Giving Away a Fortune to Keep the American Dream Alive
Peter G. Peterson
Signing the Gates 'Giving Pledge' was one of the easiest, best decisions I've made
AMERICA IS A TRAILBLAZING NATION.
From the democratic government pioneered by our Founding Fathers in the 18th century to the airplane, Internet, and other revolutionary inventions of the 20th century, our country has a long history of groundbreaking progress.
One uniquely American innovation that has had a profound impact on life around the world is modern philanthropy. Over the years, a number of Americans have amassed tremendous personal fortunes and then given them away to address pressing issues that the public sector either has left unaddressed or was addressing poorly. These philanthropists endowed foundations that have educated millions, improved the lives of billions, and literally changed the course of history. Their giving has led to incredible innovation, from a vaccine for yellow fever to microfinancing that has reduced poverty for millions of people throughout the world to the Green Revolution, which radically decreased famine through high-yield crops.
Of course, our innovative national spirit drives us to improve every aspect of human life, including philanthropy.
But they didn't stop there. This year, Warren, Bill, and Melinda have spearheaded a new effort -- the Giving Pledge -- to urge the richest Americans to dedicate the majority of their wealth to worthy causes. Already, 40 of the most affluent families and individuals in the nation have signed the pledge and begun to give away their fortunes. I am proud to count myself among them. Signing the Giving Pledge was one of the best and easiest decisions I've ever made.
Several years ago, I was extremely lucky that an investment firm I cofounded, the
In 2007, I committed a billion dollars -- most of that Blackstone windfall -- to establish the
The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once claimed, "The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world it leaves to its children." Giving generously and joyfully is part of passing that test and fulfilling our duty as ancestors.
So, philanthropy isn't just about giving money. It's also about giving yourself. When you do the latter, the power and effectiveness of what you give financially will grow alongside your personal satisfaction. It's a real job -- the best, most fun, and sometimes most difficult one I've ever had. Every day, I put on a suit and tie and go to work with wonderful people at my foundation who are dedicated to serving our country, empowering the next generation, and keeping the American Dream alive and well. It's the greatest feeling in the world.
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Giving Away a Fortune to Keep the American Dream Alive
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