By Jeffrey Carter,
Last night I had the opportunity to listen to David Rubenstein of Carlyle Group. I enjoy listening to stories told by people that started up a business and were successful at it. You can learn a lot from them. We often demonize success in the US today, or try to use societal guilt to control successful people. Rubenstein spoke at the Economic Club of Chicago dinner. Rubenstein started Carlyle at the age of 37 in Washington DC of all places. Not exactly the bedrock of private equity.
Carlyle became highly successful. He made a lot of money, $2.3 Billion for himself and billions more for partners, employees, limited partners, and the employees of the firms he invested in. He is giving it all away.
It was an interesting and animated speech. Rubenstein said the most influential speech he had ever heard in his life was John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address. 18 minutes long. It was written by Ted Sorensen who he would work for later in life. Of course, that speech contained the line that I had to memorize by wrote from my Contrails book at USAFA, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
Rubenstein made this point, you don’t have to be rich to do things for your country. Your time is also precious. It can be small. But, the important point is to do it. It also doesn’t have to be something dramatic. Tutoring kids, teaching kids, sending a little money to an organization you believe in makes a difference. It can make you feel good inside and change the way you look at life.
Rubenstein has done dramatic things. He has funded panda procreation at the National Zoo, paid to seal the crack in the Washington Monument, and bought rare historic documents for public display, including a copy of the Magna Carta. It makes him feel good inside.
I think that is why I like being on the board of the National WW2 Museum, and why I like certain investments I have made such as Public Good. Investing in startups gives people hope, and gives entrepreneurs a chance to make the world a better place. Because I invest a lot in Chicago, it’s filling an economic vacuum that exists here.
Too often, we expect or wait for a government entity to do something. As Rubenstein asked, “How many people think government can keep up with the pace of innovation and change that is happening in our society today?”. Not one hand went up. I have been making that exact same point for several years now when I talk to groups about entrepreneurship. You can change the world by yourself. It starts one small step at a time.
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