5 Compelling Takeaways from Jeb Bush’s Remarks On CSR and Education


A record crowd of more than 400 executives took part in the Satell Institute’s dynamic Spring 2023 Private CEO Conference, which put a focus on the public’s growing trust in CEOs and how the business community can positively impact the crucial areas of education and workforce readiness.

Watch: Video of the Spring 2023 Private CEO Conference

The event, which took place at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia (and was livestreamed for a gathering of SI’s Pittsburgh members at Chatham University, and elsewhere to accommodate members who were traveling) brought together Satell Institute CEO members, heads of nonprofits, and invited guest CEOs. They enjoyed a morning of provocative, fast-moving, nonpartisan presentations and inspiring peer-to-peer idea sharing about Corporate Social Responsibility.

The conference, sponsored by Philanthropi, began with remarks from Ed Satell, founder and chair of the Satell Institute, who noted the high regard the public now has for business. “Most of the studies and polls on trust find that the most trusted group in America now are CEOs,” he said. “This is welcome news. People believe in their CEOs and want them to be more active in public policy.”

The event’s keynote conversation featured former Florida governor Jeb Bush, now the chair of the nonpartisan education reform group ExcelinEd. Bush was interviewed by conference chair Joe Dougherty of law firm Buchanan Ingersoll and Rooney.

Bush began his remarks by complimenting the mission and model of the Satell Institute, including its requirement that members make four-year commitments to the nonprofits they’re supporting through SI.

“To get those four-year commitments really creates stability and allows you to implement faithfully the vision of your group,” Bush said. He added, “If a fairy godmother could land on your shoulder and give you anything you want, I think I’d sprinkle Ed Satells all across the country. That would be my wish.”

Bush — who helped lead a dramatic improvement in Florida’s schools and who advocates a student-centric approach to education — went on to talk about how education in America needs to change and ways the business community can help drive that change.

1. Get involved.

Bush said his passion for education springs in part from his experience running for governor of Florida in 1998.

At the time, Florida’s education system was low-performing, which Bush got to see for himself as he toured more than 250 schools during the campaign. He told the story of one high school senior who was taking the state’s required graduation test for the fourth time and came across a question that read: A baseball game starts at 3 p.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. How long was the game?

“He couldn’t answer that question,” Bush said. “I wonder a lot where [that student] is right now. Hopefully, he’s been successful through dogged determination. But it isn’t because he got a quality education.”

“If you don’t get fired up about that, and don’t get angry about that, and don’t think we need to push the envelope as far as you can.…I think we’re missing something,” he continued. “There should be people marching in the streets across the literal spectrum for the kids that are being left behind.

2. Focus on early literacy.

Bush said building literacy from pre-K through 3rdgrade is crucial in determining a child’s future. If a child isn’t reading by 4thgrade, their future educational and career prospects are in jeopardy. “That’s the building block,” he said. “That’s the foundation.”

3.Align education with where the economy is going.

The economy is rapidly changing, Bush noted, but the education system we have was built for a different time: “We all need to have skills dramatically different than what we had when we grew up.”

To address that challenge, he offered a couple of suggestions. One was for states to do a census of where jobs will be in the future and what skills are currently being taught in schools. There remains a large gap. “We’re still teaching kids technical skills for jobs that are obsolete rather than the jobs of the future,” he said. “Align the education system – high school, technical schools, community college – for the jobs of the future.”

He also argued that high school needed to be revamped to make sure that every student is being prepared for the future. “We should have a much greater career orientation for high school,” he said. “The objective ought to be college readiness and/or career readiness.”

4.Embrace innovation.

Bush said new technology like artificial intelligence could radically change and improve education — even though it might be met with some resistance. Overcoming that resistance is an area where business leaders need to play a role.

“The business community needs to take a stand and stop worrying about offending the sensibilities of people that are stasis in their thinking,” he said. “The world is moving at warp speed, and for those that stick their heads in the sand and think that it’s going to go away, they’re creating a generation of kids that aren’t going to learn how to be successful.”

5. Become a mentor.

Finally, Bush urged CEOs and others to become directly involved in education as mentors in local schools. He talked about a program he instituted in Florida that led to more than 200,000 business people volunteering as mentors, offering guidance and advice and serving as role models.

“I was a mentor every Wednesday morning for 6 years,” he said. He believes the program — which served many minority and low-income students — was one of the reasons that Florida’s literacy performance went from the bottom of the pack to near the top during his tenure as governor. “This can work, but you need to mobilize support. Businesses played a huge role in that.”

Following the conversation with Governor Bush, two Satell Institute members – Susanne Svizeny of OceanFirst Bank and Malik Brown of Graduate Philadelphia — shared their organizations’ inspiring experiences in education and workforce development. Svizeny talked about OceanFirst’s many initiatives, including scholarships and mentorship, while Brown talked about the transformative power of education and the need for nonprofits and corporations to create ways to truly disrupt the educational model.

The conference concluded with the Satell Institute’s hallmark CEO Idea and Experience Exchange, which allowed conference participants to discuss strategies, approaches and priorities with their CEO peers.

The event drew praise from longtime Satell Institute members, as well as guests who were attending a CEO Conference for the first time.

“This conference generated the most thought-provoking experience I have participated in in a very long time,” said Steven Savron, CPA, a partner at Savron Benson LLC.

“The opportunity to explore this much needed conversation with a community of engaged professionals sets the stage for us to collectively improve the lives of young people in Philadelphia,” said Ali R. Rogers, CEO of Rouse Consulting.

Jim Friedlich, Executive Director of the Lenfest Institute, was attending his first Satell conference; he called it “a great introduction to the depth and breadth of CSR in Philadelphia.”

Said Jim Cawley, President of Rosemont College, “Education is the antidote to many if not all of our social ills. The Satell Institute’s focus on this critical topic is a true service to our community and society.”


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