I haven’t had a lot of good to say about the USA during the last four years. But even before the disastrous 2016 presidential election, the nightmare version of the American Dream was frequently on my mind. My otherwise good, supportive parents as the children of immigrants and adults during the Great Depression had an overly high regard for the elixir quality of money. My sister was counseled to “marry well,” and the notable investment in my private education—four years at boarding school followed by four more at Yale—was primarily so I could become a well-paid professional. Alas for them, my sister was widowed at 40 by her middle-manager husband in Argentina, and I became a member of a notably poorly paid profession, college teaching.
This morning, a week before Christmas Eve in this year of our Covid 2020, however, I read an article in the New York Times that made me change my tune, at least for today. A reporter with the impressive name of Anemona Hartocollis wrote an article about the stunningly large gifts to colleges by MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, currently the richest person in the world. Ms. Hartocollis reported that in the last four months Ms. Scott, herself the world’s 18th richest person, has donated nearly $4.2 billion to some 384 nonprofit organizations. Thus far this year, in fact, she has given away almost $6 billion. When asked why she was doing these unimaginable acts of charity, she replied, “This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling… Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, people of color, and for people living in poverty.” Not surprisingly, her recent gifts, all unrestricted and in the multi-million-dollar range, have been to historic Black colleges and universities as well as to community colleges that serve largely minority populations. This in contrast to the fact that the wealthy generally give to their alma maters and/or to the Harvards and Yales of the country.
As the photo below shows, Ms. Scott is an exceptionally young and beautiful philanthropist. Giving away millions, not to mention billions, is typically something done by the generous elderly. Here is someone truly beautiful inside and out. As an educator I would love to know what combination of nature and nurture created a human being able to be counter-cultural in this incredible way. Ms. Scott, thank you for your wonderful example. You have brightened a dark year for me and doubtless many others. Like Abraham in the Hebrew Scriptures, you have been blessed to be a blessing. Thank you.
Your beautiful generosity gives me faith in my country again.