Posted By Randy Jones on January 31, 2010
For most of my career, I have dealt with the rich. I’ve created publications for, written books about, and penned countless articles for magazines about the rich and powerful. I have written The Richest Man in Town where I interviewed the richest man or woman in town in 100 American cities to determine the shared traits and success strategies of these great American wealth creators. I wrote The Greatest Stock Picks of All Time to uncover the commonalities of the greatest corporate leaders of the most successful public companies over the last 100 years. I have invested in companies that delivered on their missions and made their investors rich in the process. By placing my interest, passion and purpose in pursuit of a greater understanding of the high net worth set, I have led a rich and full life. Haven’t I? I certainly hope so. Along this journey, however, my lapels have been grabbed sharply by many well meaning folks attempting to shake some sense into me, and shake my confidence as well. I particularly remember a crisp, sunny day while making my rounds up and down Sand Hill Road —the heart of the Silicon Valley, when Paul Saffo, the eminent futurist at the Institute of the Future, and friend, who I spent more than a dozen summers teaching with at Stanford looked at me with such incredulity and said, “ Randy, For God’s sake, when are you going to decide that serving the rich is not a noble life mission? When are you going to take up the cause for those who are truly in need?” His strong sentiment shook me for several days. I thought about his statement seriously. I respect Paul’s fertile mind and he has always struck me as an intellectual with a good, caring heart. As a result, I took stock of my personal charitable giving, I questioned whether my morals and values were all wrong, indeed whether my career had been a waste. But upon much reflection, I came to the realization that my interest in the rich was not poorly placed. The most successful Americans, especially those who are self-made give us a great gift, a gift of hope—hope that we too can join their ranks, that we can, with proper diligence, also enjoy the American Dream. What is America without hope for a better, brighter future? At least in part, that’s what our forefathers had in mind I think when they wrote the Declaration of Independence saying, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.“ And while many unhappy people like to reach for their pitchforks whenever the words “rich” , “Wall Street”, “bankers”, “private equity” or “hedge fund managers” grace our ears, what most enlightened folks realize is that the rich are the ones whose taxable incomes sustain our public education system, our social safety net in the form of Medicare and Medicaid and our police and fire protection to name but a few gifts from the taxpaying “good rich”. Quite simply we have a better, safer, yes richer, life because of them. They also provide for much of our cultural enrichment. Take a map of your town and erase all the institutions that serve you that are provided for by wealthy donors or the tax dollars derived from the rich—the museums, the non-profit organizations, the institutions of higher learning, the parks and suddenly you’ll see a rather barren, desolate map. These gifts from the rich are real. Aren’t they? What do you think?