Printed in the U Matuna, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Haganta, October 16, 2011
The recent death of Steve Jobs has invoked many thoughts about his life and genius. One story circulating on the web recounts his beginnings as an unexpected pregnancy of a young, unwed mother. Elective abortions were illegal in 1955 so baby Steve was given up for adoption. What the world might have lost! (And what we certainly lose now as we legally eliminate 4000 unborn children everyday.)
Despite his origins, Steve Jobs was not exactly a pro-life advocate in his later life. In fact, Jobs doesn’t seem to have a history of advocating much of anything other than his business. Yet, Harvard Business Review recently called Steve Jobs “The World’s Greatest Philanthropist”.
No, there is no Steve Jobs Foundation sending millions to far-off corners of the globe. There are no pictures of him with stage-sized checks made out to some charity or humanitarian group. There is no video footage of Jobs with sleeves rolled up in Haiti or some other ravaged place.
As a matter of fact the only record of his philanthropy, aside from a foundation he started and closed after 15 months, is the record of all the philanthropic projects that he terminated after reassuming the leadership of Apple in 1997. In fact, Jobs was roundly scourged in the press for his LACK of philanthropy. So why call him “The World’s Greatest Philanthropist”?
Jobs didn’t use his billions to run around the world creating charity photo-ops with other stars. He used his billions to make more billions and more billions until, in August of this year, the company he started in a garage some 30 years ago, passed the giant multinational Exxon as the world’s most valuable company! So why is that good?
Modern philanthropy has devolved into hand-outs, euphemised as “giving back”. Jobs had a different approach. Rather than concern himself with “giving back”, he “gave forward”. Jobs gave his all to his creative work, and in so doing, generated employment for 34,000 people in Apple alone, an inestimable number of income opportunities for Apple-related industries, and immeasurable wealth for retirement funds and other investment vehicles which invested in Apple.
In short, there are fewer hungry children not because Steve Jobs wrote a check, but because his company succeeded, which meant that Daddy, lots of Daddies (Mommies too), had a job.
The timing of Apple’s mythical rise from a garage to the zenith of the business world just as its founder was succumbing to the last stages of cancer is profound. Most of the world’s most advanced economies are in financial meltdown, flash mobs of disenfranchised youth are rioting in the centers of civilization, and the United States, the most prosperous nation in the history of the world, is poised to financially succumb by 2016 to the world’s newest and most aggressive superpower, Communist China.
In the midst of all this, “little” Apple - quite without the aid of a government stimulus or a “jobs bill” - is churning out prosperity and better lives for millions, not with handouts, not with photo-op philanthropy, but by making stuff people want to buy because it makes their lives better.
Columnist Dan Pollota, in the Harvard Business Review, recently noted that Jobs, in addition to creating revenue generating opportunities for millions, had created products like the iPhone that helps the blind read text and identify currency, helps physicians improve their performance and surgeons improve their practices, and even helps charities raise money.
Pollota also notes that the iPad not only ushered in an era of electronic reading that saves forests and all the energy associated with converting wood to paper, but it has been used to improve health care, lessen the symptoms of autism, improve children’s creativity, and revolutionize medical training.
Sure there are competitive products NOW, but without Jobs we’d be at least a decade away from these innovations, and who’s to say that we would have anything even close to what came from this man’s mind! As Pollota concluded: “What a loss to humanity it would have been if Jobs had dedicated the last 25 years of his life to figuring out how to give his billions away, instead of doing what he does best.”
There’s a lesson here. How much better we might all be if we spent more energy discovering the talents God gave us and using them, as Steve Jobs did, instead of shaking our fist at Government and Wall Street, demanding to be suckled. Oh, and by the way, next time you use an “i-anything”, think about the 4000 babies a day we throw away and the one that wasn’t.