I know one of your former students, Erik Back. He told me that I ought to
interview. He really enjoyed you in class and said that you have an interesting
life. I would like to have you share with my readers your journey to teaching
at Notre Dame.
Al: Where did you get your doctorate?
Ollie: I applied to several PhD programs and got a full scholarship at Vanderbilt in theology and ethics. After getting my degree, I came back here and taught several years. I enjoyed teaching in the area of Christian business ethics. The course dealt with what does it mean to be a Christian in the business world. There was a growing interest on the part of our students and faculty about business ethics. They asked me if I would consider going full time teaching in the business school. I was very interested and decided I would pursue it. First, I went off to Stamford Business School in California and did a research year in business in their MBA program to make sure I understood enough about the business world. Then I came back here and taught a required course in the MBA program call "Business Ethics in a Changing World Environment." It is concerned with today's global economy and helps the students to understand a core set of ethical values. It is sort of a moral compass if you will, in a very fluid and fluctuating business environment. Some people ask about how can you mix the oil of ethics with the water of business. Others think that business ethics is an oxymoron. Actually, it is quite easy here at Notre Dame because there is a certain self-selection that goes on. When students come to ND, they expect that they are going to get ethics, and they would be disappointed if they didn't. Norte Dame is historically identified with ethical values and ethical visions.
Al: Beyond your calling to the priesthood, Erik spoke
about your calling to the third world. Would you talk a little about your
experiences and your travels?
In any event, because of that book, I was put on as an advisor to the Sullivan Principles. As you may recall, Leon Sullivan, who was a very famous civil rights leader and black church leader, devised a set of principles for companies that were operating in South Africa. He said that if you are in a company in South Africa and want to stay there, you have to get on the side of the blacks. He presented a set of principles design to guide companies so that they could help the blacks dismantle Apartheid. I was asked to be on the national advisory council to those principles and to advise them. At that time, 200-US companies in So Africa. That was in 1987, and I was asked to stay on. I also was put on the board of another group, which was a conduit for USAID money, a group called, USSALDP, United States South Africa Leadership Development Program. So, I have been over there every year since for one reason or another. Then about five years ago, the University of Cape Town asked me if I would consider teaching there in their MBA program, and I said it was unrealistic to think that I could change the basis that was established at ND. But, I told them that I would love to come and do a course every year. So, for the last five years, I have been going over and teaching one graduate course at the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University, which is right outside Cape Town. I go in May and come back at the beginning of August, our summer, which is their winter. Their winters are very pleasant. I have had a long relationship with South Africa. In fact in 1991, I was asked by Nelson Mandela, who was just out of prison a year then, if I would run a conference here at Norte Dame to try to encourage US companies to re-enter or to come over for the first time to South Africa for investment. We had a conference here that was keynoted by the now president of South Africa, Mr. T. M. Mbeki. He is now president of SA. He came here, and we had sixty major multi-national companies come and talk about why they should they do business in SA.
American companies were most responsible in dealing creatively which changing
Al: What would account for Johnson and Johnson's social awareness?
Al: That is an interesting insight into one American corporation. I notice that there is a picture of you and Desmond Tutu.
Ollie: That was when I first went over there in 1985. He was the then Officio of Johannesburg, subsequently he was promoted to the Archbishop of Cape Town. He is retired now. In fact, his health is not too good; he has prostate cancer. He is a wonderful person, a great hero, and spokesperson for the poor and disenfranchised.
Al: What is your analysis of South Africa's successes and failures?
Ollie: In 1994, they had their first election. It was certainly a celebrated event throughout the world. I was selected by the US State Department to be part of the UN observer mission for that election in April 1994. It was a great occasion. We destroyed a political Apartheid with one blow, but we still have economic Apartheid. SA has roughly 40 million people and 30 million of them are black. They were undereducated and were legally kept out of businesses and good positions in society. Overnight you are not going to change all that. They have to get their education system brought up to parity with the whites. Under Apartheid, the whites got some of the best education in the world. I mean, it was a wonderful system. The University of Cape Town is a world-class university and has been for a long time. Christian Bernard, who died last year was there. Research and work in medicine has been incredible in South Africa, but it was not shared with blacks. The upshot is in 1994, when Nelson Mandela became president, he inherited a country where the income and wealth differences between blacks and whites were incredible. The great majority of blacks are still living in squalor with 30% or more unemployed. They don't have a social safety net as we do. There is very little unemployment insurance if any for 98% of them. The problem is job creation and unfortunately, just as South Africa got its freedom in 1994, the global economy the global economy began a lot of restructuring. It meant a lot of downsizing for efficiency, and it was difficult to expand jobs in the economy like South Africa. The job creation has gone very slowly since '94 and consequently the crime problems in Johannesburg are incredible. Cape Town, for a whole lot of other reasons, is not too bad. It is a great tourist center, one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Al: I would also
like to know about the educational system. If you kept the people in poverty
and poorly educated, it will take an entire generation before you can really see
results. What is happening in education?
