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There’s no more powerful communications medium than someone with something important to say looking into the eyes of an audience and saying it with passion.


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Opportunities Through a Single Lens

The Risky Business of Corporate Culture

Uncle Joe's Lesson

Social License: Coca-Cola’s Secret Recipe for Brand Love

Bridges to our Future

Title:

Opportunity Through a Single Lens

Speaker:

David Abney, Chairman and CEO, UPS

Occasion:

National Urban League's Equal Opportunity Dinner


Good evening, everyone. It’s a pleasure to be with you.

I’m honored to chair this year’s Equal Opportunity Dinner and to help celebrate 60 years of bringing opportunity to underserved communities and their citizens. There are so many people to credit for those achievements. We can go back to the beginning, back to Ruth Standish Baldwin and George Edmund Haynes, who helped start this organization more than 100 years ago. We can call the names of Whitney Young and Vernon Jordan and Hugh Price.

And we can come forward, to 2016, to the 13th year of Marc Morial’s leadership of the National Urban League. All pioneers, all with a remarkable social conscience. But tonight I’m not feeling nostalgic.

That’s because many people in this room and in our nation are worried about the state of our country. A few nights ago, I saw a news report of a group of high school students. They were chanting “white power” as they marched through the school’s cafeteria. I can’t get that image out of my head. It took me back to my days growing up in the Deep South in the 1960s, when the nation seemed ready to split apart at the seams.

I was an 18-year-old student at Delta State University when I took a part- time job at UPS. I’ve said many times that I learned the importance of diversity at UPS. You can learn a lot sorting packages and loading trailers in the middle of the night.

The most important thing I learned is that when all those packages are coming down a conveyor, it doesn’t matter if the person working next to you is white, black, brown or purple. Whether they worship at a church, a temple, a mosque or if they worship at all. You don’t care who is conservative or liberal or what lifestyle they live. You just need the person next to you to do their job – so you can do yours.

Even now there are signs reminding us that we’re a divided nation. It’s disturbing. Disturbing is not a good enough word. It’s disheartening. It’s painful because these are concerns that progress could take a step back in time.

I’ve talked to my friend and fellow UPSer Myron Gray about this. Myron is the president of our company’s U.S. Operations and a long-time member of the National Urban League’s Board of Trustees. Myron, please stand to be recognized. Myron grew up about 90 miles from me. We both had great parents and a happy childhood. But we were separated by so much more than those 90 miles from my house to his.

We had quite different experiences. We saw injustice, but through a different lens. We lived in a world back then that focused more on the color of a person’s skin than on their ability or potential. But we did have one big thing in common – we both were given an opportunity. We were fortunate to get jobs with a company that opened doors for us to places and opportunities we never imagined. Many years and many positions later, we both agree that we have a responsibility to create opportunities for other Americans.

We believe that business and its leaders, as well as government and civic organizations, must address this issue. The same way we would if anything else were threatening the well-being of our people. We cannot, in good conscience, stand idly on the sidelines. We cannot reap the benefits of a diverse workforce without doing everything in our power to ensure all people have the opportunity to reach their potential.

In 1956, 60 years ago, another UPSer, Ken Jarvis, also was given an opportunity. It came when Whitney Young, then the head of the National Urban League, gave a speech in California to an audience that included a UPS Human Resources manager. His message focused on the failure of U.S. companies to tap into the African-American employment base. Impressed, our HR manager reached out to the Bay Area Urban League, and Ken Jarvis soon became our first African American driver. Ken ended up spending 37 years with our company before retiring in 1994. His last position, by the way, was vice president of Human Resources.

That was our unofficial introduction to the National Urban League. A few years later – 55 years ago – we began a more formal relationship. In the years that have followed, we have worked hand in hand to close gaps in education, economic empowerment, quality of life and justice. As chair of the Diversity Inclusion Steering Council at UPS, I’m determined that we don’t lose sight of the importance of diversity and inclusion to our people and to our business. Like the National Urban League, we continue to focus on creating a more inclusive culture, one that values diversity – in all its forms.

But I think we would all acknowledge that we have more work to do. For all the Ken Jarvises, Myron Grays and David Abneys for whom doors opened to unforeseen opportunities, others were not as fortunate. They see the hand of opportunity is often dealt from the bottom of the deck. In the last couple of years, we’ve all asked a lot of questions. But the one that I hear asked so sincerely is this one: “Will things be OK?” I stand here tonight confident that – working together – we can make them OK.

To make certain, we must all rise above harsh rhetoric and make sure the American Dream is within the reach of every American. We must decide that opportunity is an unquestionable right, worthy of our best efforts. So everyone sees the value in the differences that make us a nation unlike any other, a patchwork quilt sewn with threads of many colors. So we understand that seeing the world in any other way is as unproductive as it is immoral.

We will accomplish these things through partnerships, like the ones represented here tonight. Partnerships that are stronger than any individual. We must continue to work for what our current President calls the “essential promise of America.” “As a nation, we don't promise equal outcomes,” he said. “But we were founded on the idea that everybody should have an equal opportunity to succeed. He went on to say: “No matter who you are, what you look like, where you come from, you can make it. Where you start should not determine where you end up.”

That is the American Dream. That is the America we must all work to uphold. For inspiration, we will continue to look to the National Urban League and to the women, men and companies we honor tonight.

Thank you.

Contact Bill
Phone: (912) 602-2529

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Title:

The Risky Business of Corporate Culture

Speaker:

Myron Gray, President of U.S. Operations, UPS

Occasion:

Rotary Club of Seattle


Thank you for that kind introduction.

One hundred and eight years ago, almost to the day, a few young men gathered in a basement storefront at Second and Main in downtown Seattle, about 20 blocks south of here.

Inside the small office were two telephone lines – one for each of Seattle’s telephone companies. It was August 28, 1907, the first day of business for the American Messenger Company, the company that would later become United Parcel Service.

They also were beginning a culture that has endured and strengthened across two centuries. It’s a culture that is one of our greatest strengths and now one of our most significant challenges.

Our culture has cemented what we value and how we work. It is the beating heart of who and what we are. But it’s also a challenge.

It’s a challenge because culture can become so ingrained that – in a different era with far different forces at work – it can become a barrier to innovation and change.

Today, I want to share some thoughts on how we leverage the best of that culture without allowing it to stand in the way of our future. To do that, I’ll take you back to those early days in Seattle.

Our early business model was pretty simple: At a time when most people didn’t have a telephone, we delivered messages. Here’s how it worked: Let’s say Nancy wanted to get a message to me, and I lived across town. Since she didn’t have a telephone at her house, she would find a public telephone and call the American Messenger Company.

