On February 8, 2018, musician, author, and philanthropist Peter Buffett, son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, entertained and inspired more than 200 guests in Shore's Trustey Family Theatre. The event was the result of a partnership between Shore, the Essex County Community Foundation
(ECCF), and the Boston Foundation
. Buffett, an Emmy Award-winner, used music and personal stories to illustrate how our values—and what we are able to give back to society—shape and define us as individuals.Life Is What You Make It: A Concert & Conversation with Peter Buffett
was a multimedia event that asked audience members to take the reins of their destiny and live life to the fullest. The performance combined music from Buffett on the piano and collaborator Michael Kott on the cello along with video from Buffett's film, TV, and philanthropic work to trace his journey. Using his own life story and experiences as illustration, Buffett ultimately conveyed that one's values should define who we are and what we give back. Buffett's integrity, candor, and musical talent made for an uplifting and rewarding evening.
Buffett is co-chair of the NoVo Foundation
, a grant-making organization that aims to catalyze a transformation in global society, moving from a culture of domination to one of equality and partnership. Through the foundation, Buffett supports the development of capacities in people—individually and collectively—to help create a caring and balanced world. NoVo envisions a world that operates on the principles of mutual respect, collaboration, and civic participation, thereby reversing the old paradigm predicated on hierarchy, violence, and the subordination of girls and women.
In Buffett's best-selling book, Life is What You Make It
, which forms the basis for his evening of music and conversation, the author elaborates on his view of the world and of philanthropy, and shares the strong set of values given to him by his trusting and broadminded mother, his industrious and talented father, and the many life teachers he has met along the way.
Today’s society, Buffett argues, has begun to replace a work ethic—relishing what you do—with a wealth ethic—honoring the payoff instead of the process. We confuse privilege with material accumulation, character with external validation, he believes. Yet, according to Buffett, by focusing more on substance and less on reward, we can open doors of opportunity and strive toward a greater sense of fulfillment.
Part of that change, insists Buffett, requires recognition of the costs imposed by a wealthy, industrialized West on the peoples and regions that produce the goods that enable the West's wealth. As economies around the world are increasingly influenced by the creation of wealth for a few, he believes, millions of people are being deprived of their humanity. Native American peoples are one such group with particular resonance for Buffett. He sees their authentic connections to the land and each other as having been violently disrupted with the arrival of Europeans in search of wealth.
Buffett expanded on these themes during his performance at Shore. Citing the example of his father, the legendary investor, Buffett surprised many in the audience by revealing that Warren Buffett has lived in the same modest house in Omaha, Nebraska, since purchasing it in 1958, still reads the newspaper every evening, and relies on his lifelong connection to the local Omaha community as a central component of his outlook on investing. Buffett also praised his mother's example: she made giving back to the community a priority in the household. The lesson in his parents' understated commitment to their values, said Buffett, is relishing what you do and who you are.
He also spoke of his father's famous pledge to give away most of his fortune during his lifetime. In 2010, Buffett recounted, his father joined Bill and Melinda Gates to create the Giving Pledge
, a commitment by wealthy individuals and families to give away more than half of their wealth to causes including including poverty alleviation, refugee aid, disaster relief, global health, education, women and girls' empowerment, medical research, arts and culture, criminal justice reform and environmental sustainability. To date, more than 150 billionaires have made the same pledge.
At one point during his talk, Buffett praised Shore's core belief in educating the whole child, elevating social and emotional wellness and civic engagement in the curriculum to nurture children who are not only successful in school, but also on the path to finding fulfillment in life based on who they are, what brings them joy, and what matters to them in the world. Buffett also congratulated ECCF for its commitment to philanthropy that benefits local community organizations.
To conclude the evening at Shore, the Vice President and Chief Philanthropy Officer of the Boston Foundation, Kate Guedj, took the stage to thank Buffett, ECCF, and Shore for making the evening possible. Guedj is a Shore alumna of the Class of 1981. She oversees the Foundation's development efforts and works with the Foundation’s donors to help them achieve their charitable and philanthropic goals. Since 1915, the Boston Foundation has served as the major philanthropy for Boston, providing early seed funding to more than 100 nonprofits and innovative ideas.