A Perfect World V: Hendricks

A Perfect World V

John Hendricks

John Hendricks is Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Discovery Communications, Inc., a global media empire with cable networks (including the Discovery Channel, the Learning Channel, and Animal Planet) that are seen in at least 155 countries and territories by an estimated 425 million viewers. Discovery Communications also operates 165 retail stores in the United States alone. Hendricks previously worked as an administrator at the University of Alabama.

"My picture of an ideal world has to include people, so this paint is about civilization as well as nature. The blue is for clear water and sky. But there’s also an artificial path. People are in this natural world, along with animals. And someone is reading or just contemplating something under a tree. Many times I’ve sat back up against a tree in the grass, and that’s just ideal for me. That my ideal world!"- John Hendricks, CEO, Discovery Communications
Credit: Hendricks, © Trione, Andrews McMeel Publishing, [ copyright 2002, reprinted with picture by permission]

My most fundamental hope is for a worldwide attitude of tolerance, which I think will only come through education and an awareness of other cultures and religions. The more people are exposed to other philosophies and thoughts, the more possible it becomes to resolve world conflicts peacefully. Education builds tolerance for other points of view.

I also think the media can be key to breaking down barriers worldwide, because they have such a huge potential to penetrate. If media are used to educate and enlighten, one outcome will be tolerance, and human beings will advance over time.

I love to sit down at night and watch one of the network news shows, because they’re attempting to tell you everything that’s happening in the world in thirty minutes. Dan Rather or Peter Jennings or Tom Brokaw is saying: "Of all the stuff that’s happening in the world, here’re the few things we think you should know." And so by boiling it down, they make a presentation that the community of citizens can witness. That’s the important role of news editorials, and the news is one of the few places where people everywhere can share a common knowledge of what’s happening.

My career has been about advanced media that employ educational content that improves the human condition. I’m proud that the Discovery Channel is now being broadcast into 155 other countries and territories. I think we’ve been so successful because people have a very fundamental natural curiosity. Sometimes we all just want to laugh and be amused by television, and that’s entertainment, but we develop our service for people when they’re in their curious mode.

Personally I’m very attracted to fundamental questions. Why is there something rather than nothing? Why is there all this stuff, and how did it happen? Stephen Hawking and other physicists can take you down to the early milliseconds after the big bang, but how does something spring out of nothing? Some physicists would say that’s a meaningless question.

Is life unique to Earth, or has it happened elsewhere? If it’s happened just once in our solar system, then the chances are that just millions of other life-starts have happened in the universe. Right now we have only this one event, so we can’t do the statistics. But if we could verify that life had occurred someplace else, then we could. To me it seems so profound. We may be the last generation born with knowledge of only life here on Earth. And we might die with the knowledge that there’s life elsewhere.

If a chain of elements, atoms, and molecules elsewhere did this marvelous trick of aligning itself in a pattern that can replicate itself so perfectly that its ability to replicate itself could also be passed on, then that’s the beginning of life. It would be hard to get to a point, at least in our lifetime, when we could say we know we’re it, and we’re the only it. I mean, how could we ever prove that? It’s more likely that there’s life elsewhere, and that has enormous significance to me. We may have thought we were precious before, but if we’re the only it, then our lives truly are precious.

I’m very aware right now that the duration of our lives is very short. So in my perfect world I also want to see some cures for some of the world’s awful diseases out there, like cancer. Those problems are solvable, and I’m convinced that in ten years or thirty years diseases like that will be things of the past.

Author Profile: Debra Trione began work on "A Perfect World" in 1997 after serving on the President’s Council on Sustainable Development. During the 1980s she worked at Harvard University Press and as an editor at Harvard Medical School.

Related Web Pages

A Perfect World I: Tyson
A Perfect World II: Richardson
A Perfect World III: Goldin
A Perfect World IV: Venter
A Perfect World V: Hendricks
A Perfect World VI: Fuller
A Perfect World : Booksite
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