Then one of the clean-cut young men in the office would jump onto a streetcar or a bicycle and deliver the message. Quaint, wasn’t it?

Last Friday, on what we call Founders’ Day, in Atlanta and at UPS locations around the world, we celebrated the foresight and dedication of those pioneers.

The company they started – which was renamed United Parcel Service in 1919 – last year earned more than $58 billion in revenue and ranked 168th on Fortune’s list of the world’s largest companies.

Every day, approximately 2 percent of the world’s GDP and 6 percent of U.S. GDP flows through the UPS network. And it all started right here. In a part of Seattle’s commercial district appropriately known as Pioneer Square.

We employ more than 5,000 women and men in Seattle out of a worldwide workforce of some 435,000. Our business is good here, and for that we thank your robust economy and our loyal customers.

In fact, based on a balanced scorecard, Seattle is UPS’s No. 1 district in the U.S. So the folks delivering your packages and syncing up your supply chains are the best in the business.

Seattle is a unique city. I don’t know of a city that combines immense physical beauty with such an eclectic mix of music, food and business. And let’s not forget, you’ve got the Seahawks.

We like to think that UPS is a unique company. We have our own way of doing things. Deliberately. Precisely. Efficiently. We have strong opinions about the way a company should be run. Reliably. Profitably. And with integrity.

We also think brown is beautiful.

If you want a sense of the role that our past and our culture play at UPS, consider that our meetings often start with a reading from our Policy Book. It contains the fundamental values and principles that have shaped our company for more than a century.

It’s a distinctive culture and one that’s undoubtedly helped make us successful. But, if we’re not careful, that culture and our love of history could also limit our future. And we’re not the only ones who face that threat. Maybe you do, too.

So today I’d like to talk to you about the value of a strong culture, as well as its inherent risks. I’ll finish up with a few words on how leaders can help their companies avoid those risks.

Let’s start with the research. Last month Fortune magazine released a study that said business decision makers today place greater significance on a business partner’s culture than ever before.

60 percent of the global executives surveyed said that when choosing a business partner, it’s more important to know what a company stands for than whether it’s innovative or dominates its market.

68 percent said that it’s even worth making short-term financial sacrifices to cultivate long-term relationships.

80 percent agreed that a successful company’s biggest idea is often the one on which it was built.

Culture gets everyone rowing in the same direction, toward the same goals. It builds esprit de corps, around a set of shared values. It makes the whole stronger than the sum of its parts.

That’s all very good. However, let me give you an example of the risks.

For years and years our drivers mapped their daily routes with push pins and clipboards. They loved their clipboards. They were part of our history and culture.

About 10 years ago, one of our engineers – his name is Jack Levis – started work on a project to make those clipboards obsolete.

Jack’s goal was to use operational technology to identify the most efficient routes a driver could take while making their daily stops. Some considered his quest blasphemy. After all, for nearly a century we had done pretty well with our push pins and clipboards.

The project eventually consumed eight years of Jack’s life. The first seven of those yielded little tangible progress. People were telling him that he was putting an otherwise fabulous career in jeopardy.

The easy thing would have been for us to stay the course with our push pins and clipboard approach and for Jack to go back to his day job.

But he didn’t. And, finally, he and his team found the algorithm – and the solution – they were looking for.

The system they came up with – which we call ORION – considers all of the potential routes a driver might take to make an average of 120 stops per day. That’s the number on the screen. I’ll save you the eye strain. That’s 199 digits.

ORION has saved our company 10 million gallons of fuel … $300 million dollars … and reduced 100,000 tons of carbon emissions. That’s like taking 21,000 passenger cars off the road.

It’s a good thing a stubborn engineer didn’t allow culture and history to block a more efficient path to the future.

Today, our company delivers more than 4.6 billion packages a year – about 18 million a day – in more than 220 countries and territories. It’s an achievement that’s only possible because our employees rally each day behind the principles Jim Casey and the founders promoted – respect, honesty, hard work, humility and a commitment to the communities we serve.

But it’s like fingernails on a blackboard when I hear an employee say, “That’s not how we’ve always done it.” Or ask, “What would Jim do?”

Jim Casey built a company on timeless values, and there’s no doubt his presence is still felt at UPS. But I want to say, “Folks, Jim isn’t here. We’re on our own.”

But I don’t. Instead, I remind them that Jim was smart enough not to become too sentimental nor too attached to the old ways of doing things. He promoted the concept of “constructive dissatisfaction,” knowing that the only way to survive in business is by never getting too comfortable.

Others wish they had heeded the same lesson. Plenty of companies were so intent on staying on the path of least resistance that they didn’t see the threat coming up behind them.

Film didn’t see digital – and the company that saw it first discounted its disruptive power. Newspaper classifieds didn’t see Craigslist. Video stores didn’t see Netflix. Travel agents didn’t see Expedia. And the process continues.

Jack Welch, GE’s longtime CEO, could have warned them all. “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside,” Welch said, “the end is near.”

Certainly the technology-led and consumer-empowered ambush is far from over. Look what streaming is doing to networks and cable. Look what Uber is doing to cabs and limos. Look what Airbnb is doing to hotels.

Let’s throw in shopping malls, maybe financial advisors, libraries and the family farm. When technology offers a better way, the better way wins.

Too many businesses resemble Army ants. Army ants are blind – to survive they follow each other over a pheromone trail. Sometimes an ant will lose the trail’s scent and wander away from the group. The ants behind follow. Eventually they end up going in circles, marching without stopping, even to their own death.

But on occasion, an ant manages to break away from the death march, sometimes by accident. When it steps off course, the renegade creates a new path for the ants to follow. Its radical departure ends up saving the entire group.

Winners become losers because it’s easier to keep doing the things that made them winners. Easier than challenging whether what built success will be enough to sustain it. Fortunately, UPS never followed a pheromone trail.

Clearly, Jim Casey saw the need for non-linear shifts in our business. On multiple occasions he had the vision and the fortitude to veer away from the established model.

The first time was when he saw that the telephone was going to eventually put his and other messenger companies out of business. He did it again when automobiles with plenty of room for packages and groceries threatened the package delivery service.

In more recent times, starting about 20 years ago, data and operational technology fueled a new era of expansion. We’ve since built the largest and most sophisticated technology infrastructure in the transportation industry.

Our mainframes operate around the clock, processing 27 million instructions every second and tracking 18 million packages every day. They collect and distribute information from drivers’ hand-held computers. Then they use that information to coordinate the operations of our global fleet of vehicles, as well as an entire airline.

