Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Blazing a trail in philanthropy

All Buffett acolytes should probably have read by now that Mr Buffett has agreed to donate almost a jaw-dropping US$30 billion to the Gates Foundation last week.

Even at the age of 76, Mr Buffett continues to astound me with his actions, not only in the investment field but also in how he chooses to lead his life. With his large riches, he could have easily set up a foundation in his own name but chooses not to do so. Instead, he donates the bulk of it to a foundation without even asking for his name on its door. It is a move which is utterly low key, but probably expected given his trademark non descript demeanor.

To me, Mr Buffett is not only a symbol of success for American capitalism, it is also about remaining humble, being fair, just and approachable. Despite his success, he still stays in his same old house, remains devoted to his sweetheart (unfortunately, passed on) and still drives the same old car with the vanity license plate, Prudent. And interestingly, the greatness of Berkshire Hathaway was achieved from Omaha, away from the hustle and bustle of Wall Street. What is more astounding is that this wealth was accumulated in a manner almost antithesis of modern corporate America which to some extent celebrates big money and flashy cars.

As he heads towards the twilight of his life, Mr Buffett chooses to donate the bulk of his enormous wealth to a foundation dedicated to “reducing inequalities in the United States and around the world”. It appears to be almost like life coming a full circle for a great man who started with reportedly only US$10,000 almost 50 years ago.

We hope that he continues to illuminate the lives of many more through his actions and deeds.