were as follows:
Maha Alkhateeb - The Co- Director of the Peaceful Families Project and a young Muslim, American woman leader. She is committed to help end domestic violence within Muslim families. Bless you Maha.
Sharon Brous - One of the 50 most influential women Rabbi's who's vision is to "build a Jewish community which stands at the intersection or rich spiritual and religious practice, and social justice. " Sharon spoke of how she tries to help bridge the space between what the world is, and what it ought to be. Sharon, you completely rock.
Yvette Flunder - Presiding Bishop, Senior Pastor of City of Refuge United Church of Christ, and African American. Yvette spoke of the power of the resurection, and how we might do that every day by helping and serving one another. Yvette I am your sister.
.... and last but not least.............
Valarie Kaur - An award winning filmaker, writer and lecturer and a Sikh American that has chosen to take a stand and be a voice of her generation, and her people. The Film is Divided We Fall - " is an end product of a human need to act in the face of racism, violence and disinformation" and I cannot wait to see it. This young, talented women speaks in poetry.. she has such a gift that I swear, she could be the first Sikh Woman President of the United States. She was, is, simply breathtaking in every way. An interview with Valarie. Her blog . The cool thing is she is currently attending Law School at Yale and we are going to have dinner very soon.....
So what did I leave thinking about "How Women Will Change the World in the Twenty-First Century?" That we will come to more significantly share in the power and decision making that shapes our world and in the process we will help redefine what success means and what outcomes are worthwhile. I see women of faith, these women, emerging as powerful voices that speak for justice and community. Our hope comes from men and women working together, in partnership, to heal the world.
Later that day at Bloomberg Auburn hosted another gathering - "Is Good Business Really Good Business? Corporate Character, Conduct and the Bottom Line." The participants were -
Beth Brooke - Global Vice Chair of Public Policy, Ernst and Young ( and a good friend)
Kenneth Feinberg - Special Master for TARP Executive Compensation
David Miller - Director, Princton University Faith and Work Initiative
Peter Rubinstein - Senior Rabbi, Central Synagogue
John Thain - CEO of CIT, Former Head of Merril Lynch and former President of Goldman Sachs ( and my former boss)
Peter Grauer - Chairman of Bloomberg
Unfortunately I cannot 'report' on the off the record conversation but I can share my own opinions on this topic. Of course I believe that ethical behavior is critical in business as it is in life, and I think most if not all people would say that. So the question is do people, do you, do you, do I, behave that way? If not, why not? Do you hold yourself accountable to some absolute level of ethical behavior or do you follow the rule of lowest common denominators? Meaning that if you can find someone that is exhibiting worse behavior then you, then you feel ok about what you are doing. I believe that is what happened on Wall Street, and elsewhere. Take the executive compensation issue. It was in good part the elevated pay of hedge fund managers that pushed Wall Street compensation higher. I heard all these people saying that "Joe Schmoe hedge fund dude make $20 mil last year ( or a billion in some cases ) and he was only a VP at Goldman before that, and I am an MD at GS ( or fill in the blank bank) , and only making $5. That is just not fair." Fair has become way way way to narrow and relative. But then you have to ask yourself how could a person make a billion dollars a year? Because people made the decision to give that person (firm) access to their money (or money they had ficuciary responsibility for ) and paid them 2 and 20 for doing so. No one forced them to do it. They chose to give that manager money and agreed to the compensation structure associated with it. The source of hedge fund assets are largely institutional which means indirectly, we all enabled it.
Do I think it is fair for someone to make a million, twenty million, a billion dollars a year for managing other people's money? What about what Tiger Woods get's paid, is that fair? How about Brad Pitt? Is it fair a child dies at the hand of an abusive parent, or that your sister get's cancer? No... none of this is fair. Yet just because life is not fair does not mean we as individuals should not try to act fairly. All we can do is choose to behave as fairly as we can in our day to day lives which includes being selective about what we do for a living and how we do it, how much money we give away, what products we buy, who we vote for and so on.....
So I don't try to answer the big question about what is fair and instead I rest in knowing God is fair. This is where Auburn and other religious institutions comes in. They create spaces to have these meaningful discussions. Ultimately I believe that I will all be held accountable for how I allocated the resources I have been given - the money, my talents, my opportunities, and so will we all. Life is not fair, God is.
Regardless of your belief system what we all can do is hold CEOs, their boards, their companies accountable, by choosing not to do or not do business with them based on their conduct and their values. This is how we all have the power to affect change. I must have mentioned this quote a hundred times on this blog - "Be the change you want to see in the world."