Integrity Matters
July 5, 2006

Generosity deserves thanks, not criticism

Question: (E-247)

Dear Jim:

A letter to the editor in the June 29 New York Times criticizes Warren Buffett for entrusting his billions to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, suggesting his monies would be better spent in the United States, not in Africa. What is your reaction to the suggestion?


Goofy! Warren Buffett has demonstrated in his selfless actions that charity and graciousness fit together in the life and legacy of a successful business leader. It was and is his money, and he can do with that money what he chooses. Were he financing filthy movies, drug distribution networks or decadent lifestyles for subsequent generations of the idle rich, then criticism would be warranted.

But to turn over a lifetime of wealth accumulation for the intention of raising the quality of life globally - beginning on the African continent - is nothing short of world-class citizenry. Wags who criticize the generosity of others need to make their own dollars and distribute them as they choose, but responsibly, in culturally constructive ways.

A few years ago, my wife and I made a number of modifications to our home. We liked the results and invited friends to stop by and see the changes. The very first guests mentioned that they thought we "should have" - and that was when we interrupted, saying: "Please do not say anything about any part of our remodel, except 'oooh! and ahhhh!'" We reminded visitors that we were not interested in making additional improvement, certainly not just now. Had we wanted to do things differently, we would have set aside additional dollars to change it.

Integrity recommendation: With your money, do as you choose, responsibly. If you do not like our remodel decisions, and how we choose to spend our money, then spend your money differently.

The Buffett billions, being combined with the Gates billions, clearly and dramatically place impact above ego, modeling serious commitments to public service. These giants are teaching many people an effective way to leverage, in positive ways, wealth, power, status and influence.

Doing good, after having done well, is an important part of the Buffett-Gates legacy that now becomes a constructive benchmark for what can be done with talent that creates riches.

Appreciatively and respectfully, it is time to offer a genuine thank you to those who give, not because they need their names in lights, but rather because they choose to provide light and hope for others, long after they have lived.

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