This I Believe

David - Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Entered on May 18, 2007

This I believe

It was the week of the Virginia Tech killings and I was on a plane to New Orleans to present a paper on socially responsible investing. A paper that I knew could use some improvement. As a financial economist, I needed a utility function to explain why people invest in a socially responsible manner. This was something I had struggled with for awhile. I don’t remember when on the flight or what role both Virginia Tech and New Orleans had on the epiphany, but all of a sudden I knew what I believed and why. Who we are is a reflection of how we value human life—not only our life, but all lives.

It was as if all my parents had ever taught me and all that I had ever tried to be was explained in that simple statement—value others. All of a sudden a flood of ideas was overflowing my brain. Value others was the Golden Rule: do unto others… It was the 10 Commandments: Love thy neighbor… It explained differences among us. Racists, sexists, nationalists, all valued others less. The Virginia Tech killer valued life less. Democrats and Republicans, Europeans and Americans, Christians and Mormons, we had all been taught to value lives differently. As I tried to control the flood, I realized I had discovered myself, my belief, …

I was almost giddy with the idea that I finally had a simple statement summing up all that I was. From being the goody two shoes kid in junior high, to a college student at a university that overused the diversity label, to a researcher questioning socially responsible investing. Value others explained it all.

Of course, I now had a hammer and everything, every problem became a nail. The immigration debate represented differing values; globalization as well. Hadn’t I just read a Wall Street Journal editorial by an economist who had recently changed his opinion on globalization because he had come to realize how many people would be hurt? This was just a change in the relative value of Americans versus non-Americans. The relative value of Americans versus non-Americans was what the question of torture was.

Who I am and what I do is reflected by how I value others.