We’re using all that information to bring customers deeper into our network and help solve their problems in new and innovative ways.

So, the question becomes: “How do you manage for growth while respecting your past?” My answer, is that the job falls to leaders. And it’s a job in three critical parts.

First, leaders must be confident enough to hire people smarter than they are and ones who don’t fit the traditional mold.

I learned that lesson early on. I was a senior manager of UPS’s Rocky Mountain District, which wasn’t very profitable when I got there. I decided we needed a real sales pro – someone with a long sales resume. My boss sent me a candidate who had none of that. He said: “Just talk to him.”

So I meet this young guy at the airport, and the first thing he wants to do is pick up his luggage. I said: “Let’s talk first.” I’m thinking that once I describe how tough the job is, he’ll want to get back on a plane to go home.

I talked about all the problems we had, and the special skills it would take to solve them.

Finally he looked at me, and said: “I know what you’re doing. You’re painting the worst picture you can paint because you don’t think I’m the right guy for this job. This is my job. I want to help you do what you want to do, and I’m not getting on that plane.”

So I said, “OK, let’s get your bag.”

It’s probably the best hire I ever made. And a great lesson came along with it. Get outside your comfort zone. There’s a whole new world out there.

That young man totally changed our ability to pursue customers outside our areas of expertise. Would we have made that same breakthrough if I had hired someone who did things the way we had always done them?

I think about that every time I talk to somebody who – in my opinion – is not quite right for the job.

The second thing leaders must do is recognize the power of the individual. Especially those who don’t look, act and think exactly like they do.

For example, we all know the book on Millennials. Thin-skinned, shielded from failure by their parents, entitled, picky, inflated sense of importance. I see some of that. But what I see more is confidence and teamwork.

I see people motivated not by office size and title, but by the meaning they find in their work. People don’t see themselves as human resources. They see themselves as human beings. And they want tangible and consistent proof that we see them that way, too. Let me give you an example.

My first assignment as district manager was in Houston. I’d been there about a year and a half when UPS drivers went on a nationwide strike.

The next day, I rolled up my sleeves and walked onto the picket line. “Why are you out here?” I asked. “Have I given you respect? Have I made sure you got the pay you were due? Have I given you personal time when you needed it?”

They nodded and mumbled a yes. So I asked them again: “Why are you out here?” When they couldn’t tell me, I said, “Let’s get back to work.” And they followed me back inside. Giving them respect got me respect.

Finally, leaders who want to respect culture while managing for the future must be inquisitive enough to ask the right questions. The most important is: “Is there a better way?”

And here’s where we run into that big, honkin Catch-22 of a strong culture. Why look for a better way when our old way has done so well by us?

The answer is simple: If you’re not curious about what might be … and if you’re not – as Jim Casey would say, “constructively dissatisfied” – you’re going to leave potential on the table every day.

Great companies seem to have compelling backstories that foretold a distinctive culture. You’re blessed with several here in Seattle.

In Boeing’s Museum of Flight, you can see the famous mail bag that William Boeing and Eddie Hubbard carried in 1919 on the first international U.S. Air Mail flight.

Two Harvard students – a couple local guys who did pretty well for themselves – convince a computer manufacturer that their software will run its new computer – even though they had yet to write the software.

The world’s largest online retailer started selling books out of its founder’s garage.

Of course, I’m a little partial to our story – the one about those young men on bicycles. If you ask executives of these companies today why they’ve been successful, they’ll probably start with those stories. Historical touchstones for generations of employees, those stories have become emotional and romantic backdrops to distinctive cultures.

But if we’re not careful, we can let stories of our glorious past get in the way of our promising future.

As leaders, we have a responsibility to understand a changing world and the consumers and businesses we serve. We have a mandate not only to manage the present, but also to imagine the future.

Those of us in leadership positions – especially those of us who have been around for a while – must ask ourselves important questions: “Are we standing in the way of truly new ways of thinking and doing?” “Are we obstructing a view of the future?”

Of course, many argue that there’s no substitute for wisdom gained through experience. And I agree.

This is my 37th year at UPS. I like to think that I’ve gotten smarter with age, even if my hairline hasn’t kept up. But I also know that culture and dominant logic cut both ways. They can provide the discipline that companies need to perform consistently over the long haul. They also can act as blinders to fresh, new perspectives.

Leaders need to make sure that neither they nor an allegiance to company culture distorts a clean line of sight to imagination and opportunity.

If Jim Casey were to visit the modern-day version of the company he started, I think he would see clear signs of the culture he helped establish. But his amazement at most everything else would underline the common trait of any great business today – a willingness to change.

Every business needs a great story to tell. Every business also needs new stories, ones that tie the narrative of the past to the vision of the future.

It’s leaders who strike the balance.

I want to thank the Rotary Club for the opportunity to be with you today. It’s been a pleasure.

Contact Bill
Phone: (912) 602-2529

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Title:

Uncle Joe's Lesson

Speaker:

Dr. John R. Kelly, Chairman, Board of Directors, The American Cancer Society

Occasion:

ACS Nationwide Conference, Orlando, Florida


Good morning! Welcome to the American Cancer Society’s Nationwide Conference.

We’re delighted you’re here for this nationwide gathering of staff and volunteers from the community level of the organization, as well as from Divisions and the National Home Office, representing all key functions of the Society.

This show of force … demonstrating the breadth and depth of our organization … is both symbolic and strategic.

As the American Cancer Society enters a new century … with a set of very ambitious and aggressive goals … we must do so in a spirit of collaboration and cooperation. The job ahead of us is too great to even attempt without employing all of our resources in a concerted effort.

Cancer Control, Income Development, Marketing, Communications, Cancer Information and Delivery, Advocacy and Research.

All of our work. All of our people … staff and volunteers. We must all join hands not only to fortify our own effort, but also to encourage the support of others.

The public sector. The private sector. Physicians, policymakers, media, insurers. They all must be engaged in dialogue and purpose if we are to reduce incidence and mortality and improve quality of life at the pace we have committed.

How we’re going to forge those alliances and accelerate our success will be the subject of much of the next two and a half days. And I trust we’ll leave here with renewed energy and commitment.

So that’s why we’re here. … Or is it?

Yes, that’s the important work we’re here to do. But why are we really here? The answer to that question is a personal one for each of us. And, if you’ll indulge me for a minute or two, I’d like to tell you mine.

I grew up in Utica, Mississippi, a dirt-poor farming community in the southern part of the state where families like mine were still trying to scratch out a living growing and harvesting cotton.

I never heard of the American Cancer Society when I was growing up. In fact, I seldom heard the word “cancer” when I was a boy. That’s because cancer was one of those words my family and other black families didn’t use back then.

