Of all the power which will shortly come into your hands--gradually at first, but then with a speed that will take your breath away--the greatest is undoubtedly the power of compassion, the ability to give. We have enormous resources in this country--resources you yourselves will soon command--but they are only yours on loan. Only yours to give for a short while. You'll die broke. In the end, it's the blink of an eye. I came here to talk about charity, and I want you to think about it on a large scale.
|We have enormous resources in this country, but they are only yours on loan. You'll die broke.|
Should you give away what you have? Of course you should. I want you to consider making your lives one long gift to others, and why not? All you have is on loan, anyway. All you want to get at the getting place, from the Maserati you may dream about to the retirement fund some broker will try to sell you on, none of that is real. All that lasts is what you pass on. The rest is smoke and mirrors.
We've elected an administration--I guess we elected them, we might as well say we did--that takes a dim view of charity as national policy. George W. Bush talks about "compassionate conservatism," an oxymoron right up there with "jumbo shrimp" and "humane execution." What he's talking about has been Republican Party bedrock for a hundred years; it amounts to, "Don't give a man a fish, give him a fishing pole and teach him to fish." (This, of course, would be before idiotic conservation and environmental policies render the whole concept of "fish" irrelevant.) My own philosophy--partly formed as a young college graduate without a job, waiting in a line to get donated commodities for the kids--is by all means give a man a pole and teach him to fish, but people learn better with full bellies. Why not give him a fish to get started?
Giving isn't about the receiver or the gift but the giver. It's for the giver. One doesn't open one's wallet to improve the world, although it's nice when that happens; one does it to improve one's self...I give because it's the only concrete way I have of saying that I'm glad to be alive and that I can earn my daily bread doing what I love. I hope that you will be similarly grateful to be alive and that you will also be glad to do whatever it is you wind up doing. Giving is a way of taking the focus off the money we make and putting it back where it belongs--on the lives we lead, the families we raise, the communities which nurture us.
Right now we have the power to do great good for others and for ourselves. So I ask you to begin the next great phase of your life by giving, and to continue as you begin. I think you'll find in the end that you got far more than you ever had, and did more good than you ever dreamed.