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Speaker to focus on corporation as hero

September 25, 2018

GREENWICH — To Stan Litow, big business and major corporations have too often been cast as the villains in the story of America, and he is committed to showing people the perception does not match reality.

Litow, the former vice president of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs for IBM, is the author of the new book, “The Challenge for Business and Society: From Risk to Reward.”

He will discuss the book 7 p.m. Thursday at Greenwich Library’s Cole Auditorium.

Twice named CEO of the Year by Corporate Responsibility Magazine, Litow is also a former deputy chancellor for the New York City Public Schools.

His book centers on criticism of the private sector, including from the left and the right in the political sphere.

“People think the role of corporations is all negative but I’m going to focus on the history of corporations,” Litow said. “That means talking about things like the age of the robber barons and modern problems like Bernie Madoff, but there’s so much more to talk about too. There are so many examples of positive behavior in the private sector and of real, genuine leaders in it that are helping Americans every day.”

Litow said he will discuss how benefits like private pensions and health care for employees came not from government but from major corporations.

“Progressive labor practices came from corporations and leaders who were ahead of what governments and non-profit organizations were doing,” Litow said. “These came from the private sector.”

IBM, which Litow still serves as president emeritus of the IBM Foundation, helped push the government to create Social Security, Litow said, and integrated its plants in places like Lexington, Ky. in 1955, which he said helped lead to schools being integrated.

“I will also look at where we are today and how it mirrors in a lot of ways where we were historically,” Litow said. “We have a lot of examples of bad behavior today, but we also have companies that are doing very progressive things today.”

Litow will focus part of his speech on a program he is passionate about, IBM’s Corporate Service Corps — designed as a corporate version of the Peace Corps.

Litow said people need to know about programs like it.

“We have many examples of companies that are speaking out on immigration reform and racial equality and gender equality, long before government did,” Litow said. “It’s very important that we move from the rhetoric to the facts. The message of my talk and my book is not that all corporations are good. The message is about ethics and values. We’ve had bad behavior and examples of good behavior. That’s where ethics and values come in.”

There is no charge to attend the library event, but space is limited. People can register online by using the library’s calendar at www.greewichlibrary.org.

Greenwich Library’s Development Director Nancy Klein has said the library is fortunate to have Litow as a speaker.

“Stan had a remarkable career at a leading multinational technology company headquartered right in our backyard,” Klein said. “He’s an exceptional speaker and the role of corporations in today’s society could not be more relevant.”

The event will include a question and answer session and a book signing. Litow said he will be happy to also discuss what the future will hold for business and the private sector.

“Once people understand the good as well as the bad we will get a better appreciation of what could be possible in the future,” Litow said.

Introducing Litow at the event will be Louis Gerstner, former IBM chairman and chief executive officer.

“It’s definitely an audience that I’m interested in engaging with,” Litow said. “There’s been a lot of interest in this book and I think we’ve been very successful with it. I want to get before a very large, engaged audience and I think that’s what we’re going to find in Greenwich. … I think this is a message that will really resonate with the audience.”

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com

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