2019 Spirit of Service Award

Michael R. Bloomberg

Public Servant, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist

Michael R. Bloomberg has shown bold leadership in business, government and philanthropy throughout his distinguished career, improving lives through public service and his work on climate change, education, public health and other critical issues facing America.

“Finding solutions to tough problems is my life’s passion,” Bloomberg said in early 2019.

In 1981, after 15 years of working for the investment bank Salomon Brothers, Bloomberg followed his entrepreneurial spirit by creating Bloomberg LP, the global information technology company that revolutionized the investment industry and leveled the playing field for smaller firms. The company that started as a one-room office now employs nearly 20,000 people at 176 locations in 120 countries.

With his business thriving, Bloomberg ran for mayor of New York City, and was elected just weeks after the attacks of September 11, 2001. He served three terms, from 2002 through 2013, bringing an innovative approach to city government and helping the city rebound faster and stronger than expected. He raised educational standards, revitalized old industrial areas, spurred entrepreneurship and job growth, strengthened key industries, supported the arts and pursued a range of successful public health, anti-poverty and environmental initiatives. He also expanded partnerships with the private sector, nonprofits and philanthropies in the areas of criminal justice, education, health and the environment.

Following his time at City Hall, Bloomberg returned to the company he founded, while devoting his energies to Bloomberg Philanthropies. His foundation employs a distinct data-driven approach to its five main focus areas—public health, education, the environment, the arts and government innovation—and has given away $8.2 billion to support these causes.

The foundation’s commitment to helping government work better is unique. Its financial and technical support is not restricted to specific policies, but to fostering innovative management practices. Its grants help local government leaders identify and track measurable results, collaborate with private-sector and nonprofit partners, and apply data-oriented problem-solving to significant urban challenges.

Bloomberg has played an outsized role in leading action to address climate change. He serves as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Action, has invested more than $1 billion on climate issues and created several campaigns, including America’s Pledge, Beyond Coal and Beyond Carbon, to galvanize the efforts of governments, businesses and individuals committed to reducing carbon emissions, closing coal plants and expanding renewable energy sources.

Bloomberg is also the World Health Organization’s Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases, and his foundation works on life-saving initiatives to improve maternal and reproductive health, increase global road safety, prevent drowning deaths, and many more. He recently launched a $160 million initiative to ban flavored e-cigarettes and reduce e-cigarette use among kids, as well as an earlier $50 million initiative to combat the nationwide opioid crisis.

On the education front, Bloomberg has committed $1.8 billion, the largest gift in the history of American higher education, to enable his alma mater Johns Hopkins University to permanently accept and enroll students, regardless of their ability to pay. His foundation also formed the American Talent Initiative, a coalition of more than 120 top colleges and universities dedicated to substantially expanding opportunity and access for low- and moderate-income students.

Bloomberg Philanthropies also has supported more than 600 cultural organizations around the world and has helped cities implement new programs to fight inequality, remove barriers to employment for the formerly incarcerated, expand access to affordable housing, and much more.

Bloomberg has written that neither his nor other similar organizations can replace decisive action by the federal government to meet the nation’s major challenges. “But it can spur progress from the bottom up–from communities, cities, states, businesses, and nonprofit organizations. Leaders in all of those groups are taking action–and getting things done. Philanthropy can help them do more, faster. And that’s exactly what we will do,” he wrote.