By Kelly R. Young
Last month, IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy hosted a conversation with David Rubenstein, co-founder and co-executive chairman, The Carlyle Group. The recorded webinar is a part of the school’s “Perspectives on Philanthropy Discussion Series,” monthly discussions with leaders who share their perspectives on how philanthropy influences our civic life now and into the future.
Rubenstein, 68, is a financier and philanthropist. He founded The Carlyle Group in 1987, an international private equity firm that he grew to manage $224 billion from 32 offices around the world. Today he is one of the wealthiest people and the largest philanthropists in the world.
Several themes stood out to me as I watched the video, themes I felt were important enough to highlight and share.
Philanthropy is for everyone
Rubenstein references that, in the Greek tradition, the word philanthropy comes from the words “love” and “humanity,” yet today, we think of it as just writing checks. He views philanthropy as giving of your time, energy, and ideas. He shared his own experiences of growing up in a blue-collar family where philanthropy was not part of his upbringing, to now where philanthropy is an integral part of his life.
“Giving away money, time, and ideas in a way that makes other people’s lives better is obviously the most fulfilling thing somebody can do on the face of the earth,” Rubenstein said.
While it doesn’t equate to his greatest amount of giving, Rubenstein has become known for his patriotic philanthropy. He has purchased three landmark historical documents, including copies of the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, and the Emancipation Proclamation. All are on permanent loan to the U.S. government and available for public viewing in the National Archives Building in Washington D.C. Rubenstein shares his insights into what it means to give back to better our country, as well as his theory on the importance of knowing our country’s history–the good and the bad.
“In a sense, all philanthropy is really patriotic because you’re doing something for your country, more or less,” he said. “But in the sense that I’ve used the phrase ‘patriotic philanthropy,’ I mean giving back to the country in certain visible ways to remind people of the history and the heritage.”
COVID-19 crater and concentration of power
Rubenstein offered his insights into world events amidst COVID-19, including inequalities, social mobility, the wealth gap, and the transformation of the economy. He believes it’s worse than a recession, but not quite a depression.
“There’s no doubt that life is going to change,” he said. “It is famously said by Sir John Templeton that to say ‘this time is different’ is a big mistake because things just repeat themselves. But in truth, this time is different. It’s not a recession; it’s a recession with a pandemic, and people are going to change the way they live and conduct their lives.”
The Giving Pledge and the next generation
The Giving Pledge is a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to giving back. Rubenstein believes the impact is enormous. Even more inspiring was his belief that we can all give, no matter the amount of our net worth, as well as his optimism about philanthropy as it relates to emerging generations.
“I want to encourage people to feel that philanthropy can be an important part of their life, not just to help other people, but to help themselves, because they will view themselves as being happier with their lives as they do things to help other people,” Rubenstein said.
If your interest is piqued about the full conversation, you can hear all of Rubenstein’s insights on the school’s website. Then, mark your calendar for the next Perspectives on Philanthropy Discussion Series on Monday, July 13, featuring Derrick Feldmann discussing how causes and companies can drive public interest for social issues.
Kelly Young, president of Baise Communications, is an award-winning public relations counselor with 25+ years of experience in working with nonprofit and small businesses. She has worked in nearly every capacity of public relations throughout her career and has a proven track record of success in media relations, social media, brand management, communications planning, and community relations. She has built a strong reputation within the community and is sought after for her industry expertise and thought leadership. Kelly is a natural storyteller and an enthusiastic advocate for causes.