This post is part of an ongoing series highlighting lessons learned from the book Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children. Read the intro post here.
When you hear the name Rockefeller, you most likely think immediately of money. And lots of it. (Or NBC, I guess, but probably money.) And with good reason. The Rockefeller family is one of the most wealthy in our nation’s history, with patriarch John D. Rockefeller amassing quite a fortune as the tycoon of Standard Oil.
And if you don’t know much about the Rockefellers, you might also think of greed, simply because money and greed often go hand in hand. However, you’d be wrong. John D. Rockefeller was renowned for his charitable giving, doling out more than half a billion dollars – and that was back then. Amazing.
Clearly he passed this generous spirit onto his son, John D. Rockefeller Jr., who in turn proved committed to passing it onto his sons and ultimately to his sons’ sons.
“In other words, you have shown the same sense of stewardship and the same sense of responsibility that Grandfather, by his example, inspired in me. It is, therefore, with confidence and satisfaction that I am planning to share with you still further, from time to time, this trusteeship reposed in me by Grandfather. The wise course you are all pursuing in the use of your resources and your deep and earnest desire to make your lives and your means count as fully as possible for the betterment of humanity would, I know, give Grandfather as great satisfaction as it gives me.
In the meantime, it is not too early for you to begin preparing and training your children to bear their share in these responsibilities.”
It is said that Grandfather Rockefeller’s motto was “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Clearly he walked the walk, and he passed the same commitment on to his future generations.
The letter also tells of how John D. Rockefeller began giving money to charity as soon as he got his first job, at 16. It wasn’t much – three cents here, five cents there – but it got him in the habit of giving, and his contributions grew as his resources grew. The man clearly knew how to manage – and maximize – his money.
Rockefeller’s lifetime commitment to using his money to lift up his fellow man should serve as an inspiration, a lesson, and a call to action for us all.