Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The New Age Philanthrophists

Wealth is not an end in itself. It is a means to achieve higher purpose in life. I have always remembered growing up with this thought and I strongly abide by it. Unfortunately there are few real life examples to corroborate this statement.

But in recent days a few new age wealth makers are making headlines in the marquee showcasing their philanthropic exploits. It’s never easy to part ways with something that you have created yourself from scratch. The empire that you built putting brick on brick with your sweat and toil; the pursuit of which cost you your youthful days and other personal sacrifices. How can one detach from something that gave him the name and identity with which the world identifies him. What is it that makes them give up all that they have achieved once they have achieved?

The examples that I will talk about are two great individuals who have always been holding the top two positions in the league of worlds richest people: Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. These two people had the combined wealth that was more than the combined GDP of world’s 48 poorest nations.

Bill Gates
On June 15th this year, Gates relinquished all duties from his company Microsoft and focus rest of his life to improving global health and improving reach of technology. “With great wealth, comes great responsibility to give bath to the society”, mentioned Gates. He wants to go about his mission through the widely publicized Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which is worth $29 billion. Their research has resulted in bringing about 9-10 new medicines that could help the world’s poor fight dangerous diseases like Malaria and Tuberculosis. But it is not the sheer amount of money that gates is involved in, but it is the corporate like focus on results and effectiveness that has made the impact.

Warren Buffett

Early last year, Warren Buffett, much to the bewilderment of the world, announced his decision to part ways with his 37$billion. He donated the money to five charitable organizations, the major chunk of which went to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It is quite clear observing from his personal lifestyle that Buffet’s actions are no contradiction with his way of life. Having liberal views on social issues, he has conducted his life with honesty and civic manners. He lives in a modest house that he bought long back during his youthful days.

The reason i see behind their magnanimity to give up everything is may be that they have already lived 'success'. They have been there, see all. They have transcended beyond what money could offer. Now they are looking for purpose and making a difference to the lives of the have-nots is what is giving them purpose.

Having said that, the foundation of modern day philanthropy was laid down by the American Industrialist John D. Rockefeller, who founder the Standard Oil Company now evolved into The Shell. From his first paycheck, Rockefeller donated one tenth of his earnings to charity. Read wikipedia entry for all his philanthropic activities.


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