In November 2013, I received an invitation to speak at Bloomberg in New York City.
The invitation meant so much. I’d obviously used Bloomberg as an analyst when I’d worked on the equity desk, but it meant more because of someone I’d met who worked there as one of our country’s lead investigative journalists.
He had been an incredible supporter in the early years of my work. We related on Enron, which he had covered as a journalist and which had recruited me out of business school, and on collateralized debt and commodity obligations, fancy names for paper contracts that banks could make a lot of money on.
In the months leading up to the event (I was billed as their second quarter speaker for their speaker series) I held my breath. Why? Because there have been incredible invitations in the almost nine years of this work that have never materialized, from speaking on national television shows to debating the National Cattleman’s Association. Producers will call, having booked segments, scheduled travel, previously unable to contain their excitement, saying they are so sorry, but…
Would this one? Things had been put in place, dates locked in, we would see.
So when I took the stage earlier this week, I felt all of that and then some. As I looked out into the sea of faces, all I could think was that I was supposed to be in that audience, in the financial world. It was everything I had trained myself to do. I had graduated as the top woman in my class in business school, on a full scholarship, recruited by Exxon, Enron and the banking world. It was the trajectory I had chosen and worked hard on. But then life had different plans.
Speaking at Bloomberg that day brought all of it back, and it reminded me of two memories. The first was back in November 1999, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, meeting with some of our traders. They told me to run a trade, I said “Sure!” handed them my jacket and took off. When I got back, they just stared, as my jacket had hidden a 6 month pregnant belly. It was too funny, and they apologized for weeks.
The second memory was of being in Bloomberg’s tower five years ago, meeting with one of our country’s best investigative reporters. His name was Mark Pittman, and he was a bear of a guy, smoker, rode motorcycles and talked non stop about his wife and girls and the chickens they were raising in their backyard. He fully understood the scope of this, he was such an ass kicker, and at the time, he was leading Bloomberg in suing the Fed for full disclosure over the banking crisis of 2008. He died later that year.
It meant a lot to be there.
We need to finance a smarter food system, one that feeds all families clean and safe food, not processed foods that have been loaded with synthetic ingredients meant to mimic real ones. We spend more than any other country in the world on health care and disease management and less than almost any other country on food.
Demand for organic food is growing, yet the U.S. farmland for organic food is shrinking. We are sourcing our organic food from other countries.
We are smarter than this and can build a food system that meets the needs of 21st century families, one that makes clean and safe food affordable to all Americans.
It is going to take all of us, families, farmers and the financial world. The burden of disease is burdening our families, our country and our economy. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Leveraging our collective talents and skills, we can build a smarter system. The legacy is ours to create.
Written in memory of Mark Pittman for his girls and wife. He will always be remembered.