Opening Remarks by Oscar M. Lopez, Chairman Emeritus, Lopez Group of Companies, at the Lopez Service Awards Night held at the Loft @ Manansala 38/F, The Manansala
July 2, 2014
Rockwell Center, Makati City
If there is one corporate ritual that I look forward to each year, it is this occasion when we recognize the people who make our companies great through the years. It is indeed true that a company is only as good as its people. It is after all, you our employees who toil each day so that we can do justice to the trust given to us by our various investors.
These service awards recognize the people who are our greatest investors. Many of you invest your entire working lives in our companies. This is why, the Lopez family members have since the time of my late father, Don Eugenio Lopez Sr., considered all of you part of our extended family. The Lopez values emphasize precisely this kapamilya spirit which goes two ways.
But tonight I want to expand your horizons beyond the safety of a Lopez company employment. Tonight, I want you to think of how lucky each one of us is… from owners to top management to rank and file. We are the lucky ones.
I am sure many of you have heard of the ongoing debate about the quality of our country’s recent very respectable economic growth. At one point, the growth of our economy was second only to China which is saying a lot, considering how we have always been thought of as the sick man of Asia. We ought to feel some amount of pride in being, among others, rated as investment grade. Not too long ago, that was deemed impossible.
I am sure a Lopez company employee can easily see and experience the benefits of a fast growing economy. That’s because, as I have said, we are the lucky ones. Most Filipinos have not experienced an improvement in their lives despite what the economic statistics may say. Economists will say that is because our growth had not been inclusive.
What does that mean? It means most of the growth in our economy is being enjoyed only by a small segment of society that constitutes our upper class. You may be surprised to learn that most Lopez employees already belong to at least the top 20 per cent of society. Many of our senior managers are in the top taxpayers list. History tells us that we cannot go on this way… the gap between those who are well off and those who are dirt poor cannot widen without endangering society’s stability.
Tonight, as we celebrate your many years of gainful and meaningful employment, I want you all to think of our countrymen who are not as lucky… think of what we can all do together to share the good fortune we have all been blessed.
In a recent graduation speech delivered before the graduating class of Stanford University, Bill and Melinda Gates talked about the need to put one’s privileged status in proper context before one starts to believe he or she is entitled to it because of what he or she has accomplished.
Melinda Gates asked the graduates the following questions to impress upon them how lucky they all are. When were you born? Who were your parents? Where did you grow up? None of us, Ms Gates said, earned these things.
“They were given to us. When we strip away our luck and privilege and consider where we'd be without them, it becomes easier to see someone who's poor and sick and say ‘that could be me.’ This is empathy; it tears down barriers and opens up new frontiers for optimism.”
So Ms Gates appealed to the graduates to take your genius and your optimism and your empathy and go change the world in ways that will make millions of others optimistic as well… in the course of your lives, without any plan on your part, you'll come to see suffering that will break your heart.
When it happens, and it will, don't turn away from it; turn toward it. That is the moment when change is born.
That’s my challenge to all our Lopez officers and employees … when you meet suffering and you will meet suffering daily in this country…do not turn away from it… turn toward it and do something to change the world that will make those of our countrymen so far neglected by economic growth to feel as lucky as you are today.
Good evening to all of you.