After years of being among the world’s billionaires and the only one among the top five not to publicly pledge to give away more than half of his wealth in his lifetime or his will, Amazon founder and the world’s fourth richest person, Jeff Bezos, said he plans on giving away the majority of his $123 billion fortune while he’s alive. “Yeah, I do,” Bezos told CNN when asked if he planned to give away most of his wealth.

Bezos’s girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez, vice chair of the Bezos Earth Fund, said they are currently “building the capacity to be able to give away this money.” The latest Bezos Courage and Civility Award recipient was country music legend Dolly Parton, who received a $100 million grant to use however she chooses.

“When you think of Dolly, look, everyone smiles, right?” Sanchez told CNN. “She is just beaming with light. And all she wants to do is bring light into other people’s worlds. And so, we couldn’t have thought of someone better than to give this award to Dolly, and we know she’s going to do amazing things with it.” Parton responded to the award on Twitter, adding: “I will do my best to do good things with this money.”

In August 2010, billionaires Warren Buffett, Melinda French Gates, and Bill Gates created a movement called The Giving Pledge in which 40 of America’s wealthiest people committed to giving the majority of their wealth to address some of society’s most pressing problems.

The pledge has since been signed by several ultra-wealthy business leaders worldwide, including Bezos’ ex-wife MacKenzie Scott. She has already given away $14.4 billion to nonprofits. She is worth almost $30 billion.

“We each have gifts we have to offer by an infinite series of influences and lucky breaks we can never fully understand,” she wrote in her 2019 pledge letter. “In addition to whatever assets life has nurtured in me, I have a disproportionate amount of money to share. My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time and effort, and care. But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty.” Reacting to the Amazon founder’s announcement, Stacy Palmer, editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, told The New York Times that it was a “giant statement.”

jeff bezos
Seattle City Council/Wikimedia Commons

“This is a giant statement, not just because of the amount of wealth he has, but because he might really have a ripple effect on what others choose to do,” Palmer said. Bezos’ announcement on Saturday was overshadowed in part by information reported on Monday that Amazon will lay off some 10,000 people in corporate and technology jobs beginning as soon as this week.

“Jeff Bezos laundering a gauzy story about how he’s committing to philanthropy just before his company announces massive layoffs is chef’s kiss billionaire/media behavior,” editor of the Discourse blog, Jack Mirkinson, noted on Twitter and in a blog post.

“This is explicit PR work for someone who absolutely does not need CNN’s help to boost his profile — and rather than treating Bezos as the highly controversial person he is, [Chloe] Melas and CNN treated him as a warm and fuzzy oracle whose every banal pronouncement is a prized gift from above.”

Whether it is a PR stunt or genuine, Jeff Bezos giving away most of his fortune is inspirational and should be celebrated.

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