Giving of One's Self

I've mentioned before that I did not initially vote for Michael Bloomberg for mayor. But he ended up being one of my favorite politicians, despite the fact that he lacked in charisma. I enjoyed it when he said he had smoked marijuana and he liked it, too! But one story stood out for me: when services were cut by New York's government, he would find a way for his charity to donate to those very same services. This inclination towards philanthropy made me a permanent fan.

My first job out of college was created by philanthropist Michael Steinhardt who, for awhile, fell out of the billionaires club because of his commitment to philanthropy. He's even bought islands and donated them to wildlife conservation. Billionaires inclined towards philanthropy seem to recognize that wealth is a human creation, like laws and norms, and therefore can be channeled towards a greater future than simple accumulation of wealth. Thus, there's the Givers Pledge, to which the wealthiest philanthropists have subscribed to donate a majority of their wealth.

I have stated before that I never understood why Steve Jobs has been so much more exalted than Bill Gates. The Gates family may go down as the greatest philanthropists of all time. But they are not just champions of giving. They are actively thinking about tomorrow, trying to solve the thorniest issues. Just this past week, Bill Gates proposed taxing the robots and machines that will inevitably replace human workers. Whether that's a crazy notion or not, you can see that he is thinking about easing the burdens of disruption.

And then there's Mark Zuckerberg. This week, he released a 6000 word manifesto that embraced global connectivity that fosters kindness and compassion. Empathy. Common ground. Meanwhile, Elon Musk's SpaceX successfully launched this week and brought ISS cargo into space. Musk, too, has a manifesto, one that may power the poorest parts of the globe in the near future.

None of these titans of industry is pure. Who among us is? They may have terrible skeletons in their closets. But I am grateful that they answered a higher calling, to find meaning in their abundance and possibly leave this earth better off than when they arrived.