Paul Tudor Jones: "I have had trouble sleeping this year"
December 05, 2011
The hedge fund manager and Robin Hood founder speaks about fighting poverty at the group's annual awards gathering.
Robin Hood founder and board member, Paul Tudor Jones II, closed the charity foundation's 22nd annual Heroes awards breakfast on November 10 with this speech:
|| Paul Tudor Jones|
I have had trouble sleeping this year. My sleeplessness is due to my worry over the increased social ills that beset this country. One of the reactions to these ills is the Occupy Wall Street movement. And while I disagree with their message, and I’m not even sure they know what they want, I am extraordinarily sympathetic to what caused them to be there. And that is the growing poverty that afflicts this nation. 47 million Americans on food stamps can only lead to social instability.
At Robin Hood we’ve operated under the notion that with a helping hand—be it in the form of better education, job training, or temporary shelter and food—our neighbors in need could and would gain entry into the economic mainstream. We’ve become adept at pushing just the right levers to help hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged people get on their own two feet and under their own power cross that bridge to the economic Promised Land. For almost two decades now, our efforts have provided me with sense of hope, but for the first time since 1987, I am dispirited. Today that Promised Land is frozen and barren. “Sorry,” says the sign, “There are no jobs here.”
Poverty is an enemy that comes in many forms. But the worst form of poverty facing America today is the poverty of opportunity. Ironically, it was this poverty of opportunity that drove so many of our ancestors to flee their homelands for America. The promise of opportunity was so important that it became the first founding principle in the Declaration of Independence—“All men are created equal” and implicit in that is a promise of equal opportunity. But go tell that to the 20,000 New York City children -- children mind you -- who will sleep in a homeless shelter tonight in this fair city. Where is their opportunity?
America’s relatively short history overflows with remarkable acts of charity over the years that have helped define us as a nation; whether it was the poorest of the poor who operated the Underground Railroad in the Civil War; or the wealthiest as personified by Andrew Carnegie in the 1900s who famously said, “A man who dies rich dies disgraced;” or those who operate and support the 42,000 charities in New York City today. Helping our neighbors through acts of selflessness and kindness is more American than apple pie. It is who we are as a people and sets us apart from the rest of the world. It is our defining grace.
So here we are, faced with our biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression. But instead of coming together, the lack of trust in our leaders and among our citizens is at a fever pitch: Some liberals accuse the rich of being corrupt and greedy. Some conservatives accuse the disadvantaged of being lazy and entitled. I know both the rich and the poor pretty well and I can tell you first hand that neither statement is true and both are grounded in ignorance. What is clear is that the government is struggling to find a way out, and that’s going to take longer than any of us would like. And we have yet to even experience the consequences of closing the 9% budget deficit the U.S. currently runs. Which leaves us with two choices: We can sit on the sidelines and wait for the government; or, we can step in ourselves and do our part to help our neighbors in need when they need it most.
You know, I’m not one to tell you what you should do to help a neighbor get back on their feet, but I will tell you what I plan to do. I’m going to care more than I’ve ever cared. I’m going dig deeper and give more time, money, and know-how than I’ve ever given. It doesn’t make any difference whether you are rich or poor but I believe you have to give and give according to your means.
I’m very proud to say that my friend Ray Dalio feels the same way. A few weeks ago, Ray and his wife, Barbara, made a $10 million challenge grant to Robin Hood which was matched by Robin Hood’s Board of Directors to create a matching grant fund in this time of extreme need. Thanks to the Dalio’s extraordinary generosity, every dollar given to Robin Hood before the end of this year will be matched up to $20 million. That’s going to create a tremendous amount of opportunity for thousands of New Yorkers in the coming years.
It’s going to take a great many of us, working together, to improve the current political and social environment. Today we are faced with a threat that in my mind is as great as 9/11. Fighting that war was simpler as there was an identifiable enemy who we sought out and defeated. Now, we are in a similar amount of pain but we can’t see the enemy, so we start blaming each other.
One of America’s greatest conservative thinkers, Thomas Jefferson, put it this way in the Declaration of Independence 235 years ago, “With a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” Our founding fathers stated it is un-American not to care about people in need. We have to take the 1% and the 99% and remember that together we are 100%.
I’ve had too many sleepless nights lately. Those of us in the financial community know that when you have too big a position in a stock and are confronted with sleepless nights, you have to sell down to the sleeping point. For me, I have to give down to the sleeping point. So as the poet Robert Frost so beautifully said,
“… I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
I hope we all do.
See also: Ray Dalio makes a $10 million challenge grant to Robin Hood