Langone lectures on business and charity
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 03:04
Ken Langone, a co-founder of Home Depot who is also well known for his philanthropy, delivered the second annual Saul G. Cohen Memorial Lecture titled “Not Business as Usual: When Doing Well Means Doing Good” yesterday in the Rapaporte Treasure Hall.
University President Fredrick Lawrence began the series of introductions preceding the lecture.
Senior Advisor to the Provost for Research Irving Epstein (CHEM) was next to speak and summarized Cohen’s life and accomplishments. Cohen was a graduate of Harvard University, worked for Polaroid helping to develop instant photography and later became a Brandeis professor and the first chairman of Brandeis’ chemistry department. Subsequently, Elisabeth Cohen, Cohen’s daughter, introduced Ken Langone.
Langone began his lecture by commending Brandeis for exploring a multitude of viewpoints on different issues. More broadly, he praised the United States, saying “I think there’s no nation on Earth that reflects more on what philanthropy is than the good old United States of America.” Langone went on to say that he would not have been able to achieve what he has today if his grandfather had not moved to America.
Langone asserted that donations of any kind are only charity if the giver “goes without for someone else.” To provide a concrete example, he said that his philanthropy, or “doing good,” is not in writing checks, but rather in donating time because money can be replaced while time cannot.
He continued to say that individuals who provide true charity deserve to be appreciated. Through his scholarship program at Bucknell University, he recognizes such charitable students, specifically those who have overcome great difficulties or that show great potential for giving back to society.
Langone said that those who make it big are generally good and should not be vilified, because class warfare can be extremely destructive to American society. He further stated that doing good increases one’s sense of self-worth and sense that “the world was better because they were here.” He later said this self-confidence is helpful in achieving one’s goals.
He went on to comment that Americans have shown the ability to do anything, and said that “[the United States is] the greatest nation on Earth, and there will never be an America again like this America. And my advice to anybody who doesn’t like it, get the hell out of here.”
He then stated that success creates self-respect, but that American society does a lot to take away from its citizens’ feelings of self-worth. He elaborated on this point stating, “I don’t know how anybody can have a sense of worth or self-respect if they’re living on a check from the government that they didn’t earn, that they didn’t pay into.” He added that he does not mean that Americans should “go to bed hungry,” but that this kind of system takes away the drive that caused so many people’s ancestors to build themselves up from nothing.
Langone added that he feels much of what he has accomplished was only possible due to his self-confidence, which he gathered from philanthropy. Accordingly, he stated that it is impossible not to gain for oneself from doing good.
Langone’s speech was followed by a question-and-answer session. Langone previously articulated his disdain for the current healthcare bill, later elaborating that it is not incremental enough and, thus, will increase costs. In the question-and-answer session, he added that one of his goals for the future is to provide free tuition for all New York University medical students, in order to attract higher quality students to the medical field by helping reduce the debt that medical students face. After Langone answered questions, Lawrence presented him with the Saul G. Cohen Memorial Lecture Award.
Sarah Zoloth ’14 said that she thought Langone’s ideas on philanthropy were interesting and that “it is nice to see a that … a ‘fat cat,’ as [Langone] called himself, does [philanthropic work] because sometimes you don’t think of them as doing so.”
Daniel Graulich ’12 agreed, saying “I thought [Langone] had a good perspective on charity, [especially] the idea of giving your time and not just writing off a check. … He’s basically the American dream, it’s very inspiring.”