From all accounts, Peter Buffett is known internationally as a trailblazer, an activist, a musician, a philanthropist and most notedly, none other than Warren Buffett’s youngest son. But surprisingly, to his own accord, none of his accomplishments were rooted in his father’s money, but were instead founded by his choice of passion over traditional conventions.
While new cars, new houses, and piles of money may come to mind when thinking of Peter’s upbringing, he sheds light that one’s demeanor is deterministic of lifestyle choices and parental guidance, with his, of course, breaking our idealistic social norm. To add to his family’s merit, it should be noted that Peter’s story began in an era where consumer culture was starting to flourish, yet an extravagant lifestyle was neither seen nor sought by his family. He grew up not only amiss to what his dad was doing, but also unaware as to the extent of the money earned, as it was never his fathers goal. Fittingly enough, Peter too found success when he unknowingly became involved with a now infamous music station, MTV. Through sound bites, commercials, and his widely known scoring of a scene from Dances with Wolves, Peter forged his own path on an unconventional journey, away from the Hollywood lights and the Los Angeles boulevard.
Peter and his wife, Jennifer, began their philanthropic quest in 1999 with the creation of the Spirit Foundation, which later on was renamed to the NoVo foundation. With one billion dollars to give away over the lifetime of the foundation, Peter and his wife have traveled and sought out parts of the world that could flourish if given the opportunity. They learned a great deal, but most importantly to listen, and it was through these years that NoVo derived its mission to appreciate the worlds most undervalued asset, a girl.
When questioned as to how his foundation would lay the groundwork for generation Y, he responded by saying that in all revolutionary instances, there was someone to lead the way, whether it be with money, people, force, or simply time, and he hopes that his foundation is that like-minded catalyst for change. While millennials may not be as cultured or aware as to some of the world issues, there are still grass-root efforts which can contribute to the broader message. Any effort that brings us closer to determining the root cause of our issues, separating symptoms from causation, is working towards a greater good, which is exactly the definition of philanthropy.
Millennials can be challenged to look down their own streets, because as Peter has mentioned, acts of malice take place on the other side of the world but also are no stranger to our local communities. Too often it takes tragedy or acts of god to dismantle the walls that divide our communities, but when we do tear them down and form relationship based livelihood, we prosper. Local community is the root of world-wide revitalization, because as Peter mentioned, if you live in a town where your banker is also your friend, your neighbor, and your fellow city dweller, there is a relationship of trust and most importantly, social responsibility.
Peter Buffett is author of New York Times best-seller Life Is What You Make It, a book which recounts his upbringing and what shaped his identity and beliefs.