New York.- Peter G. Peterson, the renowned Greek American business leader and philanthropist, addressed a capacity crowd of more than 200 members of Leadership 100 from across the county and their guests at the inaugural Leadership 100 Forum on Business and Philanthropy at the Onassis Cultural Center in the Olympic Tower in New York City on Thursday night, September 9, 2010. After delivering a stirring and sobering message on the state of the U.S. economy and its global implications, he was honored by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America and Leadership 100 Chairman, Constantine G. Caras with the Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Award for Excellence.
Peterson opened his remarks recalling his immigrant roots and stating that the majority of American people today “do not believe their children will do better than they.” He then focused on the long-term problems confronting the nation. Namely, entitlements (principally Social Security and Medicare); current account balance of payments and savings deficits; and health care costs.
He said that unless these problems are confronted, America could face dangerous and unprecedented geopolitical problems. Citing Greece, he said the economic crisis there is not an exception among developed countries and most have similar and unsustainable future debt problems brought about by demographic changes such as declining birth rates and, therefore, declining numbers of taxpayers, increased longevity and huge and unfunded entitlement retirement programs. The next crisis will be a “global debt crisis calling for a global solution,” he said, but that, ironically, “Greece might actually benefit from all the pressure it is facing to reform its system. The country is doing what it has to do, and if they follow through, things will start to look good.”
Turning to possible solutions at home, Peterson said that presidential leadership accompanied by bipartisanship is essential but that, “ultimately it is we the people who must make it safer for politicians to do the right thing.” He cited the resilience and responsiveness of the country demonstrated by the “Greatest Generation” that lived through the Great Depression and World War 2 who confronted and overcame and paid for a public debt far larger than today while funding the GI Bill, the huge highway infrastructure program and the Marshall Plan.
Ending his remarks with a call for the country, and especially its youth, to focus on the future, he said possible solutions would require both benefit cuts and revenue increases.
Leadership 100 Chairman Constantine G. Caras and Leadership 100 Acting Executive Director Paulette Poulos said that when they decided to invite Peterson to deliver the first Forum on Business and Philanthropy they thought that he would be a good example for our Greek American young people because he is an inspiration to all “and he proved tonight that his Greek roots, his heritage, his upbringing through his father and mother, and his culture are really the foundation to his success, a lesson in itself. Leadership 100 is going to continue to do this on an annual basis because it’s time for us to think in terms of business and philanthropy, because they go together. If someone is successful, they have to remember the Church; they have to remember their philanthropic roots.”
The Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Award for Excellence was initiated in 2003 to recognize outstanding Greek Orthodox and Greek American leaders who have excelled in their careers and who are committed to the advancement of Orthodoxy and Hellenism in their professions and in their lives. Past recipients of the Award have included George J. Tenet, Senator Paul S. Sarbanes, John D. Negroponte, Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Rudolph W. Giuliani, George L. Argyros, George Pelecanos and George R. Stephanopoulos.
Peter G. Peterson is Founder and Chairman of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, Chairman Emeritus and Co-founder of The Blackstone Group, Chairman Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, founding Chairman of the Peterson Institute for International Economics and founding President of The Concord Coalition. He was also Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York from 2000 to 2004.
Prior to founding Blackstone, Peterson was Chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers and later Chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers, Kuhn, Loeb Inc. He was Chairman and CEO of Bell and Howell Corporation from 1963 to 1971. In 1971, President Richard Nixon named Peterson Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs. He was named Secretary of Commerce by President Nixon in 1972.
Born on June 5, 1926, Peterson graduated from Northwestern University with a B.S. (summa cum laude) in 1947. He received his Masters in Business Administration with honors in 1951 from the University of Chicago. He has been awarded honorary PhD degrees by Colgate University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Northwestern University, New School University, the University of Nebraska, the University of Rochester, and Southampton College of Long Island University.
Peterson is the author of several books, including Running On Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It; Gray Dawn: How the Coming Age Wave Will Transform America – and the World; Will America Grow Up Before It Grows Old?; Facing Up: How to Rescue the Economy from Crushing Debt and Restore the American Dream; and, his recently published memoir, The Education of an American Dreamer: How a Son of Greek Immigrants Learned His Way from a Nebraska Diner to Washington, Wall Street and Beyond.