PINC Profile: Sanford Greenberg

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With the imminent arrival of PINC 2018 on December 6, once again promising a day full of passionate speakers covering a broad and varied range of topics, SRQ went behind the scenes with a few of these incoming artists, activists and entrepreneurs for a quick taste of what’s to come. Author, inventor and entrepreneur Sanford Greenberg has been advisor to presidents and world leaders, but comes to PINC Sarasota to talk a longtime passion—the coming cure for blindness.

SRQ: Why did you want to come to Sarasota and spend time with this audience in particular? Greenberg: Schopenhauer wrote that, “Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world.” The blind don't have that problem. Because we live in a world without horizons, we get to envision what might otherwise seem impossible. That’s the essence of the End Blindness by 2020 Prize. By its very nature, PINC attracts an audience that I think will be willing to go there with me.

Why does blindness have your attention, and why should we all be paying more attention to it? Almost 300 million people worldwide have great difficulty seeing even with the best correction. Of those, 40 million are, like me, totally blind. There’s also the injustice of blindness. We humans were meant to see. God gave us sight so we could appreciate the beauty of nature, study the faces of our newborns, watch the sun rise and set. Finally, there’s my own story. I was lying in a hospital bed, newly blind at age 19, when I made a sacred vow—a tikkum olam in Hebrew—to help end blindness forever. Sacred vows are meant to be delivered on.

Are we really that close to a cure? Is 2020 a realistic goal or rhetorical motivation? When my wife, Sue, and I first announced the End Blindness by 2020 Prize in 2012, we hoped that it would incentivize researchers, groups, and institutions to advance vision science for human patients. To that extent, the prize did have a rhetorical dimension, but from the very beginning, we meant the prize literally as well: to end blindness for all mankind, period. And, yes, we are tantalizingly close to achieving that.

Pictured: Sanford Greenberg. Photo courtesy of PINC Sarasota.

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