Jeffrey Sachs, “To Move The World”

On June 13, 2013, Jonathan provided introductory remarks for a presentation by world renowned economist and scholar, Jeffrey Sachs, on his newly published book entitled, To Move The World, which chronicles JFK’s quest for peace during his last two years in office. The video can be viewed here.

Jeffrey Sachs

June 13, 2013

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of Roosevelt House and it is my pleasure to welcome you to a presentation by Professor Jeffrey Sachs of his just published book To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace. It is an absorbing narrative of Kennedy’s own profile in courage, rich with lessons for our own time, skillfully analyzed by Professor Sachs.

We gather in the historic homes of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and Franklin’s mother, Sara. Eleanor and Franklin lived here from 1908 until they moved to the White House in 1933.

I think they would welcome the conversation we are going to have about John F. Kennedy’s last great campaign in his final years of life:  to reset relations with the Soviet Union on a more peaceful course, pushing back against the Cold War virus. Central to this narrative is President Kennedy’s June 10, 1963 speech at American University a half century ago this week.

While conceding that Communism was repugnant, Kennedy said, “But we can still hail the Russian people for their many achievements in science and space, in economic and individual growth, in culture, in acts of courage … So let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we can not end now our differences, at least we can make this world safe for diversity.”

 I believe FDR would have applauded JFK’s initiative and the achievement of the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Behind me is a picture of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin at Yalta, an appropriate backdrop for tonight’s program. As we know, Churchill was a role model for John Kennedy. And in his personal relationship with Khrushchev, he might have learned from FDR. Some have argued had Roosevelt lived, relations with the Soviet Union might have been better.

Indeed Stalin is reported to have said after Yalta, “Let’s hope nothing happens to Roosevelt. We shall never do business again with anyone like him.” Well, not until John F. Kennedy.

As Kennedy emerged from the Cuban Missile Crisis determined to chart a safer, less confrontational course, he might have recalled Franklin Roosevelt’s October 5, 1944 radio address from the White House:

“[We have a] firm and friendly relationship…with the people of the Soviet Union… The American people are glad and proud to be allied with the gallant people of Russia, not only in winning this war but in laying the foundations for the world peace which I hope will follow this war – and in keeping that peace. We have seen our civilization in deadly peril. Successfully we have met the challenge… What is now being won in battle must not be lost by lack of vision, or lack of knowledge, or by lack of faith… We owe it to our posterity, we owe it to our heritage of freedom, we owe it to our God, to devote the rest of our lives and all of our capabilities to the building of a solid, durable structure of world peace …”

John F. Kennedy made good on FDR’s promise to posterity.

Who better to tell the story of how human kind can push back the forces of pessimism, cynicism and despair by sustained purposeful actions than Jeffrey Sachs? His life is a celebration of how we can achieve a more just, peaceful and humane world.

Trained at Harvard in economics he became a tenured full professor there at age 28. Over the years he has written on the relationship of trade and economic growth, public health and economic development, strategies for economic reform and transition to market economies, climate change, the battle to end global poverty and more. He has written three NY Times bestsellers in the past seven years. The End of Poverty, Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet and The Price of Civilization.

Jeff Sachs translates research and theory into practice with the best of them. Here is a sample: In the 1980s he helped Bolivia fight hyperinflation and reform its economy. In 1989, he helped Poland chart its transition from central planning to a market economy, followed by similar advisory roles for Slovenia and Estonia. Then he took on an even  greater challenge advising first Mikhail Gorbachev and then Boris Yeltsin on Russia’s transition toward a market economy.

As important as that work was, I venture to say his real passion is fighting poverty, especially in Africa. In 2002 he came to Columbia to direct the Earth Institute and work with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to shape the Millennium Development Goals. He chaired the WHO Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, worked with Kofi Annan to design the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and now directs the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network to connect the best knowledge of what works to real life challenges on the ground.

I first met Jeff Sachs when MacArthur supported his Millennium Village Project working in 10 countries directly helping over 500,000 people. This project aims to show that modest investments can empower rural villages to seize hold of their destiny and lift themselves out of poverty. The theory is to work on an interrelated set of issues at the same time: agricultural productivity, improved drinking water, health clinics, bed nets to ward off malaria, job training, new schools and more.

I had the privilege of visiting one of the project villages, Pampaida in Nigeria, and was impressed by the progress. Ten new schools raised school attendance by 20%,  90% of the children now receive meals in school, chronic malnutrition of kids under 2 is down 45%, malaria prevalence cut in half, 70% of the population has access to improved water, crop yields per hectare up four-fold.

 

I recall vividly visiting a new health clinic in Pampaida – well staffed and equipped. 90% of the population has access to a health clinic, up from 10% when Jeff Sachs started. I was particularly interested in the reduction of maternal mortality, a key issue for the MacArthur Foundation, and was impressed with the progress made.

We should invite Jeff  back another night to talk about this important work because he surely knows How to Move The World. But tonight is JFK’s night. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Professor Jeffrey Sachs.

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