Robert Smith, CEO of private equity firm Vista Partners, is one of the best and most influential investors and philanthropists in the world. After the murder of George Floyd on May 25, he wrote a moving letter to his Vista team sharing his thoughts on the crime, his own devastating experience of racial violence and his optimistic hopes for a fairer America. June 5 – To launch Forbes’ Under 30 hackathon to support the city of Detroit – Smith gave his first public address on the issue, joining Frame founder Ryan Williams to discuss how the murder and Floyd’s protests affected them as black entrepreneurs and what the world enterprise must do to defend racial equality.
Inspirational, poignant and compelling, the conversation presents the opportunity found in the Floyd tragedy, a plan for progress, and how the national closure of Covid-19 created the perfect environment for the video of the murder of George Floyd to incite the nation to act for lasting change.
“There was a blessing about the curse of Covid-19. It’s the blessing of calm. Today, businesses and sports are closed. There are not many distractions. So these eight minutes and forty-six seconds are louder than even the gunshots which had occurred a few weeks earlier on Ahmaud Arbery. For this reason, we have listened. We listened as Americans. We have listened as a world. And we said it was not good. “- Robert Smith
“In many ways, I see this week as painful and hurtful, but also as an opportunity to think about how to build a better, more prosperous, more just and just society. ” – Ryan Williams
“I have to pay tribute to the young people. My generation is sitting and talking. They went out immediately. They brought their anger, their fear, their sadness peacefully to the streets. ” – Robert Smith
“We now have a movement in the United States. We have global support. There is an empathy that I had not seen before, not only of white Americans, but of people across the planet ” – Robert Smith
“The world is ready for real systemic change. You have to transform it into products and services and solutions and into new ways of doing things that help citizens – all citizens – in a way that gives us some hope for an economy of equal opportunity and country. ” —Robert Smith
“Now is not the time for people to be politically correct. If you have a question about why the systemic problem is so, you should speak up and acknowledge that we are in this period where we are all seeking to educate and enlighten each other. These are people who have uncomfortable discussions about understanding the roots of this pain. ” – Ryan Williams
“We need to use technology to modernize the capillary banking system, so that we can inject real capital into communities that do not have bank branches. We need to use telemedicine to bring health care to these communities who are suffering from these epidemics around health care and access to health care. And let’s use technology to better educate more people on different K to 12 platforms, higher editions, coding, stem programming, etc. ” – Robert Smith
” It’s painful. It’s uncomfortable. But that’s how growth happens. It was a necessary moment for our country. The deepest pains have risen to the surface for everyone to see. This moment is the opportunity of a lifetime to change the lives of so many people. ” – Ryan Williams
” I am optimistic. When I look at the photos of civil rights actions and marches in 1968, and I look at those of today, I see a much more diverse and broader coalition of allies fighting for what is right. And I ‘I’m optimistic, this is where this new world is going. I am grateful to be alive to see it, to be a part of it, to participate and to give the voice, the energy and the effort that I can to equalize the opportunities that is America. ” – Robert Smith