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Dr. Orin Levine Headshot

Calling on Kids of Investment Bankers, for Kids Who Aren't

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Attention: this blog is targeted for specific
individuals.  Anyone can read it,
of course, but it is specifically for young adults between the ages of 12 and
19, and specifically for those who have parents in investment banking or who go
to school with kids who have parents in investment banking.  And among that group, it’s for those who
are interested in changing the world.

By now it’s no secret that many in the investment banking
and financial sector have received or are going to receive large bonuses this
year.  Bloomberg.com reported that
the three biggest banks to exit the government bailout plan are expected to pay
out record bonuses of nearly $30 billion this year.  If you’re at Dalton, Horace Mann, Riverdale, Trinity or
another school where your parents and your parents’ friends might be investment
bankers, ask them this week if they have ever considered investing in the life
of a child in the developing world.

Ask them if they know that more than 4 million children die
of pneumonia and diarrhea each year in these countries because they lack access
to simple treatments and safe, effective vaccines.  Ask them if any investment in their current portfolio can provide
so much bang for their buck – for less than $100, they can add a year of life
to a child.  In fact, Bill and
Melinda Gates called their investment in vaccines through GAVI the
best money
they ever invested. 

Some of the financial sector’s most successful individuals
are among the most generous supporters of Save the Children, CARE, and the GAVI Alliance.  But what about the rest? I suspect that
most of them just aren’t aware of how many lives could be saved with simple
vaccines and antibiotics.  Or they
may be misinformed about where their money will go.  They may be under the inaccurate assumption that the money
will be mismanaged or go to corrupt foreign dictators – actually, the funds are
carefully managed by these agencies and save lives very cost-effectively.  The Copenhagen Consensus,
for instance, ranked childhood vaccinations as one of the most cost-effective uses
of foreign aid.

Please make this request with respect and dignity.  Don’t ask them how big their bonus was
this year – that’s rude.  Don’t
insist that they give up all worldly possessions – that’s naïve and misplaced.
However, if you really want to show your own passion and commitment, you could
suggest a donation to GAVI or Save the Children in place of a holiday gift this
season.

Let them know that their donations will make a difference
and are urgently needed.  The GAVI
Alliance for example is meeting next week to consider how to fill an annual
shortfall of ~$800 million per year. 
Without this funding, the lives of millions of children will be lost
because they lack access to the same vaccines that children in this country
routinely receive. 

Additional funding from governments can help fill the gaps,
no doubt.  But the generosity of individual
Americans also can play an important part in changing the world.  In the aftermath of a humanitarian
disaster like Katrina and the Christmas tsunami of 2004, the response of
individual donors, large and small, was overwhelmingly helpful.

So, without being rude or insensitive, ask your parents or
your parents’ friends, “Have you considered a contribution to provide
life-saving vaccines and treatments to children in developing countries?”  You never know, your question might just
change the world for thousands of children whose parents aren't getting bonuses this year.