I’ve often wondered why that was, and my best guess is that the mystery that shrouded cancer in those days scared us.

It was a monster that came unannounced and showed no mercy. So we just didn’t talk about it.

As a matter of fact, I didn’t think much about cancer until my uncle Joe died.

My Uncle Joe was blind. But he was an inspiration. That’s because he didn’t let his blindness, which resulted from a birth defect, stop him from doing just about anything he wanted, including farming 200 acres, taking cattle to market and running a successful business.

Of course, he couldn’t drive a car, but he got around just fine on an old horse named Troy. It was 10 miles from uncle Joe’s house to ours, but he and Troy worked out a system that got them there and back just fine.

Troy would come to a fork in the road or an intersection and stop. Counting the stops in his mind, uncle Joe knew exactly where they were and gave Troy a nudge with his knee to proceed … or a tug on the rein to go left or right.

Uncle Joe died when I was 19, and I didn’t know until a few years later what caused his death.

My mother and I were talking one day in her family room in Utica when she told me Uncle Joe had died of colon cancer.

Cancer. There was that scary word from my childhood. I think I made up my mind right then and there that someday I would join the fight against cancer.

But it wasn’t until some 10 years later that I took the first step in that direction. A Cancer Society staff person showed up on my doorstep one night to say one of my neighbors had recommended me as a block crusade captain.

Under other circumstances, my first reaction might have been “Thanks, but no thanks.”

But the thought I was struck with was this: “OK, here’s your opportunity to do what you said you were going to do.”

I’m pretty sure I didn’t envision that would lead to 22 years of volunteer work for this great organization. But here I am … honored to be your chairman … and I can’t think of any place I’d rather be.

I’m sure I’m a lot like most of you. I’m sure most of you have your own stories that brought you here. I’m sure, like myself, you have become addicted to the satisfaction that flows from our efforts.

I must admit, I’m obsessed with our mission. But I’m also drawn by another force. One equally as powerful. You all have gotten to me. The people in this room … the thousands of others I’ve met around the country. You just reached out and grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let go.

So, that’s why I’m really here.

I’m proud of the work we did back in those early days of Residential Crusades in southern Mississippi. In retrospect, it was a slow and tedious process. I’m sure many of you can recall trudging up those driveways and ringing those doorbells.

I don’t know where this organization would be … I don’t know where our fight against cancer would stand … if not for the work of others who preceded us in those early days.

But today, of course, our delivery methods are different. We combine our effective community-based cancer control interventions with powerful advocacy initiatives and spread our messages all the way from our hometown communities to our nation’s capital.

As you know, we now have two call center facilities operating as part of the National Cancer Information Center.

The new call center in Austin, Texas, expands our nationwide capacity and gives us the ability to provide specific, local market information.

NCIC is now answering more than 1 million calls a year … and once the call centers are fully staffed, that number will jump to 3 million a year!

Our expanded and enhanced web site … www.cancer.org … which features a new interface and expanded resources … provides easier access for anyone looking for information or trying to find help.

It also makes it more convenient for donors. This year we expect the web site and call centers to generate more than $5 million.

One of the most exciting new services available on the web site is eNCIC – the electronic National Cancer Information Center.

A staff of eight cancer information specialists and two oncology nurses uses e-mail to respond to questions and requests for information from the growing number of people who prefer to communicate electronically.

Technology is helping keep the doors of this great Society open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You’re going to see and hear references to 24 / 7 during this conference to remind us that cancer is a 24 / 7 disease. It never rests; nor can we.

And now, with our expanded programs and services, we’re able to provide help to those in need, whenever they need it.

Undoubtedly, today’s American Cancer Society stands stronger and more capable than at any time in its 87-year history.

But it’s not just technology that allows me say that with so much confidence. It’s you.

It’s the 725 people in this room … representing more than 2.5 million other staff and volunteers … who do the front-line soldiering that makes this army strong.

I hope you’ll never forget that.

We may be a different organization in the respect that we use different tools to accomplish our work … and we may be organized differently … but that hasn’t changed who we are or what we are.

Our mission hasn’t wavered in 87 years. It’s to prevent cancer … save lives … and reduce suffering.

Frankly, I don’t know of a more noble calling.

Yes, we’re a different organization than the one I joined as a volunteer in Gulfport, Mississippi, 22 years ago.

Probably different than the one you joined, too, wherever that was.

But we’re also the same.

We’re doing many of the same things, only doing them in a different way.

Think of it as stretching our limits without threatening our foundation.

We’re still heading in the same direction; we’re just getting there a different way.

When my uncle Joe lost his sight, he didn’t stop coming to visit. He just figured out an innovative way to get there.

I have every confidence this group of people will figure out how to get where we want to go.

Where our nation … and the thousands of people we seek to help …need us to take it.

Thank you for everything you do.

Let me say that again, THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING YOU DO.

Now, let’s have a great conference.

Contact Bill
Phone: (912) 602-2529

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Title:

Social License: Coca-Cola’s Secret Recipe for Brand Love

Speaker:

Ms. Sonya Soutus, Senior Vice President, The Coca-Cola Company

Occasion:

Keynote Presentation: Ragan Employee Communications Conference Redmond, Washington


Thank-you.

If there’s such a thing as corporate Camelot, The Coca-Cola Company lived it for much of our first 113 years.

We were the company that made Santa Claus even more popular than he already was. We were the darling of Wall Street. We were the company that taught the world to sing. Along the way, we became the most recognized brand in the world.

Then came Belgium.

On June 8, 1999, the first hint that The Coca-Cola Company had a problem trickled in from the small Belgian town of Bornem.

School children, complaining of nausea, dizziness and headaches, had been hospitalized. In all, over the course of the next few days, 100 people were hospitalized. All of the cases had one thing in common. Before they felt sick, the kids said they drank Coca-Cola.

It didn’t take long for the worldwide media to pounce.

What was the cause? Where were the quality controls? What were we doing about it?

If Coke wasn’t safe to drink in Belgium, what about Birmingham and Boston?

Belgium marked a seminal moment in what we now refer to as our “short” 125-year history.

We didn’t know it at the time, but Camelot had just gotten its first wake-up call.

Others would follow.

Next came two major legal actions over workplace rights in the U.S. and Columbia.

That was followed by charges that we were depleting groundwater in India.

But the story faded away in Belgium. … We set ourselves back on course following the racial discrimination lawsuit in the U.S. … And we were cleared of any wrongdoing in Columbia and India.

But the damage to Coca-Cola’s reputation was done.

Fast forward a few years and a new wave of challenges began roiling the waters.

