David Cox | Getting and giving
Is this a great country or what?
In what other country can you lead a company into the pits, and still make a fortune?
Last Saturday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch headlined the story of executives of a bankrupted local financial corporation asking for nearly $30 million in severance pay.
It’s AIG all over again. Except AIG is still in business. OK, so it’s still in business because of the generosity of you and me…which may make the AIG bonuses even more offensive. Land-America Financial Group went belly-up the old-fashioned way.
With delicious understatement, a professor at the Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond observed, “It takes some chutzpah. I guess that would be fair to say.” Then he added, “Some measure of outrage is probably justified.” That too would be fair to say.
But let’s not vent the national spleen on those guys alone. After all, they’re each looking out for No. 1, right? And don’t we all? Isn’t that the American way, to put “me” first?
Not necessarily, thank goodness. On the same front page of Saturday’s T-D was a much larger story, complete with full-color picture, of E. Claiborne Robins Jr. His isn’t a household name in the Valley, but you hear it a lot in Richmond. Remember the name of UR’s school of business? That’s his family, who over generations have been tremendously generous not only to the University but to many other worthy efforts in our capital city.
This Mr. Robins continues in the family tradition. He led in raising over $500 million for literally hundreds of worthy enterprises, especially for the young with four feet (SPCA) and those with two (sports programs for kids). He contributes abundantly from his own treasure, which extends well beyond money alone. Because of that philanthropy, he was receiving the “Distinguished Virginian Award” from the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame for all his efforts in promoting sports as a franchise owner and, even more, as a way for kids to grow.
Far better him than, say, Michael Vick, don’t you think?
Jesus said it long ago. It’s better to give than to receive.
What’s true of individuals is also true of society: When what matters is more what we offer than what we extract in life, all prosper.
And that, I’d suggest, is the value that makes this country great.
[Incidentally, our region has a community foundation by which a wide number of people may share in philanthropy. The Rockbridge Area Community Foundation provides a host of ways by which to share one’s blessings with hosts of worthwhile efforts, which can also be specified by the donor. For full disclosure, I’m on its board of directors; but for good information, don’t call me. See its website, www.rockbridgefoundation.org, or call 540.985.0204. It is affiliated with the Community Foundation of Roanoke Valley.]
– Column by David Cox