Welcome Benjamin Students!

Hello, hello!

I can’t wait to get started with our Main Street Philanthropy class and learn about each of you and what sparked your interest in this class.

As for me, philanthropy peaks my curiosity for a couple reasons.

First: I have always been fascinated by people’s life stories. I guess as the daughter of a journalist, this comes with the territory. In theater, we talk about characters’ motivations–what drives someone to walk across the stage or tell a bald-faced lie or eat an apple – whatever!

I believe philanthropy reflects our deepest motivations and values as citizens.

Second: Interesting people are philanthropists. Andrew Carnegie, Doris Buffett (Warren’s sister – check her out), Mark Zuckerberg, and of course Bill & Melinda Gates. My great aunt likes to say that only boring people get bored. Heavy-hitter philanthropists create a life enriched by constant learning, thus avoiding ever being bored or boring. Notice that philanthropists are not saints. In fact, they often become flashpoints in larger debates about income inequality. They are complicated characters. I like this about them – again, never boring!

Third: It’s personal. My family members get together every year around the holidays and talk about the organizations we support. These charities run the gamut from animal welfare to fistula surgeries in Africa to a model train museum in Maine. We enjoy learning about each others’ causes I think in part because they tell a story of how different we are, but in a completely non-judgmental setting. We aren’t heavy-hitters. We can’t eradicate malaria. But we do take pride in our family culture of philanthropy.

So what about you? Where do you and your family fit in? How does philanthropy figure in your life story and that of your parents? Can you think of a time you benefited from another’s philanthropic gift?

We live in Palm Beach County, which ranks 16th out of over 3,000 counties country-wide in giving.

Our community gave away $1 billion last year. Just to give you an idea, one billion minutes ago, we would have been living in the heyday of the Roman Empire and writing our blogs in Latin. So we are in the lucky position of power and responsibility. The face of philanthropy is changing. Let’s make it new and make it better.