Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
2017 Ripple of Hope Gala
December 13, 2017
Thank you so much, Mrs. Kennedy, for such a truly wonderful honor. You have helped create generations of activists who share Robert Kennedy’s dream of a more just and peaceful world. I am proud to accept this award on behalf of Johnson & Johnson and our more than 135,000 employees who are dedicated to helping people live longer, happier, healthier lives every day.
If I may, I’d also like to thank some of the people whose support and guidance and love are the reason I’m here tonight.
First, Pat Gorsky, who has been my partner, my best friend and my wife for more than 30 years. You are my rock. I can’t possibly thank you for everything you have done for our family, Pat. But I will never give up trying.
I’m also blessed to have some of my family here tonight —my brother, Ivan, and his wife, my niece.
And two of my high school teacher-mentors and their wives. Paul Blake and Baars Bultman came all the way from Michigan to be with us.
Tonight gives me the chance to say thank you to you for making such a difference in my life. These educators, now PhDs, helped guide me from 10th through 12th grade, and remain as caring and committed as ever to opening doors of possibility to the children of Michigan, through education.
And finally, to you. Everyone in this room and the previous honorees. Through your generosity and activism, you are helping to keep the life, legacy and important work of Robert F. Kennedy alive.
Senator Kennedy said, “the purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.”
At Johnson & Johnson, we passionately believe this, too.
In fact, our purpose is built around this belief.
We believe that we can make things better around the world today, by changing the trajectory of health for humanity.
We know that our products and services make life better for one billion people around the world every day.
But, we believe we can do more.
We also know that our research, innovation and experience help governments, academia and yes, even competitors, reach better, more informed decisions on behalf of consumers every day.
But, we can go further.
We continue to set ethical, moral, giving and caring standards across the broadest spectrum of human need in health and wellness.
But, because we live in a time in which the world needs more care now than perhaps at any time since the end of WWII. We believe we can give more.
And because we believe we can, we must.
One of the earliest and broadest statements of corporate social responsibility and accountability, in any industry, was captured on paper almost three quarters of a century ago by Robert Wood Johnson, the son of one of our founders.
I’m talking about the Johnson & Johnson Credo.
It is just 342 words long and covers less than one page of an average printed book, yet if you had to rebuild Johnson & Johnson from the ground up, all you’d need is the Credo.
Credo means “I believe.” But, Our Credo is about action. The word “must" occurs twenty-one times within the document, and almost every time it is followed by a verb.
It tells us that we must help our employees be strong for their families and communities, that we must invest in infrastructure, be competent and ethical employees. We must protect our environment.
It tells us that we must innovate, keep costs low on behalf of customers and honor the people who make both of those things possible. It tells us that our first responsibility is to the people who use what we make and provide.
75 years ago next year, RWJ captured the essence of Johnson & Johnson on one page and explicitly connected the health of our business with the health of environment, labor, communities and sustainability.
Today, that connection is more relevant than ever because we believe health is a fundamental human right.
In order to live up to Our Credo, and achieve our purpose of changing the trajectory of health for humanity, it’s essential to use every power - be it technology, human, political, scientific, social or financial power - to drive greater availability, access and dare I say it, help usher in an era of the democratization of care.
From West Virginia, East Africa or Shanghai, where I was last week, people from every walk of life should have access to health care.
Your zip code should not be a greater indicator of your health and longevity, than your genetic code.
We understand that we have a unique role to play in a world simultaneously filled with the optimism of great science and the demands of disease, disaster and disenfranchisement.
And, I firmly believe, that our country, our citizens, corporations, universities, political and social action groups can and MUST find a way to come together to solve the issues of our day.
Let me give you an example of the kind of thing I am talking about.
In 1980, a new word was entering societies around the globe, and it spelled certain death.
The word was AIDS.
Research was started. New theories were being tested. Collaborative partnerships were forming—between companies like ours, government agencies, academia and philanthropic institutions around the world.
Over the past 25 years, J&J alone has developed six HIV medicines.
Over time, therapies improved and HIV/AIDS became no longer an imminent death sentence, but is managed more like a chronic illness over a lifetime.
But the battle against AIDS/HIV is a very long way from over. According to the World Health Organization, in 2017, 37.6 million people are living with HIV, nearly 21 million are receiving treatment for HIV, and in 2016, around 1 million people died of HIV-related illnesses globally.
Almost half of these deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, women and girls make up more than half of those living with HIV around the world. In fact, young women aged 10-24 are twice as likely to contract HIV as males the same age.
The holy grail for putting an end to HIV transmission would be a vaccine.
In a recent Phase 1/2a study, 100% of healthy volunteers exposed to a vaccine we are developing, had developed antibodies to HIV, suggesting they may be shielded from the disease.
In partnership with philanthropies, governments and industry partners, that vaccine is in the next rigorous round of testing as we speak.
1983 was 37 years ago: in the sweep of history, a blink of the eye.
We all know that science is unpredictable. But these results make me more optimistic than ever that we can get to a vaccine in our lifetime… and protect people from HIV forever.
Because as long as women, children, marginalized communities and innocent victims continue to be infected; transmission and treatment of AIDS is not only a health for humanity issue, it’s a human rights issue.
Because we can, we must.
And, that’s why we work hard with global partners to find solutions that provide education, access to care, advocacy and yes, treatment for Ebola, Zika, cancer, heart disease and mental health, to mention just a few.
Bobby Kennedy was truly visionary for seeing that the role of the business could be harnessed for good. He knew then that global companies can, and should, get involved in social justice issues, civil rights, human rights, economic empowerment and other crucial issues.
And, we must start with a rock-solid appreciation for human dignity, respect for the individual, and above all compassion and care for all.
Tonight, as we celebrate the life of Robert Kennedy, I am honored to be with you to raise my voice. I am deeply privileged to share just a tiny slice of the difference we strive to make at Johnson & Johnson. How we aspire every day to make things better through innovation AND social good. And, what we consider our MUST do’s.
Robert Kennedy told us that the future is “the work of our own hands,”
And I would humbly add, the work of our own hearts.
Thank you again for this award and for caring about RFK Human Rights