Say cheese! This year alone, Americans will take over sixty-five billion photographs–remarkable, considering that just over one hundred years ago, photography was the exclusive domain of the wealthy. Today, photography is accessible to virtually everyone. The man responsible for that evolution–and for revolutionizing the photographic industry–was George Eastman, founder of the Eastman Kodak Company.
A passionate innovator, Eastman understood that, for his firm to prosper, his photographic equipment had to be affordable to the average American. But he could cut costs only if the manufacturing process was significantly improved. Eastman worked hard to do just that, enlisting the aid of his top researchers. One of these researchers, recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate Darragh de Lancey, revolutionized photography–and greatly improved efficiency and quality–by making crucial technological discoveries.
Impressed by his experience with de Lancey, Eastman not only hired more MIT graduates; he also, during his lifetime, gave more than $20 million to MIT. Although Eastman himself had dropped out of school when he was fourteen, he understood the importance of education, particularly in the sciences, for the continued viability not only of his firm but also of American society in general. As Eastman himself explained, “The progress of the world depends almost entirely upon education.”
Eastman's story shows well that–far from being unconcerned with social goods such as education, as some contend–entrepreneurs in a free-market system tend to understand the importance of education, have an interest in supporting schools and universities, and possess the surplus profits to contribute to their continued strength. The Acton Institute has, in its ten years of service, argued for the indispensable role of responsible entrepreneurs in society, and I thank you for the support that allows us to continue in this important endeavor.
Fr. Robert A. Sirico