This time, it was the medical and scientific communities that made beverage companies public enemy No. 1 in the fight against obesity.

It was a frustrating time at Coke. It reminded some of 1985 and the launch of New Coke.

Some of you are old enough to remember New Coke, which debuted on April 23, 1985. That was the day we took the biggest marketing risk in consumer goods history by changing the formula of our iconic brand.

Quickly – and I do mean quickly – consumers reacted. Seventy-eight days later, we announced the return of the original formula.

It was a dramatic reminder that we don’t own our brands – our consumers do.

For the company that had been viewed as an exemplar of corporate citizenship in communities around the world, all of these events clearly showed we had lost our way.

Some would say humble confidence had turned to corporate arrogance.

Whatever the reason, we’re convinced that the tsunami that started in Belgium and continued for another decade was exactly what our company needed.

That sounds strange, I know. But in hindsight, it’s clear we had lost sight of the important role that image and reputation play in business. In our business and I bet in yours too.

But here’s the thing: Image and reputation are important for a new, more relevant reason today than many once believed. They’re important because they affect business performance in real and profound ways.

(pause)

Our company’s global vision is to refresh the world, inspire optimism and create value while making a difference.

But I’m convinced we won’t get where we want to go unless we earn an undisputed social license to market and grow our brands.

What do I mean by social license?

Social license is the bridge that connects brands and consumers in the most authentic and honest ways.

It’s the goodwill that surrounds a brand and tilts the playing field in its direction.

It’s the permission consumers give themselves to feel good about handing over their hard-earned dollars to a brand that shares their values.

It’s the political cover that protects a brand when it needs someone standing by its side.

Social license is all those things and it comes only when you have trust and admiration.

At Coke, we believe social license is gained and reinforced by focusing on four things:

  • Establishing leadership as a corporate citizen.
  • Deepening relationships with communities.
  • Demonstrating a commitment to the well-being of consumers.
  • And by being responsible stewards of our environment.

Just like you don’t hang out with people you don’t trust and admire, you don’t want to support companies you don’t trust and admire.

I’m not saying a company’s stellar reputation as a steward of the environment or a supporter of high school football is the deciding factor when someone is shopping for financial services, jeans or even beverages.

Products have to work, look good and taste good, after all. I’m just saying it matters.

We also know that trust and admiration are often heavily influenced by opinion shapers. In our case, that’s a diverse group. Employees, consumers, opinion leaders, customers, bottlers, investors, regulators, communities and NGOs.

Individually and collectively, their opinions matter. They also can affect how many bottles of this [Coke Classic contour bottle] we sell.

Ultimately, it is all about selling our product.

Along with the 90 other people on our Public Affairs and Communications team, I’m proud to sell this product. We believe it’s our No. 1 job.

Our business cards may not say sales or marketing, and we may be separated on the org chart from folks who have those words in their titles. But we’re no longer separated philosophically.

The leaders of our North America business don’t talk to associates these days without mentioning the importance of earning and protecting our social license.

We don’t develop a major marketing program in North America that doesn’t include a social license component.

Our customer teams and supply chain colleagues now welcome us into their planning conversations because they’re convinced that we’re a competitive advantage.

Let me tell you, as someone who has struggled in my career to break free from the perception that communications is the corporate equivalent of the jewelry department – fun to try on, but more an accessory than a requirement – this is huge.

Since some of you may be mired in that same struggle, let me tell you how Public Affairs and Communications has helped The Coca-Cola Company get back on track.

(pause)

Now don’t get me wrong. I believe we’ve always been very good PR practitioners.

The problem was, we looked away and the world changed. Suddenly, no company was immune to scrutiny. Coca-Cola included. Consumers realized they really were in control.

So, a few years ago, we stepped back and honestly asked ourselves if our programs were building the right kinds of equity with the right kinds of opinion shapers.

We decided the way to play a more strategic role – one our business leaders would understand and appreciate – was to reinvent ourselves.

An intensive, weeklong session in Atlanta, with many of our best Public Affairs and Communications people from around the world, led to a new strategy. We called it “changing the game,” and let me tell you, there was never a more accurate or appropriate name.

We decided we no longer would be the sometimes misunderstood guys in the PR and Public Affairs silos who wrote press releases and did government relations.

We would become marketers to opinion shapers.

From that newly minted job description, we defined strategic priorities that explicitly demonstrated our team’s support for our business.

And then we started thinking and acting like business people and marketers.

So let me talk to you about how we’re marketing to opinion shapers to earn the social license to grow our brands.

(Pause)

Like the marketers in our company who launch and nurture brands, we first needed to know more about our consumers.

We had a head start on this one because Coca-Cola has great consumer insights that we’re continually gathering from U.S. markets and markets around the world.

The more we thought about our audiences – the politicians, pundits, media, bloggers, NGO’s, bottlers, investors, regulators, suppliers, civic organizations – the more we realized how multi-faceted and connected our consumer base really is.

For example, today’s stay-at-home parent also may be a professional whose work influences consumers.

He or she may be a neighborhood leader whose ideas are influencing a community.

Maybe they’re a blogger who shares thoughts and opinions on a daily basis.

Without a doubt, they’re voters and part of multiple constituencies.

Of course, they’re also consumers. And when they wheel a grocery cart down a supermarket aisle, they’re bringing their whole self.

The purchasing decisions they make are influenced by what’s in the media, what their neighbors are talking about and by their own beliefs about important issues.

It became obvious to us that to make sure that our messages got through, we needed to communicate to consumers on multiple levels and through multiple channels.

This chart shows how we look at that challenge and how we try to take advantage of every asset and communications channel at our disposal. From paid, earned and social media to employees, bottlers and partnerships.

So that’s the first thing we’re doing to build social license – we’re looking holistically at our target audiences.

(Pause)

The second thing we’re doing is leveraging some amazing assets to encourage brand love and advocacy, community by community.

A great example is the “America Is Your Park” campaign.

Coke has had strong relationships with America’s parks for more than 40 years. But only recently did we really start taking advantage of those partnerships.

Here’s a breakthrough idea for anyone new to this business: In order to get credit for something, you sometimes have to tell people what you’re doing! (Smile)

Two years ago, in collaboration with the National Park Foundation, America’s State Parks and the National Recreation and Park Association, we launched the “America is Your Park” campaign.

The program – which encourages families to get out and enjoy our nation’s parks – also encourages them to go to our LivePositively.com web site and vote for their favorite park.

The three parks with the most votes will receive $100,000, $50,000 and $25,000 grants from Coca-Cola. Seven other parks will receive $10,000 grants.

