David Rubenstein: Patriot Philanthropist

At the beginning of 2012, David Rubenstein gave a $7.5 million gift to help start the restoration of the Washington Monument, which had suffered damage during the previous summer’s earthquake. Last week, he spent almost twice that on a book. 

It wasn’t just any book, of course; it was The Bay Psalm Book from 1640, believed to be the first book printed in the United States. Only 11 copies survive in varying degrees of completeness. Rubenstein isn’t really looking to add it to his personal collection though— he plans to lend it to libraries around the country so they may put it on display.

In a recent interview with Forbes, the billionaire philanthropist and co-founder of the Carlyle Group, a global private equity firm, touched on a number of his philanthropic interests, including education, and protecting our national treasures. He is certainly proud of America’s tradition of giving, noting that we give away 2% of our GDP to charity each year, while no other country gives even half that. He is concerned that the government does not have the funding to preserve our nation’s historic sites as it should, and recognizes that this is an area where philanthropists need to step in. But he also recognizes that many people feel they already give enough money to the government. Rubenstein points out that it takes more than just money to make many of the necessary renovations, preserve these sites, and keep them accessible to the public.

When asked about education, David took the chance to speak out against the argument some are making that college is no longer worth the cost. He recognizes college as an opportunity to learn critical thinking, and acquire the skills for success. “Over the course of history, education produces people who are better citizens,” he said. “We should want people who are better educated.”

In the past, Rubenstein, who has pledged to give at least half of his $2.6 billion fortune to charitable causes, has made more traditional gifts to universities, cultural institutions, and cutting-edge cancer research, but he also has a history of purchasing historical documents for the National Archives, including copies of the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, and Emancipation Proclamation. Given his patriotism, and the importance he places on education and citizenship, it will be interesting to see if his philanthropy begins to move towards programs that educate and actively engage citizens on important civic and social issues. 

Check out David's Profile at Inside Philanthropy

Read the Forbes article