Our Man at Milken – Final Thoughts

The Milken Institute Global Conference is over for 2013; Wednesday was the conference’s last day…and what an experience. For my last post on the conference, I’ll look back on something other than macroeconomic forces and investment trends. I’m taking a slightly different tack than previous posts because there was plenty of thought-provoking content on a wide range of other topics throughout the conference…and I’d be remiss not to give those topics some coverage.

Before I attended the conference, I didn’t fully appreciate the Milken Institute’s broad mission. That mission is to “improve lives around the world by advancing innovative economic and political solutions that create jobs, widen access to capital, and enhance health.”

In keeping with this mission, the breadth of knowledge that you can tap into at the conference is astounding. Panels are organized along tracks – finance, government, health/medical research, energy/environment, education, social capital/philanthropy, media, human capital, industries, and regions. For example, if you are particularly interested in the future of Africa, there were several interesting panels this year and great networking opportunities. If your interest centers on government, this year’s program included Tony Blair, Al Gore, Eric Cantor, Harry Reid, and a handful of other current/former leaders.

In my highly unscientific sampling, two “non-financial” sessions seemed to generate the most buzz. One was a dialogue with entrepreneurs and siblings, Elon and Kimball Musk, which was a great window into the entrepreneurial spirit and the power of commitment. The other was Michael Milken’s wide-ranging conversation with the very engaging and insightful Tony Blair.

I encourage you to watch the video of the Musk brothers. If you are not familiar with these guys, they got their start as co-founders of two internet start-up firms. Elon is now the CEO of a luxury electric auto manufacturer, while at the same time working to achieve his dream of travel to Mars as CEO of a commercial spacecraft company. By contrast, Kimball is pursuing his passion for food as a restaurateur, and working with schools to implement “learning gardens,” aimed at improving children’s eating habits and health. After listening to the intellect and passion Elon and Kimball bring to their work, it’s impossible not to share their enthusiasm.

Before signing off, I’ll encourage you to check out one more session when your time allows. It’s a panel titled “A Cure for What Ails Us: Celebrating the Impact of Science” that provides some inspiring insights into the importance of biomedical research. Among panelists are the heads of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and a former director of the National Cancer Institute.

That’s all from this year’s conference; I hope you’ve found these reports valuable!