The voting closed on September 6, but not before a couple of well-known guys joined the campaign.

Our friend, Ryan Seacrest, was nice enough to upload a video while playing in the George C. Page Park in Los Angeles. Take a look.

[Roll video]

But the real power of this kind of program is not at the national level as much as the local level.

Take, for example, the case of a small park in Minot, North Dakota, which was devastated by flooding earlier this year.

Actor Josh Duhamel often visited Oak Park while growing up in Minot. When he learned about our program, he mounted Twitter and Facebook campaigns that generated millions of votes.

Oak Park was our big national winner, thanks in part to Josh’s support and a re-tweet from Ellen DeGeneres. By the way, third place went to Cunningham Park, in Joplin, Mo., which was one of the towns so heavily damaged by tornadoes this spring.

In all, more than 13 million votes were cast for parks across the U.S. We got tons of media coverage from traditional media outlets and on social media sites and racked up more than 121 million earned media impressions.

We also made strong connections with local political and civic leaders. One day they may need a partner for an important project. One day we may need a friend in the right position. We’ll both know who to call.

These local events are great examples of what we’re now able to do thanks to the integration of our North America business with our bottling partners in the U.S. and Canada.

Before the integration, we had two different PAC teams working alongside each other, but often not taking advantage of each other.

By hardwiring the two sides together, we can now bring a full campaign approach and mentality to every opportunity.

I’ll mention another example before moving on.

In cooperation with NASCAR, we continued our sponsorship of Family Track Walks this year at five race tracks across the country.

This is a grassroots program that gives race fans a chance to walk alongside some of their favorite drivers. If you’re a NASCAR fan, you can imagine the thrill of being on the same track where drivers like Michael Waltrip, Kurt Busch and Jeff Burton race.

Here’s a shot of one of our Family Track Walks at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. … Isn’t that great?

(pause)

The third way we’re marketing to opinion shapers to create social license is by engaging our own people as advocates.

The idea here is pretty simple. Arm the 100,000 Coca-Cola employees in North America with information and tools they need to answer questions about our company and brands.

And then encourage them to share the story of how Coca-Cola brings value to everyone it touches.

The program includes posters, banners and pocket cards. … All sorts of stuff to encourage and empower employees to become enthusiastic ambassadors for Coca-Cola with friends, family members and others.

If we can continue to multiply the program’s benefits through the Coca-Cola system’s 750,000 employees, we’ll influence opinion shapers and consumers worldwide.

(pause)

Those are a few examples of the three things we’re doing to enhance Coca-Cola’s reputation and image in order to earn a social license.

First, we’re looking holistically at our audiences. … Second, we’re leveraging assets to enhance brand love. … And, third, we’re engaging our own people as ambassadors.

So, how are we doing? Iis it working? I think so.

The most tangible evidence is that marketing and sales have embraced the idea that Public Affairs and Communications can be their first line of defense and their best source of positive energy with customers.

They know that if their marketing and sales messages are going to resonate, consumers first have to allow the message to break through the clutter. And there can’t be any hidden obstacles stopping them. In many instances now, we’re softening the ground to allow that to happen.

Quick story. Not long ago, I accompanied members of our ??? brand team to … [Would be great to have a short personal story here – maybe about making a customer call with a brand team.]

We’re also communicating preemptive counter messages.

We’re acknowledging that certain brands contain sugar. And we’re staunchly defending full-calorie beverage options.

But we’re also countering with information that reminds consumers and opinion shapers that we offer more than 500 beverage options – including diet drinks, waters, juices and teas – in North America alone.

These messages are mitigating some of the vitriol and giving people something else to consider before they form an opinion.

We weren’t doing that – I should say we weren’t doing enough of that – before. As a result, we were allowing other people to shape and control the conversation.

Against the background of a deteriorating economy, lagging consumer confidence and a backlash against corporate America, we were an inviting target.

Finally, we had to admit that we could no longer take unqualified brand love for granted.

I’m happy to say, we’ve inserted ourselves back into the conversation.

We’re communicating in ways that allow our people to call on customers without having to explain our role in the nation’s obesity problem. Or talking about where all of those plastic bottles really go after someone drains the last ounce of refreshing liquid.

We’re marketing our brands by making our mission the message.

Participating in and in some cases, leading these conversations helps us think and act more like marketers and less like traditional Public Affairs and Communications people.

We take great satisfaction in having helped our business leaders see the need – and the value – in the new 7.5-ounce mini cans that are so popular now with consumers concerned about portion control.

We take great satisfaction in having helped influence Coke’s pioneering move to show front-of-pack calorie information on beverage packages.

We also take great satisfaction when our marketing folks want to collaborate with Public Affairs to generate brand awareness. That’s what happened recently when our public relations group took the lead role in promoting SmartWater, one of our active lifestyle beverages.

Instead of using traditional paid media, marketing took our public relations team’s advice and decided to use social media for the launch.

They worked with Jennifer Aniston to produce a video. We were pretty sure the video would go viral and get some attention, especially after they gave it the name … “The Jennifer Aniston Sex Tape.” Here it is.

[Roll video]

Now that’s how you make sure a video goes viral!

With just enough advance notice to some key media outlets, the video received a million views the first day on YouTube and seven million in the first week.

It also saved the company some major media dollars when the social media costs were compared to what might have been spent in traditional media.

Now that’s marketing! It’s also communications.

I’ll close by saying simply that we’re not there yet. We will do our best to shine the brand today, and we’ll get back up and do it again tomorrow. As we all know in this business, there really is no finish line in our business, and I think that’s especially true where image and reputation are at stake.

Our goal is for Coca-Cola’s North America business to be recognized in the same way that we think of ourselves.

As solid citizens in communities across the country.

As a company that supports what’s important to our consumers.

As a company that has the support of local and national opinion shapers because of what it does not only to refresh the world, but also to make it a better place.

As a company that has earned the social license to operate.

Thanks. It was great to be with you today. I want to thank Mark Ragan for the invitation.

I’ll be happy to take some questions in the time we have left.

Contact Bill
Phone: (912) 602-2529

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Title:

Bridges to our Future

Speaker:

Henry A. Schimberg, President and Chief Executive Officer, Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc.

Occasion:

Coca-Cola Leadership Conference, San Francisco, California


Thank you.

Do any of you remember this illustration?

[Visual 1: Famous New Yorker Magazine cover showing midtown Manhattan as the only civilization… rest of world is depicted as scattering of distant afterthoughts.]

I remember seeing that years ago and thinking, Man, they really blew it … I thought everybody knew that this is the way it really was.

