Wednesday, 18 December 2019

made in the sciences

made in the sciences

But humanity’s greatest advances are not in its

discoveries – but in how those discoveriesare applied to reduce

inequity.Whether through democracy, strong public education, quality health

care, or broad economic opportunity– reducing inequity is the highest human

achievement.I left campus knowing little about the millions of young people

cheated out of educationalopportunities here in this country.And I knew

nothing about the millions of people living in unspeakable poverty and

diseasein developing countries.It took me decades to find out.You graduates

came to Harvard at a different time.You know more about the world’s inequities

than the classes that came before.In your years here, I hope you’ve had a

chance to think about how – in this ageof accelerating technology – we can

finally take on these inequities, and we can solvethem.Imagine, just for the

sake of discussion, that you had a few hours a week and a fewdollars a month

to donate to a cause – and you wanted to spend that time and money whereit

would have the greatest impactin saving and improving lives.Where would you

spend it?For Melinda and for me, the challenge is the same: how can we do the

most good for thegreatest number with the resources we have.During our

discussions on this question, Melinda and I read an article about the millions

ofchildren who were dying every year in poor countries from diseases that we

had long agomade harmless in this country.Measles, malaria, pneumonia,

hepatitis B, yellow fever.One disease I had never even heard of, rotavirus,

was killing half a million kids each year– none of them in the United

States.We were shocked.We had just assumed that if millions of children were

dying and they could be saved, the worldwould make it a priority to discover

and deliver the medicines to save them.But it did not.For under a dollar,

there were interventions that could save lives that just weren’tbeing

delivered.If you believe that every life has equal value, it’s revolting to

learn that some livesare seen as worth saving and others are not.We said to

ourselves: “This can’t be true.But if it is true, it deserves to be the

priority of our giving.”So we began our work in the same way anyone here would

begin it.We asked: “How could the world let these children die?”The answer is

simple, and harsh.The market did not reward saving the lives of these

children, and governments did notsubsidize it.So the children died because

their mothers and their fathers had no power in the marketand no voice in the

system.But you and I have both.We can make market forces work better for the

poor if we can develop a more creativecapitalism – if we can stretch the reach

of market forces so that more people can makea profit, or at least make a

living, serving people who are suffering from the worst inequities.We also can

press governments around the world to spend taxpayer money in ways that