EHS Students Meet with Top Business and World Leaders
In recent weeks, EHS students have had a front-row seat to high-level discussions with three top business and world leaders — Home Depot co-founder Kenneth Langone, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.
Lee Ainslie III ’82 P’14 ’17, chairman of the EHS Board of Trustees and managing partner of Maverick Capital, arranged for students to sit in on these interviews, which were hosted virtually by the Economic Club of New York, a bipartisan forum for discussion of economic, political, and social issues.
For the first event, Ainslie interviewed Langone, a business icon and philanthropist. Langone expressed concern about the country’s supercharged spending coming out of the pandemic and the increasing debt held by the U.S. government as well as businesses, pension plans, and individual Americans. He also warned of signs of inflation.
“I’m a big believer in America going forward over the next 15 or 20 years,” he said, predicting the country will “recover smarter and stronger” from the pandemic. “It’s just that during these next few years we’ve got to work our way through these challenges.”
Langone also spoke of how he makes investment decisions. He said he spends a great deal of time with a company’s management to determine whether the leaders show common sense as well as the empathy to understand the needs and motivation of their employees. At Home Depot, he said, “they never worked for us; they worked with us.”
During the second event, students sat in on a conversation on climate change with Gates and Paulson. The two spoke of the importance of action by government, industry, and venture capitalists in the fight against climate change. “The longer we delay, the harder the job is,” said Paulson. “We don’t have a plan; we have a goal,” Gates added, referring to the U.S.’s ambition to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
Gates discussed the idea of “green premiums” — the added cost of making a product that’s environmentally friendly. He said that after years of research and development, premiums on electric cars as well as solar and wind energy are very low; a Chevy Bolt electric car, for instance, costs $.79 per mile, only 10 cents more than a Chevy Malibu. Now, he said, it’s important to focus individual philanthropists, governments, and corporations on investing in the research and development needed to bring down the green premiums on other produce like steel and concrete. With that, he said, “we can bootstrap into the great position we’re in with solar, wind, and electric cars.”
Gates and Paulson agreed that the global youth must lead the way. “The answer is the younger generation. Leaders act when the public demands it,” Paulson told the audience. Gates echoed: “The young generation’s engagement in the issue is the absolute necessary and sufficient force here.”