[Visual 2: Takeoff on same style, showing CCE as center of universe, with The Coca-Cola Company close by and a few small “bottlers” in the distance.]

Maybe your perspective was more like this.

[Visual 3: Takeoff on same style, showing “My Bottling Company” as center of the universe, with Atlanta in the far distance, and a few important customers scattered around the landscape.]

That was how it really was. Or so we told ourselves.

Is it? Is there a chance this view’s wrong, too … not to mention arrogant?

I think so. In reality, the world looks a lot more like this today.

[Visual 4: Takeoff on same style, showing “Customer” as center of the universe, with bottlers and TCCC equally prominent in landscape.]

A new landscape dominated by big customers. They’re sophisticated. Demanding. Capable. They operate across territories. Dictate their own requirements … which change every day … and so do we, to keep them happy. Or at least we’d better.

Allow me a brief detour for a moment here. This is my last talk to you. I’m leaving the company after 18 years of rewarding work. But I owe you a word of caution – I’m not feeling particularly sentimental.

I didn’t come here today to join hands and lead the group in a rousing rendition of “Kum-ba-yah.” We don’t need – you don’t need a pep rally.

What this group needs is a heavy dose of reality.

Well [gesture to visual] … here it is.

Standing up here today … in my last speech to this group … I think back on all the visuals I’ve used over the years. I must’ve used ten thousand charts and graphs and summary slides during my career.

But none of them is as important as this one.

I hope you remember it. Because your future comes down to how you see the world.

Our bottling companies aren’t the center of anybody’s universe any more. They don’t stand alone. If they act that way, they’ll be quaint for about 15 minutes … and then they’ll be gone.

They’ll be gone the first time they act like petulant children … acting like part of the system today, when circumstances suit them … then acting like independents tomorrow, when circumstances don’t.

The Coca-Cola system … no matter how powerful … can no longer create value with autonomous bottlers.

That model is outdated. That world is gone. We have no choice. We have to change.

Most of us acknowledge that. We see that the balance of power has shifted. We know our customers have consolidated to the point that they call the shots. And you know what? That’s not bad. We’ve been through changes before. Part of our customer’s success is our own doing.

But some of us still aren’t buying it. You know who you are. Swimming against the current … it gets tiring, doesn’t it? Fighting change is the most exhausting thing we can do.

My hope for this meeting is that we’ll leave San Francisco dedicated to the future. Not fighting the present with structures of the past. But with a new structure.

Maybe a quick history lesson will illustrate my point.

The Chaldeans (kal-DEE-uns) were an ancient Mediterranean culture who built the world’s first bridge, in Mesopotamia centuries ago. Actually, I should say they were first people to try to engineer a bridge … as opposed to laying trees across the water.

It took them several tries to get it right. First, they got it wrong. Spectacularly wrong.

They saw that a good bridge needed some system of support. But their first mistake was to sink their supports right in the river’s current. When the river rose, the stanchions were washed away. So they built bigger stanchions. Eventually, those eroded away too.

Finally, they built a huge stanchion … in effect, a dam. This time … when the rains came and the water rose … the entire bridge was washed away.

That’s when they finally figured it out – you can’t fight the current. And their next supports were built on land. And that engineering breakthrough led to the arched bridges … box bridges … and suspension bridges of today.

The engineering breakthrough was in the discovery that bridges needed to be part of a system … something that shares and distributes the load. In other words, bridges that lead across the current of change – not fight it.

The lesson is simple. You can’t resist powerful forces by stubbornly standing in a rising tide. You have to rise above it … and work with others.

We need to be honest with ourselves. There are sizeable gaps between our system today and our customers’ expectations for value.

Those gaps include our capabilities … technical and human … but they’re also in the form of the stanchions we’ve built in our own imaginations. They’re not supports any more. They’re dams. They’re eroding. They’re coming down.

Well, let them.

The future isn’t in fighting the inevitable … in resisting our customers’ power. The future’s in building bridges that make their commerce easier and better.

That bridge is us. Our system. Our people, our brands, our service, our marketing. All the support and value-enhancing advantages we offer our customers.

To live up to our heritage, they’ve got to be strong. Easy to reach… easy to cross … and most important, built from a unified Coca-Cola system that’s better prepared than ever to create … nurture … and enhance value.

In my way of thinking, there’s no longer an option to that strategy.

How strongly do I feel about this? I like what Peter Drucker, the respected management guru who has been called a philosopher of reality, once said: “You don’t have to do this,” he said. “Survival is not compulsory.”

The new reality confronts us everyday.

Let’s say one of today’s chains … let’s call it Big & Pushy … decides it wants to run an ad promoting a special on Coca-Cola classic for an upcoming holiday. The only problem is the ad covers stores in three bottler territories.

So, potentially we have three different perspectives from three different bottlers on how the retailer should work with us. Those opinions include six different packages and 10 unique brands that must be figured into the equation … and approximately 72 different hoops the retailer must jump through if he wants to do business with us.

In the old days – we can’t really pinpoint when the old days ended, but surely we can see they have – we would’ve tried to work through this mess with plate changes and a slew of brand and package combinations.

A series of heated discussions would have ensued between the bottlers involved. And the retailer probably would have stood by and let us dictate how he was going to work with Bottler A, Bottler B and Bottler C to get his ad placed.

Well, I can tell you, the Big & Pushies of the world aren’t standing by anymore while we argue among ourselves.

They’re telling us to come back when we have our act together.

And, meanwhile, our competitor is anxiously waiting to make life easier for the customer. He does it by having one person calling on the retailer and saying simply, “Tell me what you want.”

You might say, well, that’s an example of just one situation and dismiss its significance. Well, what if Big & Pushy is part of a huge national chain? A chain whose shelves we need to help solidify POWERaDE and Surge as national brands.

So Big & Pushy’s business is critical not only to the three bottlers in the example, but also to the Coca-Cola system itself … for volume, share and profitability reasons … as well as for brand health reasons.

That example emphasizes two key points … neither of which is going to cause a warm and fuzzy feeling to come over this room.

The first is that the day of franchise territories acting independently without affecting other franchise territories doesn’t exist anymore. The effects of any major decision or action now commonly ripple throughout the system.

To deny that … and to continue to try and separate ourselves from the system is like Luxembourg in World War II saying, “You know, we have a nice little country here, and we think we’re just going to sit this one out.”

That’s fine until the troops come marching down Main Street and all of a sudden everything you worked for … everything we all worked for … is in danger of being wiped out.

So, ultimately, the issue of franchise value must be considered. At some point, The Coca-Cola Company will no longer have the option … or the ability … to tolerate conduct detrimental to the good of the overall system.

