years ago I was asked to appear in a cover story for
magazine. As a XYZ multimillionaire, I couldn't
be very private about my wealth. When you become wealthy
as a result of a public offering, as I did, it's common
knowledge. It's in the newspaper, in the trading reports-it's
impossible to hide. But this was really scary for me. Appearing
in a cover story for
was a high-risk activity,
and not just in psychological terms. Not long before, a
wealthy Silicon Valley businessman had been kidnapped. There
were potentially real security dangers.
scary part was, first, to what degree would this attract
undue attention to my family and me, knowing that there
could be security concerns? Secondly, I am not at all interested
in gaining notoriety for myself because of my own lifestyle
choices, interests, or organizations I support. I was concerned
that the article might portray me in a way that could be
interpreted as if I were seeking fame.
there was too much truth in all the articles that had been
written about how stingy XYZ was. I felt there
were XYZ people who weren't giving philanthropically.
"What better way to state my views," I thought, "than in
an international forum?"
the interview, I had had some fear of receiving too many
solicitations if I were to go public in this way, but in
fact, I received only a tiny number of extra solicitations
as a result. People wrote letters to Newsweek, which were
delivered to me. A few wrote saying, "I need to go to college,"
or "I have a small business I want to start," but most said
to keep up the good work. It was very gratifying. My experience
turned out to be positive enough that it became the first
step in a campaign I consciously embarked on to get my colleagues
involved in philanthropy. I wrote Op Ed pieces, which were
published in newspapers and magazines, talked at seminars,
and spoke at various breakfast groups.
lesson I took from this was that being on a public stage
can affect public opinion, whereas being silent is not going
to have an impact. I hope that by being public about my
wealth and my philanthropy, I can help move people along
a path of giving. Setting an example is critical because,
otherwise, how do people learn philanthropy? I can say I
want to be philanthropic, but there is still the pragmatic
aspect: How do I become strategic? How do I get organized?
There are a lot of specifics that a person needs to learn.
If we all kept it a secret, how would anyone learn? We'd
all be stumbling in the dark.
on an interview with Pamela Gerloff
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