Philanthropy is Alive and Well in America

Monday, 30 Apr 2012 11:14 AM

By Bradley Blakeman

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I am pleased to report that philanthropy and charitable giving is doing just fine in these tough times — despite a still weak and challenging economy along with a Democrat-led, White House attack on successful Americans.

In the last month I have had the honor of attending two outstanding events in Washington, D.C. that recognized patriotic and successful business leaders from all across America.

Although many honored were clearly from different political ideologies, the strong bonds of philanthropy, service, responsibility, duty and charity united them all.

davidrubenstein.jpg
Philanthropist David Rubenstein purchased, and donated, the last privately owned copy of the Magna Carta to the National Archives.
(Getty Images)
What exactly is the definition of philanthropy? Literally, it means the “love of humanity.” You need not be rich to be philanthropic; all you need to do is be one who loves their fellow man enough to help in your own way, and to the extent that you are able.

The first event I attended was the Horatio Alger Association’s 65th Awards Induction Ceremony. The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans is a non-profit organization founded in 1947 to insure that economic opportunity is available to give young people a chance to be successful despite personal hardships. Established business leaders are recognized for their generosity and the time they devote to providing mentorship and scholarship to deserving students who have shown promise, will, and a desire to better themselves and their country.

Since 1994, The Horatio Alger Association has awarded more than $90 million in scholarships.

This year The Horatio Alger Association recognized a dozen of America’s finest and most successful business leaders from across the nation. It also gave out more than 100 scholarships to students who have accomplished much while facing great personal adversity.

Every student had a compelling story that was both inspiring and sad. One student became the high school valedictorian in spite of being homeless.

The students are simply amazing.

One thing that all of the business leaders had in common was that they were self-made and their path to success was not predictable. It was clearly the product of education, hard work, opportunity, and success.

One of those honored was Kenneth G. Langone. He grew up on Long Island, New York. His dad was a plumber and his mother worked in the local school cafeteria. Ken’s parents struggled to make ends meet and urged him to make the most of a good education.

As a boy, he sold Christmas wreaths door to door, worked in a meat market, a gas station, and for UPS or the Post Office during the holiday rush. He went on to college at Bucknell where he received a degree in political science and economics. From there, he earned a Master’s Degree in business from NYU.

He entered the world of investment banking and one success led to another. Eventually he co-founded Home Depot, which is now recognized as America’s largest home improvement chain with thousands of locations and tens of thousands of sales associates.

Langone has dedicated his professional and personal life to giving back to America for the great opportunities he was able to take advantage of. He has made significant contributions in time and money to both alma maters: Bucknell University and NYU.

He is also recognized for his charitable giving to cancer research in the form of treatment and scholarships to deserving students amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.

The second event I attended was the Consumer Electronics Association Digital Patriots Dinner. CEA is a trade association that unites more than 2,000 companies within the consumer and technology industry. Each year, CEA recognizes American leaders in government and the private sector who understand that American ingenuity and innovation are the secret to America’s greatness and success.

CEA also realizes that it has a responsibility to give back too. All of the proceeds from this year’s dinner went to the Ron Brown Scholar Fund, a charity that provides college scholarships to African-American high school students who have demonstrated a record of academic excellence, community service, and financial need.

One of this year’s Digital Patriots is David Rubenstein, co-founder and managing director of The Carlyle Group, a global private equity firm.

Rubenstein grew up in Baltimore and went to Duke University where he graduated magna cum laude. Thereafter, he earned a law degree from the University of Chicago Law School.

He served time in government as a senior advisor to President Carter in his late twenties and also served as a chief counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. While building a successful business, Rubenstein realized that it is not enough to make money — a full life requires service, charity, and philanthropy.

David Rubenstein has given hundreds of millions of dollars to charitable causes and scholarship. He is the chairman of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, a regent of the Smithsonian Institution, president of the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., and he sits on the board of Duke University.

The list goes on. But, most remarkably of all he purchased the last privately owned copy of the Magna Carta and donated it to the National Archives. He did the same with a copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Not impressed yet? How about the fact that Mr. Rubenstein gave $7 million to make repairs to the Washington Monument after the freak Washington, D.C. earthquake of 2012.

It was not the government that requested, directed, or demanded these successful business leaders to give back to their nation, it was their own doing — for their own reasons.

In America, we should not be demonizing success — we should be honoring it. We should not pit one group against the other. We are one nation. All for one and one for all.

Americans should be proud that philanthropy and charitable giving is not just a practice of the wealthy. It is ingrained in our culture. Voice of America reported the following on April 24:

“Donating to charities is a part of American life. According to the World Giving Index, the United States is the most generous country in the world, followed by Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Britain. According to another study, ordinary individuals gave 73 percent of the money donated to U.S. charities in 2010 — more than $200 billion.

In addition to money and used items, Americans also donate their time as volunteers. Last year, more than 64 million Americans worked as volunteers — almost 27 percent of the entire U.S. population.”

Loving your neighbor is not judged in dollars donated. In fact, it should not be judged at all. Anyone who gives something to someone in need expecting nothing in return is to be respected.

The facts bear out that even in tough economic times, America has not lost her philanthropy. The moment we do, America will cease to exist, as we know it.

Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He is currently a professor of Politics and Public Policy at Georgetown University and a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion. Read more reports from Bradley Blakeman — Click Here Now.

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