The second key point is an admission we need to make.

While we have an unbelievably strong trademark and brands, the customer believes he can survive without them.

Can he find value from the competition at anywhere near the level we can deliver? Of course not. He probably realizes that, but that doesn’t change his mind about the value he requires from the beverage category. The sun will come up for him tomorrow … with or without Coca-Cola.

What we’ve been hearing all day is that customers are requiring more from us. And they aren’t afraid to ask for it. We’ve heard a lot about what they’re asking for. Electronic commerce … brand availability … just-in-time delivery and high turnover … consistency in the programs and services we deliver across their markets … advice … expertise.

In the end, they want the same thing we do − more value. And they intend to get it. The question is, are we prepared to deliver?

Anchor bottlers give us resources to counter these increasingly complex requirements. But that, in itself, is not enough. We must remove all barriers to meeting customers’ reasonable requests.

I’m not saying we should roll over on every demand. That’s not productive. I’m not saying different viewpoints should not be acknowledged.

What I am saying is that we have to face issues as a system rather than arguing about them on a case-by-case basis every time we face a major issue.

That certainly qualifies as a paradigm shift. I know that’s an over-used and misused term these days. The term “paradigm shift” was coined to describe a point in time when an old model, while still accurate, is no longer sufficient for the needs at hand.

The paradigm shift that has to take place here involves transforming our traditional independent bottler network … still the basis of the world’s most effective distribution machine … into the world’s most efficient and effective customer value creation machine.

That entails, among other things, adopting an attitude that builds consensus and fosters long-term health and value for the system.

Removing barriers to value creation starts with understanding value on the customer’s own terms.

Value to one retailer might be a 10 percent margin … to another value might be a two-for-five dollar price on a 12-pack for a holiday promotion.

Reaching this understanding requires an ongoing dialogue with the customer … one that obviously includes price … but one that should not be dominated by price.

We need to understand customers’ businesses well enough that we can engage them on their biggest issues and problems . . . and help them find solutions.

And we need to hold ourselves … and our people accountable. It really doesn’t matter who has these conversations. What matters is that we have them … and that whoever has them understands value creation.

Remember, with the new generation of customers, it’s not only about transaction management . . . ad calendars … displays and cooler placements. The real future dialog is about value creation, making money and providing value-added services.

At CCE, we’re trying to remove as many barriers – physical and mental – to customer value creation as we can.

Let me give you an example of how changing a mindset – a paradigm shift -- has allowed us to enhance our relationship with Compass.

We’re going to hear from Mike Bailey from Compass this afternoon so I’ll be interested to hear Mike’s perspective on this.

When we decided to make a commitment to the at work foodservice channel, we recognized that the most profitable way of doing business in the channel was in places where we already controlled the account. We looked at distributors -- people like Canteen, a division of Compass -- as competitors.

In fact, we should have been looking at them as potential partners.

So, rather myopically, we said to ourselves that third parties and contract foodservice didn’t fit our business model.

That kind of thinking was something akin to continuing to invest in buggy whip companies while millions of people were falling in love with the automobile.

We were closing ourselves and our products off to literally millions of employees at thousands of work sites.

But once we admitted that the competition was eating our lunch in the at work channel, we said maybe those distributors weren’t such bad guys after all.

Well, as it’s turned out, Canteen is a bunch of wonderful guys.

I don’t mind admitting that at first there were differences of opinion within our company about this strategy. Some people thought, “If we can’t own it, we’re not going to be there.” But we knew that in order for us to fulfill our vision of pervasive availability, we didn’t have the option of turning our back on this opportunity.

Compass is now acknowledging the value we can bring them and their customers. And by activating this channel through the Compass relationship, we have an opportunity to accelerate system growth well into the next century.

When we bring significant value to the customer … when we’re perceived as the organization that best understands their needs and the one best able to respond to those needs … we have an opportunity to move to a position of Category Management.

Category Management makes us an active participant in the customer’s strategic conversations and plans regarding value. If we’re not at the table for those discussions, we lose a major opportunity.

Category Management also shifts the balance of power at least slightly back in our favor.

There was probably a time when we could afford to lose an opportunity here and there and still exceed every goal we set for ourselves. That time is no longer.

Our world is changing at a pace that it hardly resembles what it did five years ago. And, at the current rate, we probably won’t recognize it five years from now.

Those changes – driven primarily by industry consolidation – give us a limited window of time in which to change our own attitudes and behavior. There is an absolute sense of urgency that cannot be ignored because we’re not operating on our own timetable. Our customers’ have the stopwatch in their hands. And they view the status quo as absolutely unacceptable.

That goes for every category – but especially for the beverage category, where so much of their profitability resides.

If we’re viewed as unresponsive to their needs … if we’re not able to close the gaps … if we’re unable to create effective bridges to value … everyone will suffer.

This has been my last opportunity to be with you, my second family for the last 18 years.

If I’ve used what sounds like strong language, it’s because I have strong feelings.

I love this system. I love the people who have made it great.

I only want to see it continue to thrive at the pinnacle … the position we’ve worked so hard to achieve over the years.

Let me leave you with one final thought … since we’re speaking of building bridges.

We’ve come a long way since the Chaldeans (kal-DEE-uns), you know. One of the great bridges of the world is right here in San Francisco – the Golden Gate.

It turns out the Golden Gate Bridge celebrated a birthday recently, and someone asked its chief engineer about the stress last year’s El Nino put on the structure. They almost had to close it down a couple of times because of high winds.

And he said that this El Nino’s storms were bad, but nothing like the El Nino that hit the Golden Gate Bridge in the 1930s, while it was being built.

Why? Because that storm hit before the roadway and cables were laid – when the bridge was just two big independent foundations sticking out of the Bay.

The engineer said, and I quote, “The two Golden Gate towers were most vulnerable when they were standing alone, without benefit of cables and a roadway to distribute the stress.”

Remarkable, isn’t it? Only when the towers were joined together … only when they shared a load … only when the bridge was brought together as a complete system to carry out its duty … was it strong enough to withstand the kind of forces that brought down its forebear centuries earlier in Mesopotamia.

Folks, our System has come a long way, too. This is the greatest System of its kind the world has ever seen.

But it’s standing at a chasm … another in a long history of chasms we’ve succeeded in bridging over the years.

I’ve seen this System join together and act like a system … at every critical period in its history. Every time, it’s risen to the occasion.

Joining together is once again what must happen.

I leave it in your able hands to do what must be done.

Best wishes. Good luck.

Live up to your heritage … and build the bridge your times require.

Thank you very much.

Contact Bill
Phone: (912) 602-2529

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