Al: What about some of the neighboring countries and
their move into the 21st century?
Al: Another issue about which we are concerned is the Aids epidemic in Africa.
Ollie: Yes, well, as you may know, there are thirty million people with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. It's incredible. Most of those thirty million have never seen a doctor. They live in rural areas without a medical infrastructure. In South Africa alone, they estimate four million people out of forty million have HIV, and the government has not really come to grips with it. It threatens to make a bad situation even worse. I'm running a major conference here in April, which is closed to the press and to the public. We are inviting fifty people, major leaders, from Africa, Latin America, and Asia to sit down with the pharmaceutical companies that have drugs that can contain Aids. It is being paid for five or six companies like Merck, Pfizer, Bristol Myers Squibb, J&J. We will fly these people in from all over the world, but we are also bringing in their chief critics, doctors who are very critical of the pharmaceutical industry. It is a closed-door conference so people won't come to posture or to talk to the press. The purpose of the meeting designed to find ways to increase access to medicines and healthcare by the poor in developing countries. We can complain, wring hands, and throw charges; that won't solve the problem. Let's assume that we get the companies to give the medicines away, and frankly, there are a lot more willing to do an awful lot of that already. They are more willing than you can imagine, because they are not making any money in Africa for example. They are making their money in the US, which you probably know if you have bought any medicines recently. Just imagine, we shipped over a warehouse full of all the drugs that can contain HIV and Aids, we would probably reach 1 or 2% of the people because you can't take those medicines without doctor's care. They have to be monitored. The scientists will tell you that they don't want anyone to take these medicines without a doctor or at least a paramedical, because they are going to get mutations which will destroy the viability of the drug if they don't take them at the right times and on a full stomach. It is quite a rigorous regimen that you have to follow for these drugs to work. So, we are talking about an extremely difficult problem, and I think it is going to take action by the world community, a coalition of people, government leaders, the US, and pharmaceutical companies to solve this problem.
The pharmaceutical companies are under a lot of pressure from interest groups in the US and Europe to do something; they are under a lot of pressure from their own scientists. I remember asking a senior executive who are so interested in doing more for Aids in Africa, "You know, I am delighted you are interested, but why are you so interested?" "Well," he said, "most of the people in my end of the business are interested in a return on their investment, but our scientists are not as money driven, and our scientist's turnover is our highest cost. The good scientists are always getting better deals with competitors, and the scientists want us to be doing something. They want their work to be helping those who are dying from this disease." So, he said, "We have to listen to our scientists."
The problem is complicated, and I think most Americans don't like to deal with the complicated problems. We always like to say, these are the people on the white horses and these are the people on the black horses. It is easy to figure out who is good and who is evil. Then we can action. However, it is not that simple at all. What the companies are saying is that it costs us $600-700 million for each new drug. For every 100-150 drugs that they are working on, only a few get to market. So, this is a very high risk business, and the only way that big companies are willing to put research money out there on the table, and last year they put out thirty-billion dollars and employed fifty thousand scientists many of whom are putting their hearts and souls into trying to find cures for this or that. The companies can recoup their investment by these years when no one else can sell their product. They cannot give up the principle of intellectual property rights in developed countries, that is, they are making money in Europe and the US, and to some extent, Japan. Less than 1% of their money comes from Africa. One of the problems is that if they give medicines say in Zambia, then it is found for sale in New York next month. Corruption is so terrible. They call it "round tripping." Governments need to control the corruption.
Al: What are the other issues that you see globally
that need to be addressed?
Al: Is a
sweatshop better than no shop?
Al: So they just skim money off the top and put it somewhere else?
Ollie: That's right. The Hocks family that owns Levi Strauss happens to have a conscience. They are very devout Jewish people, and they could have put that money in their own pocket, but they said we don't want that money. We want to help build up that society.
Al: Ollie, I really appreciate your time. I am planning a trip to the South Pacific for some research for some articles. I think that I will have to put South Africa on the list for some future trip.
Ollie: Put Cape Town on your list!
Al: Now, who is the successor to Desmond Tutu?
Ollie: Archbishop Ndungane.
Al: When you see him, ask him whether outside his
office, there is a bed of yellow daffodils. I had written to Desmond Tutu
to get his response to some questions that I had. To thank him for his time, I
sent him an article that dealt with daffodils and life. I included some
daffodils bulbs. The next year, he wrote back to tell me that the daffodils