The calendar year is coming to a close, and the month of November is especially heartwarming for me. My birthday falls in November, as does National Philanthropy Day and, of course, the official day of “Thanksgiving.” I am grateful to be able to combine my personal and professional lives every day, living out my parents’ often-taught principle of “to whom much is given, much is required.“
I am a child of the 1960s, having helped to integrate an independent school in Atlanta, while receiving an excellent education both academically and experientially. College at Duke University was a rich learning environment, offering exposure to the classics as well as the cutting edge of every discipline. As an adult, I have had the privilege of applying my acquired knowledge in every sector; public, private and nonprofit.
But I have come to realize, however, that not everyone was as fortunate as I was (and am). There are so many people with greater intellect and practical skill who have never had the opportunity to develop, let alone leverage, their cerebral or emotional muscles. There are even more who are stranded by life’s cruel act of being born into a deprived geography or a non-supportive family environment. For these reasons, I choose to serve others and actively engage in “giving back.“
My tenure as an elected official and travels throughout the world have shown me the challenges of my fellow citizens at every station in life. I have learned to better appreciate my own opportunities and fully understand my personal obligation to help others. It is not enough to acknowledge the problems communities face; awareness is but the first step. It is imperative to act, to enable my fellow citizens by eliminating pervasive disparities and eradicating chronic problems.
I could have no greater place to work to help accomplish this mission than the place where my maternal grandparents worked for a combined 45 years: The Coca-Cola Company.
It is a privilege for me to stand alongside more than 700,000 colleagues to lead our efforts to help refresh communities across the globe through the charitable work of The Coca-Cola Foundation. It has been my pure delight to see our work first-hand, watching the elder women (also known as "Gutsy Grandmothers") from several different continents learn to build solar lanterns together in India and knowing they will return to their home countries to become local entrepreneurs, offering figurative and literal light to their rural villages.
We commit to return 1% of our Operating Income annually in communities where we live, work, play and pray. This promise is completely aligned with my moral compass. The company is honored to not only operate in 207 countries, but also to give back in each of these same countries. We have been given a lot. Hence, we embrace our responsibility to give back.
November is the month when many of us take a seasonal breath to offer gratitude for the grace and the gifts we have been afforded. And while the collective act of “giving thanks“ seems to be officially relegated to this last month of autumn, I would submit we should all be a bit more reflective throughout the entire year – yielding to the notion that each and every one of us has a million things to be grateful for in every second of every day.
And, in the wake of the many events taking place in the world today, I choose to take this “Thanksgiving” even more seriously. I covet this month as a reminder of my personal values and many blessings. Even more importantly, I offer my sincere thanks to those who stand united for a world where everyone has the opportunity and the resources to reach their full potential and live an impactful life, unencumbered by adversity.
Lisa Borders is chair of The Coca-Cola Foundation and vice president of Global Community Affairs at The Coca-Cola Company.