Dear Steve, friends, ladies and gentlemen,
I am Li Ka-shing. I am honored to be here today to accept this award from Forbes Magazine and the Forbes family. It is certainly a great honor and I thank you all for being here to share this wonderful moment with me.
To me, the term lifetime – as in “Lifetime Achievement Award” – seems heavy – a term that requires some reflection concerning the road we have traveled and the course our life has taken.
I grew up amid the turmoil of war. It certainly shaped me – the great tug of war with destiny and the taste of poverty. They are hardly memories one can forget. It has not been an easy journey. I can still remember vividly the day I started work at 12. Since then, 66 years have flown by.
My life has been filled with challenges. But I must say fortune has indeed bestowed many opportunities and with hard work, and the support of wonderful men and women around me, I have fared well. And I have learned some lessons that have been very important for me.
In this increasingly competitive world the constant demand for one to be wise, to be far-seeing and to be creative can be tiring, yet all in all I am glad to say that I am a happy man; happy not for the feeling of accomplishment and the recognition I have received, but for an early realization that our greatest wealth lies in the quality of our soul. This realization encouraged me to do the best I could as a human being and as an entrepreneur – to serve society with the gifts I have been given.
I have often wondered if we could aggregate on a balance sheet all that we have accomplished or lost throughout mankind’s historic transmutation, what would be the truest and most fair view? We are passing through an intense period of globalization. Where will it take us? And are we capable of successfully meeting the challenges? For example, are we capable of addressing environmental concerns? Do we have the capacity to relieve human suffering?
Who can stay blind or be insensitive to the widening income gap and the despair brought about by conflict of values? In a divided and entrenched world, will collective individual effort, goodwill, capability and perseverance suffice to bring about a society that is just and equitable – a society that offers hope to all?
As entrepreneurs, we all know the importance of identifying the right capital investment. Social capital is the key. Its assets of empathy, compassion, trust, shared values, community involvement, volunteerism, social networks, and citizenship have quantifiable value. These assets can be measured. They are all an honest expression of the heart, having within them the ability to build, strengthen, enrich, heal, and even remove suffering.
Social capital – with all of these qualities – is the critical element that aligns macro and micro economic dimensions in the right perspective. And it is my hope that we would all commit to invest in it.
In an effort to do so myself I set up a foundation that I refer to as my third son. Since 1980, I have dedicated to him not only my assets but all my heart, and I believe that my colleagues in the foundation and my family, are – and will remain – as committed as I am to serve its causes, reshaping destiny through education and seeking efficient initiatives that can forever help those in need.
In Asia, our traditional values encourage and even demand that wealth and means pass through lineage as an imperative duty. I urge and hope to persuade you, especially all of us in Asia, that if we are in a position to do so, that we transcend this traditional belief.
Even if our government structure is as yet not geared towards supporting a culture of giving, we must in our hearts see building society as a duty in line with supporting our children. By choosing to apportion our wealth and means – by investing in social capital – as we give to our children, we will, indeed, make the world better for them. Our reorientation of perspective today could bring forth great hope and promises for the future.
My dear friends, having the privilege to choose and to give is truly a blessing, and the most wonderful manifestation of entrepreneurs.
We are so fortunate to live in such exciting times – an era filled with opportunities. We enjoy so much more creativity, more technology, more time, and even longer life. Each of you is at the top of your profession. Your wisdom, hard work and entrepreneurship have rewarded your life with meaningful dividends. And there is no limit to what you can accomplish. This is especially true as you look to serve others.
We know compassion is not reserved for the wealthy, nor is it the property of a single class, nation, or religion. Exercised freely, compassion can be both collective and contagious. It can create its own society. It is a work that is eternal in nature, as no one can, or will, know where its influence stops. Let us not hesitate. Let us work together. Let us put forth our entrepreneurial gallantry – gallantry marked by a compassionate spirit – to lift others and to give progress new meaning. Together, we can reshape destiny.
Thank you. And thank you again for this wonderful honor.