In 1989, Sachs flew to Poland to advise that nation's new government on its economic reformation (the so-called Big Bang). "The Berlin Wall was coming down," he recalled, "communism was falling, and I was pinching myself, because I was at the center of this, absolutely the epicenter of it, saying, 'Where is everybody?'" Three years later, he had a similar experience in Russia.
Then AIDS began to devastate Africa. "I would say to myself," Sachs later remarked, "'Of course the world is going to descend on this for a hundred reasons -- the humanitarian reason, the ability to do something, the puzzle of how you could have a pandemic of this scale...'" Yet, once again Sachs was virtually alone.