Since 2014, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has periodically honored leaders whose activities and achievements embody the qualities of thought and action that my father, David Packard, held dear. These individuals have effectively worked to make the future of our planet surer and more sustainable.
This year, we recognized visionary Microsoft co-founder and philanthropic innovator Bill Gates. Bill has done so much to improve the human condition—by harnessing technology to advance social good, and by launching bold philanthropic initiatives to make lives better around the world and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live a healthy, productive life.
We paid tribute to the scope and the focus of Bill’s thinking and his commitment to using science and technology to improve the future for the people on our planet. It’s a conviction he shares with my father. Because of the extraordinary success of Microsoft, the Gates Foundation has had the resources to tackle some of the largest problems confronting the world, and Bill and Melinda’s vision and strategic approach are yielding extraordinary results.
Our 300 guests at the award dinner—representing Silicon Valley’s most iconic technology company leaders, along with global ocean conservationists and philanthropists—heard from Bill and our award dinner chair, Meg Whitman, during an engaging “fireside chat”. They covered topics from the role technology can play in environmental conservation, to new approaches philanthropy can bring to pressing global challenges, and the importance of optimism.
‘A fun time to be alive’
“For anyone who loves science, this is a fun time to be alive,” Bill told us. “We have to make sure the best scientists are working on the problems.”
He reminded everyone that there’s tremendous public support for tackling the big issues.
“The ocean, health, education—people really do care about these things,” he said. To make progress, “we need to take risks, but also to be patient” when trying to solve complex global issues.
That’s more challenging when it comes to climate change, Bill said, because, “We have a deadline to do good work quickly. We have to innovate across large parts of the economy.”
I was especially encouraged when he recognized that, “Studying the oceans is key to climate change”—an area where our work and that of our colleagues at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute is playing a critical role, notably in developing sensors and other tools to understand ocean conditions.
This is a momentous time in the life of our planet. The fate and future of seven and a half billion people hinge on decisions we make in the next few years. Our decisions about how we use or abuse the ocean are absolutely central to our future.
The importance of the ocean
The importance of the ocean to our well-being is something my father understood. In bringing the vision for the Aquarium to life, and then creating MBARI, he identified the ocean as Earth’s last unexplored frontier—one of unparalleled importance to our lives. He brought to the task a quest for learning and a deep understanding of what we can accomplish when we unleash the talents of creative people so they can do great work.
For over 30 years, Monterey Bay Aquarium has been a voice for the ocean—inspiring tens of millions of people from around the world both at the Aquarium and through our growing social media constituency. We’ve been preparing a rising generation of diverse ocean conservation leaders who are science-literate and ready to act. And, we’ve been forging solutions to the problems of today; leading the way to create a sustainable global seafood supply; mobilizing public and business action on problems like ocean plastic pollution; and generating the science and technology needed to inform decisions about the future of the ocean.
Today, the Aquarium and MBARI have global influence at a time when all sectors of society are beginning to realize that the ocean is central to our lives. That’s not easy to achieve because we humans aren’t wired to think much about the ocean. For most of us, the ocean’s role in our lives is out of sight and out of mind.
We know now that’s a dangerous assumption. We need to act as if our lives depended on the health of the ocean. Because they do.
Our first line of defense
We must prioritize the health of the ocean. It’s our first line of defense to ensure a future for us all.
That’s exactly what we’re doing at the Aquarium. And, here’s the good news: The ocean is resilient. It can recover. But it needs our help.
As the most respected aquarium in the United States, we’re expanding our reach and impact every year. We know more about the ocean than at any time in history. With support, we will take our vision to a new level as we shape a vibrant future for our blue planet.
I want to extend my special thanks to Meg Whitman, who chaired our David Packard Award Dinner, and to the 29 co-chairs who helped us raise $3.7 million to support the conservation and science programs at the Aquarium and MBARI.
They include: Tegan and Brian Acton, Lynne and Marc Benioff, Helen and Peter Bing, Scott Corwon, Barbara and Ray Dalio, Catherine and John Debs, Susan and Michael Dell, Ann and John Doerr, Joanne and Art Hall, Andrea and John Hennessy, Lyda Hill, Lori and Jen-Hsun Huang, Jeanne and Bill Landreth, Agatha and Steve Luczo, Deedee and Burt McMurtry, Audra and Sean McNicholas, Betty and Gordon Moore, Rebecca and James Morgan, Christine and Michael Morgan, Sally and Bill Neukom, Susan and Lynn Orr, Cindi and Curtis Priem, Delanie and Peter Read , Mary and Steven Read, Michelle Rhyu and Steve Neal, Karen and Jim Tyler, Lisa and Mark Wan, Shelley and Dion Weisler, and Susie and Gideon Yu.