We were raised and schooled with the idea
that the free enterprise system, a system based on working to earn as much
money as you want and can, is the best system around. Fulfilling the American
dream means earning more. Because of this, the way most people judge success
is by the superficial yardstick of how much money someone earns.
Using this criterion, Mr. Warren Buffett, one of the world’s richest men,
has certainly reached the highest level of the American Dream by joining the
ranks of the ultra-rich. If we sat down to talk to Mr. Buffett, we would most
likely hear about self-discipline, taking certain risks, how to make the most
use of our time, how to find a good bargain, the value of small things etc.
Now, according to Fortune Magazine, Mr.
Buffett took the American dream to a higher level, giving us even more food
for thought about the meaning of success even if we are not the world’s
Mr. Buffett - who's financial net worth is
$44 billion - said that he will start giving away 85% of his wealth in July.
Buffett, 75, has said for decades that his wealth would go to philanthropic
causes but always insisted the handoff would be made at his death. Now
he is rescripting the timetable.
"I know what I want to do," he
said, "and it makes sense to get going." This tremendous give away
of assets is typical Buffett: rational, original, breaking the mold of how
extremely rich people donate money. Additionally, Mr. Buffett believes the
price of the stock, and with it the dollar size of the contributions, will
trend upward - perhaps over time increasing substantially.
Buffett has pledged to gradually give 85%
of his Berkshire stock to five foundations. Most of the money - five-sixths of
the shares - will go to the world's largest philanthropic organization, the
$30 billion Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, whose principals are close
friends of Buffett's. The Gateses credit Buffett with having
"inspired" their thinking about giving money back to society.
"The generosity and trust Warren has shown," Gates adds, "is
There is much to be learned from Mr.
Buffett’s gift of giving. Mr. Buffett is giving the bulk of his assets while
he is alive. He is redefining the meaning of success by giving in a way that
benefits so many, while at the same time he can have the pleasure of seeing
this terrific deed bear fruit.
Those of us
blessed with the money to give away can certainly take Mr. Buffett’s example
to heart. And those of us who were not blessed with monetary riches can learn
from his actions and generosity anyway. We all have something to impart
that would help humanity. We are all blessed with some resources that
could be used to help people. We all posses something to contribute to
society. If we could analyze what our strengths are and what we have to
contribute and start to contribute it right away, we would see the value of
our gift grow with time as good deeds tend to do. And like Mr. Buffett, who is
teaching Bill Gates and other wealthy people about giving money to worthy
causes while alive, we can do things that contribute to society and our
contributions can inspire others to do the same.
the most important thing we can learn from Mr. Buffet is to make a radical
change in our attitude. We’ve been taught to judge people on how much
money they have and how much money they earn. Now, thanks to Mr. Buffett,
perhaps we can start judging people by a truer scale - by how much they give
to help others.
more articles by Rabbi Hecht