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President of Ireland Joins the Bay Area Council In Honoring Marc Benioff and Chuck Feeney

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Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff and Duty Free Shoppers Group Founder Chuck Feeney were the guests of honor at the Bay Area Council’s 70th Anniversary Annual Dinner and 2015 Bay Area Business Hall of Fame gathering on Wednesday, October 28, at The Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.

VIDEO: The Bay Area Council inducted Chuck Feeney into the Business Hall of Fame with an introduction by QB3 Director Regis Kelly.

President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins attended and delivered stirring remarks celebrating both Benioff and Feeney for their heroic philanthropic work and immense business accomplishments. Feeney is venerated in Ireland for his significant role in the peace process and his vast contributions to building the country’s higher education system.

Micahel Higgins
President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins at the Bay Area Council’s 70th Anniversary Annual Dinner and 2015 Bay Area Business Hall of Fame gathering.

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President Higgins congratulated the Council on its 70th anniversary, praised the Council for its “generous spirit of community,” and remarked on the unique mission of the Council in convening business and civic leaders to improve the region’s quality of life. The President and Benioff both spoke passionately about the importance of the business community working to solve our social problems.

VIDEO: President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins speaks at the Bay Area Council’s 70th Anniversary Annual Dinner and 2015 Bay Area Business Hall of Fame gathering.

Read his remarks >

The 800 CEOs and other top business and civic leaders in attendance, including state Controller Betty Yee and University of California President Janet Napolitano, were greeted with a warm welcome from former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and a video message from U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein. Later, Virgin America CEO David Cush ended his two-year term as Council Chair by handing the gavel to TMG Partners Chairman and CEO Michael Covarrubias. Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman praised Cush for his leadership, and Covarrubias in taking the reins set a strong tone of action in dealing with the Bay Area’s growing crisis in housing and transportation, among other issues.

Hall of Fame Chair Gary Rogers presided over an inspiring and moving ceremony to induct Benioff and Feeney into the 2015 Hall of Fame class. UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood introduced Benioff while QB3 Director and 2011 Hall of Fame inductee Regis Kelly introduced Feeney. Our thanks to all our event sponsors, including Premier Sponsors Kaiser Permanente and Salesforce; Diamond Sponsors AT&T, Bank of America, PG&E, TMG Partners, Union Bank and Virgin America; and Platinum Sponsors Dignity Health, Genentech, General Atlantic, Hanson Bridgett, Lennar Urban, Sutter Health, UCSF, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals, UPS and Wells Fargo.

Chuck Feeney’s Remarks

My heart and my mind receive this award with the realization that [there were] many people who put the idea together and carried it out to the point that we have reached… and [we] can now pass the torch on to others. We will so do, and you have my thanks, my respect, and my all-inclusive sincerity. Thank you very much.

President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins’ Remarks

A dhaoine uaisle agus a chairde,

Is mór an pléisiúir dom bheith anseo inniu.

It is a great pleasure to be here today at the 70th anniversary dinner of the Bay Area Council. I congratulate you on what you have achieved as a business association, and for representing your members’ interests across the Bay Area tirelessly and effectively throughout those seventy years.

However, what is even more impressive is the generous spirit of community which lies at the heart of all those achievements. Indeed, it is your ability to look beyond the horizons of the business world to the real impact that local business can have as part of the life of your neighbouring citizens that truly defines the ethos on which the Bay Area Council was founded.

In a healthy and functioning society the business world must be a contributing part of the community. The range and breadth of the initiatives undertaken by the Bay Area Council to ensure a better quality of life for all those living in the Bay Area is impressive, encompassing as it does projects in housing, education, healthcare and gender equality. These initiatives are an inspirational example of the positive social impact that can be achieved when businesses operate in a generous spirit of ethical philanthropy by actively engaging with the community for the benefit of all.

Tonight you celebrate the life and contribution of two outstanding individuals who, throughout their remarkable lives, have exemplified the very best values of the social contract between business and society.

I am delighted to be here on this special evening when Chuck Feeney and Mark Benioff are invited to join your Hall of Fame, joining an illustrious group of people who have worked to make the world a better place.

I had the pleasure, three years ago, of awarding Chuck Feeney, a great Irish-American, my own Presidential Distinguished Service Award for his extraordinary commitment to the education sector and to the wider spheres of research and civil society throughout the island of Ireland. Chuck’s commitment to the people of Ireland has had a deep and lasting effect, not only on the lives of tens of thousands of young Irish people, but on our country as a whole.

During our long journey towards peace and reconciliation Chuck’s contribution was also immense. The Irish people remain deeply appreciative of his quiet and generous work in moving the process forward, while also providing funding for important reconciliation and regeneration projects.

His is a munificence which has extended far beyond Irish shores and has seen the Atlantic Philanthropies Foundation become one of the largest charitable donors to civil society and academic institutions here in the United States, in Ireland and in other countries around the world. His philanthropy has allowed for critique and it has encouraged transformation.

Chuck is a man we are very proud to claim as one of our own, and I have no doubt that here in the United States you are equally proud of his outstanding generosity, vision and untiring dedication to creating a better world. The full legacy of Atlantic’s global impact is still to be accounted for, but I’m sure that it will speak of a humanitarian vision realised to an extraordinary degree.

I am also delighted this evening to recognise and celebrate the exceptional philanthropic spirit of Marc Benioff, who has given back so much to society by committing, from the day he started his hugely successful company Salesforce, a fixed portion of that company’s products, equity and employee hours to charitable causes. His generosity and vision is a remarkable example of corporate philanthropy, reminding us of all that can be achieved when a generous will is harnessed to transformative thinking and an ability to not only imagine, but aim to realise, a better world. Like Chuck Feeney, Marc Benioff is a citizen and business man of whom his fellow citizens can be deeply proud.

Before I conclude may I say how delighted I am that the Council will be organising a trade and investment mission to Ireland in 2016. Our citizens have in common a strength for research, creativity and innovation and I very much look forward to the sharing of ideas and connections for the future that such a visit can generate.

Having come through a profound economic crisis, Ireland has now moved on to being, at the moment,  Europe’s fastest growing economy.  Ireland’s vitality and energy chimes very well indeed with that of the Bay Area – our strengths align and are mutually reinforcing. We have the youngest population in Europe and over one in four of our students in higher education are pursuing degrees in areas directly relevant to your sectors including science and engineering, while there is dramatic growth being recorded in graduate output in the technology field.

As our economy continues to grow and flourish and it is my firm belief that we can all take inspiration from the uplifting examples of the lives and careers of Chuck Feeney and Marc Benioff and from the ethos of the Bay Area Council, who have shown how generous and active participation by successful businesspeople can have such profound benefits for all of society.

May I conclude by wishing you all every success and thanking you for the generous welcome you have extended to myself and Sabina. It has been a great pleasure to join you tonight and we congratulate you on reaching your seventieth anniversary.

Gura fada buan sibh agus go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.

– President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins