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Moments after returning from the edge of space, Jeff Bezos thanked the Blue Origin team for making his flight possible. He also thanked the Texas town of Van Horn, which hosted Tuesday’s launch. And then he said this:
“I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer, because you paid for all of this. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
The Internet responded with an incredulous gasp.
this is sort of a real quote
Jeff Bezos: “I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer, because you paid for all of this … thank you from the bottom of my heart.”pic.twitter.com/5JREV6Uha7
– Matthieu Champion (@matthewchampion) July 20, 2021
In the video, Bezos’ comment sounds serious and makes the audience laugh at the press conference. But as the richest person on Earth – a centennial of extreme proportions, worth over $ 200 billion – man has been subjected to an intense microscope for his attitudes toward the yawning wealth gap of America.
Amazon now employs nearly 1.3 million workers, the majority of them scanning and packing goods in warehouses. In 2018, Amazon was among the first large companies to increase its starting salary to $ 15 an hour, and its public relations team fought against the company’s perception as a low-wage employer. In 2020, the company reported that its median salary was $ 29,007 per year.
On Tuesday, after his 11-minute launch to the edge of space, Bezos handed over $ 200 million in “Courage and Civility Prizes.” The money is split between chef José Andrés and CNN personality and social entrepreneur Van Jones to be donated to charities and nonprofits of their choice.
“We need unifiers, not villifiers,” Bezos said announcing the award. “It’s easy to be courageous but also bad. Try to be courageous and civil. Try to be courageous and unifying. It’s harder and much better, and it makes the world a better place.”
Bezos stepped down as CEO of Amazon on July 5, exactly 27 years after the company launched. But he remains Amazon’s largest shareholder, and his wealth is tied to the success of the company, now valued at $ 1.8 trillion. That’s why Bezos called Amazon a “lottery ticket” that allowed him to invest in space exploration – around $ 1 billion a year.
Since Bezos bought The Washington Post and funded a 10,000-year clock inside a mountain, he faced calls to step up philanthropy further based on his wealth.
Last year, Bezos and his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott topped the list of U.S. charitable donors. Bezos has invested money for causes such as homelessness, education and climate change. Last week, he donated $ 200 million to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.
On Monday, in an interview with CNN, Bezos addressed critics who argue that his wealth and attention would serve better if directed to more urgent needs on our current planet.
“We have to do both,” Bezos said. “We have a lot of problems here and now on Earth and we have to work on it. And we always have to look to the future,” adding that perhaps “incredible things” that the next generations could do in space “will solve. the problems here on Earth. ”
Editor’s Note: Amazon is one of the financial backers of NPR.