“And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address inspired many Americans, including David Rubenstein. That day, a sixth grade Rubenstein set his sights on government, a destination he later reached by securing a spot as an aide in Jimmy Carter’s White House. He went on to have a career in law, before founding the asset management company, The Carlyle Group.
Rubenstein’s early giving also reflected the reciprocity at the heart of the President’s message. “I was giving away money to organizations that had been good to me,” he says of his generous gifts to Duke University and the University of Chicago Law School, where he’d received scholarships.
From there, Rubenstein turned his giving to his home city, Washington, D.C., where he helped restore the Washington Monument and bought the Magna Carta for public display. Rubenstein's philanthropy has not been limited to financial contributions however. Instead, he urges all philanthropists to give of their time, energy, and ideas. For him, that involves serving on as many as 30 boards at once and gladly chairing capital campaigns for the organizations he assists, when Rubenstein urges everyone to give of their time, energy, and ideas, he is absolutely walking the talk.
Crediting philanthropy for helping him get past “tunnel vision” and enriching his life, he has no plans to slow down. “The last thing in the world I want to do is be sitting on a beach when I’m 80 years old,” says a droll Rubenstein. “I’m afraid I would have a heart attack just trying to relax.”More Remarkable Givers
David Rubenstein's Videos
- Advantages of a modest background: David Rubenstein says it drives his desire to give back
- Chemistry test: David Rubenstein experiments before making a big commitment
- Common purpose and passion: David Rubenstein defines the traits of the best nonprofit boards
- David Rubenstein’s wisdom to a new philanthropist: seek advice, love your cause and experiment
- David Rubenstein buys the Magna Carta to keep it in the U.S.
- David Rubenstein commits to his grantees for the long-term
- David Rubenstein makes the case that philanthropy is for everyone, not just billionaires
- David Rubenstein says good philanthropists give time, energy and ideas, not just money
- Dedicated to D.C.: David Rubenstein explains his hometown focus
- Drilling down: David Rubenstein narrowed his commitments to increase his impact
- Final third: Having accrued enough wealth, David Rubenstein decided it was time to focus on philanthropy
- Getting on in life: David Rubenstein says he husbands his remaining time to help people
- More but happier: David Rubenstein takes joy in pursuing a plethora of causes
- No one likes asking for money—except for David Rubenstein
- No slowing down: David Rubenstein wishes for more hours to engage in his philanthropy
- Patron of the performing arts: David Rubenstein says culture is an important part of life
- Philanthropy has helped David Rubenstein move past “tunnel vision” and to a richer life
- Power of persuasion: David Rubenstein explains why he works hard to improve his communication skills
- Progress metrics: David Rubenstein measures success based on recipients’ happiness
- Pursuing happiness: Quoting Jefferson, David Rubenstein says each of us must decide how
- Reciprocity: David Rubenstein returns the favors
- Summing up: David Rubenstein reflects on the takeaways from nine years of philanthropy
- Sweating the details: David Rubenstein delves closely as chairman of the Kennedy Center
- The environment and Alaska: David Rubenstein and his wife don’t always share philanthropic interests
- The Giving Pledge: David Rubenstein signs the Pledge in hopes that it inspires others to engage in philanthropy
- Thinking without filters: Why David Rubenstein doesn’t have any staff
- You don’t need wealth in the afterlife: David Rubenstein shares why he decided to give while living