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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos quotes Dr. Seuss in letter to shareholders amid coronavirus

This post has been updated with comments from Amazon Senior Vice President of Worldwide Operations Dave Clark.

Amazon (AMZN) CEO and billionaire Jeff Bezos rounded off this year’s shareholder letter with some encouraging words from Dr. Seuss.

Reflecting on the coronavirus pandemic, Bezos, quoting the man by his real name, Theodor Seuss Geisel, a German American cartoonist and author best known for children’s books such “The Cat in the Hat” and “The Lorax,” among others, recalled the following quote:

“When something bad happens you have three choices. You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.” — Dr. Seuss 

After which, Bezos added: “I am very optimistic about which of these civilization is going to choose.”

According to a report by the Seattle Times about Bezos’ space-rocket company Blue Origin, the billionaire also had a Dr. Seuss quote adorn one wall of the lobby:

“If you want to catch beasts you don’t see every day, You have to go places quite out of the way.”— Dr. Seuss

“I have that in my office at Amazon as well,” Bezos said at the time.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, founder of space venture Blue Origin and owner of The Washington Post, participates in an event hosted by the Air Force Association September 19, 2018 in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

‘Spike’ in demand during pandemic

One of the richest men in the world, Bezos also more broadly reflected about the role of Amazon’s business and its 840,000-strong workforce.

"To our shareowners: One thing we’ve learned from the COVID-19 crisis is how important Amazon has become to our customers,” he wrote. “We want you to know we take this responsibility seriously, and we’re proud of the work our teams are doing to help customers through this difficult time.”

With stay-at-home orders enacted in most states, Americans are only allowed to travel for essential reasons — such as shopping for groceries or food delivery. That’s resulted in brick-and-mortar and e-commerce stores seeing a bump in sales while other stores have experienced a significant drop in sales.

Bezos addressed that issue, stating that while the company is seeing a “spike” in demand “with little warning,” putting stress on suppliers and the delivery network, the company has smoothed things over. 

Coronavirus cases are still on the rise. (David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

“I am extremely grateful to my fellow Amazonians for all the grit and ingenuity they are showing as we move through this,” he said. “You can count on all of us to look beyond the immediate crisis for insights and lessons and how to apply them going forward."

The shareholder letter did not mention anything about the recent kerfuffle over a New York warehouse worker who was fired after he organized a protest on March 31 over the lack of protections given to Amazon staff as the outbreak continues. (After the protest, Amazon Senior Vice President of Worldwide Operations at Amazon Dave Clark stated that feedback from employees “led to changes to over 150 processes across operations and the rollout of significant health and safety measures.”)

Bezos, like other business leaders, also highlighted the need for increased coronavirus testing.

“A next step in protecting our employees might be regular testing of all Amazonians, including those showing no symptoms,” Bezos wrote. “Regular testing on a global scale, across all industries, would both help keep people safe and help get the economy back up and running. For this to work, we as a society would need vastly more testing capacity than is currently available. If every person could be tested regularly, it would make a huge difference in how we fight this virus. Those who test positive could be quarantined and cared for, and everyone who tests negative could re-enter the economy with confidence.”

Aarthi Swaminathan is a reporter for Yahoo Finance.

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