A cool event: “The Art of Money” with David Rubenstein

David M. Rubenstein, speaker at the October 27, 2017 “Ignite Talk.”

One of the most engaging series of events here in the Triangle, NC area is “The Ignite Talks” hosted by the Jewish Federation of Durham – Chapel Hill at the Levin Jewish Community Center in Durham. Ignite is a networking and educational forum offered to members of our local community. Through talks and interviews with business and community leaders, the series provides a unique venue to promote social responsibility, community building and continuing education.

This season’s series theme is “The Art of ….” and the first session dealt with the art of money – Making money, investing money and then giving money away. Speaker David Rubenstein, with a net worth of over $2.9 Billion, is among the wealthiest people in the world. He was a delightful fast-paced speaker with just the perfect dose of humility and humor.

Currently, Mr. Rubenstein is the Co-Founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer of the Carlyle Group, a global alternative asset manager with $174 billion of assets under management. He grew up in a blue collar family in Baltimore, Maryland, with his father working as postal services worker earning $7,000 annually and his mother a housewife. He attended Duke University on scholarship and law school at the University of Chicago. He was a deputy domestic policy advisor to President Jimmy Carter and worked in private law practice before entering the equities business.

Most notably, Mr. Rubenstein was among the initial forty individuals who have pledged to donate more than half their wealth to philanthropic causes or charities as part of “The Giving Pledge.”

Key points and quips Mr. Rubenstein made during his delightful talk and Q and A session:

• He has always been inspired by the President John F. Kennedy’s quote that “A lot of money does not equal happiness.” Throughout the talk, I could easily see that Mr. Rubenstein has never defined himself by the huge wealth he has accumulated.
• He started in the equity business with 4 investors providing $5 Million with plans to build a totally different and innovative type of investment business. His quote: “Do something no else has done before – people may make fun of you, but you can succeed.”
• Mr. Rubenstein defines philanthropy from its Latin root meaning of “loving humanity,” not as “rich people writing checks.”
• Mr. Rubenstein felt he had 4 viable alternatives for his wealth:

    1. Be buried with it like the pharaohs of Egypt
    2. Spend it all on houses, planes and artwork
    3. Give it all to his children and ruin their lives
    4. Give it away while he is alive so he can see the benefit it reaps. This is the option he has chosen.

Mr. Rubenstein with the one of the four original copies of the Magna Carta, that he specifically purchased to share with the public. (photo: David Yellen for Forbes)

• Quote: “When your mother says she is proud of you, then you know you have done the right thing.”
• When asked about the US political situation, he decried the “hollowing out of the political center” leading to the polarizing politics of today with sides that cannot work together for the common good of the nation.

I look forward the next installment of this Ignite “The Art of ….” series, and if they are as inspirational and interesting as this one, be looking for another blog!

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My blogs about Ignite sessions from earlier years:

From December, 2014, “Three Women Igniting Social Change in Second Careers.”

From December, 2013, a blog about two very different community and business leaders who spoke at two different Ignite Sessions, “Local Leaders as Social Innovators.”

The Justice Theater Project – Societal Impact Through the Performing Arts

From “A Soldier’s Play,” a murder mystery set in a 1944 desegregated army base in Louisiana. (Photo Courtesy of The Justice Theater Project)

Recently I have been introduced to a special gem here in the Raleigh – Triangle NC area – The Justice Theater Project (JTP.) Their tagline is “Celebrating thought-provoking, entertaining and inspiring theater since 2004.” The JTP has produced quality entertainment that addresses a wide range of issues of social concern as well as giving area non-profit groups free admission to shows and providing several youth summer summer theater camps with tuition assistance so all can participate!

As a diversity consultant, I feel the performing arts can be a powerful medium to address issues such a racism, homophobia, aging, economic inequality and more. Sometimes people need to be transported outside themselves and their daily lives to see something on stage or hear something in music that can communicate to them much better than a written editorial or a political debate.

Captain Charles Taylor was quite displeased when African-American Captain Richard Davenport was sent to Louisiana to investigate the murder of a black officer. (Photo courtesy of The Justice Theater Project)

Recently, I published the blog reviewing the book “Divided We Stand – Racism in America from Jamestown to Trump,” which chronicles the many forms of racism present within the USA from our founding days up to current times. I got plenty of comments debating if racism truly exists today in the US and asking me about racism against whites, as well as calling me a few names and using cuss words. Perhaps if some of these detractors saw JTP’s latest play “ A Soldier’s Play,” a murder mystery set in a 1944 desegregated army base, they may think differently about racism, internalized oppression and white privilege.

Blogs I published earlier this year about diversity and inclusion being promoted through the performing arts include:
“Promoting Diversity and Inclusion Through Bluegrass Music,” about an innovative annual concert called “Shout and Shine” of diverse Bluegrass musicians. This celebration came about in 2016 as a direct response to North Carolina’s oppressive HB2 “bathroom bill” discriminating against our LGBT citizens.
“A great diversity experience – Theater Breaking Through Barriers” about enjoying an off-Broadway play in New York City which featured actors with a wide range of disabilities.

The JTP’s current 2017 – 2018 season is titled “Equity and Identity” and will address issues such as racism, homophobia and classism. Though my diversity consulting practices covers all areas of diversity, my deep area of expertise is LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender), so I am looking forward to their February play “Bent” which is set in 1940’s occupied Berlin and confronts the persecution of the marginalized, particularly homosexuals.

Please seriously considering supporting the work this wonderful organization does in our community through sponsorship or becoming a season subscriber – details on the JTP website.

And if you are one of my blog readers from outside the area, perhaps see if there is a similar theater company in your community, or perhaps consider starting one!

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