Thoughts on the Power of Giving

Mar 23, 2018

by Candice Bennett, Director of Development, and Emily Cooksey, Board Member

On Thursday, we had the opportunity to attend a special presentation at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (NMAH) on The Power of Giving with a focus on culture and the artsThe program had an impressive line up of speakers, including David Skorton, Darren Walker, David Rubenstein, Mary Stuart Masterson and Alberto Ibargüen.

David Rubenstein (son of a postal worker who became a self made billionaire and major philanthropist) spoke humbly about how his “luck” in making money gives him the opportunity to help others in many ways, but cited artifact philanthropy as an example. One of the many examples of these efforts has been to buy and donate priceless historic artifacts for display in public museums to peak the interest of millions of Americans and foreign visitors to learn and understand more about world and American history. Mr. Rubenstein, explained his philanthropic goals are intended to provide intellect and inspiration to ensure maximum beneficial impact on millions of Americans – the “3 I’s”.

Darren Walker, the President of the Ford Foundation, spoke about how his philanthropic career evolved as a result of his exposure to the arts and humanities. He grew up in a very modest household in Liberty, Texas, and his mother worked as a housekeeper for a wealthy Houston family. His mother brought home her wealthy employers’ event programs and magazines and this sparked an interest in young Darren to explore a world bigger than Liberty. Mr. Walker said, “Philanthropy tasks the privileged with improving the systems and structures that benefit the privileged” and that “Philanthropy must be approached with humility.”

Mary Stuart Masterson (actress, producer and parent) spoke enthusiastically about her ongoing efforts to improve the quality of life for her entire community (including herself and her family) by creating an infrastructure with all of the draws needed for the television production business, providing thousands of new jobs, a strong economy, and the introduction of a vast arts industry. Her motto is “Make Local Work”.

There were many inspiring nuggets delivered by the speakers throughout the morning, but John Gray, the Director of NMAH, said giving occurs because people envision a more humane future, whether that giving is to medicine/science, arts and culture, or human services. Philanthropy can help deliver social equity and justice.

We’ll close with this Nelson Mandela quote that was shared at the event, “It is always impossible until it is done.”


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