tv David Rubenstein Interview CSPAN September 7, 2015 8:00pm-8:36pm EDT
he was a person who -- there was a pleasure that he felt when he showed people. when you're normal, if you don't have this aspect in your personality it is very difficult to grasp. >> sunday night 8:00 eastern and pacific on c-span's q&a. >> american history tv visited the national archives in washington, d.c. to talk with billionaire philanthropist david rubenstein on patriotic giving. on exhibit are two documents he purchased, the magna carta is and 1823 engraved copy of the declaration of independence. mr. ruben stein spoke with us from the gallery that bears his name and where magna carta is displayed. this is about 30 minutes.
>> david ruben stein, we are at the national archives in the exhibit which contains the magna carta, which is here because of you. this is your first effort in 2007 at what you are calling patriotic fill plan low my. tell me about how you got started with this document. >> it wasn't as if when i was growing up i said i would like to own the magna carta. in fact, i didn't know you could own a magna carta. i was reading my mail. i saw i was invited to a reception in new york a at sotheby's where it would be displayed. i thought there was one and it was in london somewhere. when i got there, the cure ator explains there are 17 copies of the magna carta, several different versions from 1215 and 1297. this is the only one in private hands. it was bought by ross perot in the early 1980s. he put it on display at the national archives. ultimately he decided to put it up for sale.
it would be auctioned the following night. the cure ator said it would be unfortunate if it left the united states. the bill of rights, the institution. therefore, i thought maybe it should stay here. of the 17 copies, one should stay in the united states. i just resolved the next indictment night to come back and buy it. i didn't tell anybody because it sounds presumptuous. i came back. i went to the auction. i was fortunate to win. and i called the head of the national archives and said i'm going to put it here on permanent display. it will be a permanent loan and will be here forever. >> there is a little more and color. mr. ross perot did not stipulate that it should stay in the united states. >> i don't know the reason for that. i think he was very happy that i was the winner, i'm told, because i made sure that it would stay in the united states.
i saw his son ross perot jr. about it. i think they were happy it worked out this way. i don't know why he didn't stipulate it. but it worked out okay. anybody can see it. it is in the national archives right behind me. it is something. the only version that went into effect was the 1297 version. it is nice and historic. but it never went into effect. it was abrogated by king john two or three months after he actually signed it or put his seal on it. because he was afraid he would be ex communicated by the pope because the pope didn't like it, among other reasons. the other versions didn't have any lasting effect. the 1297 did go into effect and was in the books of england for many, many years. >> when you actually had won the auction, what's your feeling? >> well, the auctioneer came in, david reddin, who heads-up sotheby's. he said, congratulations.
who are you? i had never been a customer. he said, it's yours. provided you have the money. dow have the money for this? i said yes. now that you own it, you can slip out the side where nobody will know. there were 100 reporters and they would like to know. i said, okay, i'm happy to meet the reporters. i went out and said, look, i am buying this on behalf of the country. it is a down payment on the gift of mine to being an american citizen. i want to help the country this way so americans can see it. what's the value of seeing it? it's a piece of parchment and it's 800 years old. is it a life experience? not necessarily. maybe it will help people learn more about american history. if people learn more about american history, they will be better citizens. if we have better citizens, we will have a better country. >> part of the goal is not only learning about the history products that you funded but learning about your motivation and goals for this.
being washingtoni aans, we are familiar with the carlyle group. you and your founders were not very public people. yet you decided to go out and talk to the 100 reporters. was that a conscious decision on your part? since then, you have been much more public. >> in the early years we weren't all that big or successful. we were modest and nobody paid attention to us. as it became clear we made a successful go of it. my partners and i have become much more involved in the community and much more involved in fin hand throw my. i was one of the first signers of the giving pledge. that means you will give away half your wealth. i said i will give back more than that. i came from very modest circumstances. i'm very blessed. my company got more successful than i thought it would be. patriotic philanthropy is a
phrase i more or less kind meaning you're giving back to the country that reminds people of the historic importance of things in the country, monuments, documents or things. all philanthropy is patriotic in a sense. but i mean that you are giving back to remind people the heritage and the history. all philanthropy is probably good. but this is one segment of what i do. i've gotten more attention because not as many people are focused on it. many people give to health or education, as i do. not many people giving to patriotic philanthropy. >> you have given money to a number of organizations which get a great deal of federal funding or entirely government constitutions. some people are saying, why isn't the government doing that? what is your response? >> the government of the united states has $19 trillion of in debtedness, not counting the 60
trillion for medicare and medicaid. the government is not going to be able to fund the way they used to be able to do so. the library of congressing smithsonian, kennedy center, they just don't get from the federal government the money those organizations would like. the only way they will be able to do things they should do is by private support. i am encouraging people to give to these organizations when they have a capital campaign or are raising money to do certain things the government can't give them money to do. >> when you give, do you get to decide what the exhibits look like? do you have a an input on how things are displayed? >> no. i'm not an expert? that. i have an idea and say i would like to give money for this. you figure it out. you're the experts. or they may come to me. for example, the magna carta is here. they asked if i would help put a
gallery where that and other historic documents could be displayed. i have no role with where they put it and how they organize it. >> have you ever stood off to the side and watched as people have gone through? >> not really. when we have the ceremony opening i was here. i have been here a couple times on occasions. people are interested in it. this document does get people's emotions a bit. they have never heard of it, never seen it. the original of the constitution and the original bill of rights. i like to hold dinners and events and take people to show them the documents. their jaws drop because they have heard about these documents but have never actually seen them. so it does make people feel more patriotic when they see these documents. >> i've heard you decry the lack of education, history education by people in the united states. and i'm wondering what seems actually societal trends are going the other direction. we're all social media,
personality driven as a society by and large. what really can be done to turn that around? do exhibits like this make a difference in the long run and the larger body politics interest is? >> well, there's no doubt that people in our country are concerned about the lack of, say, science and technology training. therefore, we might be behind some foreign country or something like that. so the phrase s.t.e.m. has been invented to say we need to do more in science, technology, engineering and math. but i think you're really much better citizen if you know the history of the country, history of the world, how to think out of the box, you do things that are not just dependent on is s.t.e.m. related education. i do try to promote the idea of people learning about their country's history. i do think that's an important thing. i'm not a lone voice in that. others are doing it.
maybe i have gotten some more attention because of some of the documents i've been able to buy. i think it's important we have people learn more about our cup's history. the theory that if you are more knowledgeable you will avoid the mistakes we made in the past. and you will be more proud of what we have built. we have built an incredible country. >> you were a school kid in baltimore. your parents didn't graduate from college. perhaps even high school. is that correct? what informed your own interest in history? >> maybe i wasn't good in s.t.e.m. related things so i devoted myself to do other things. i did not major in history. i was a major in political science at duke university. but i have always been interested in it. i like to read a lot of history books. maybe it is is something i can understand better. if it was physics, i wouldn't be able to talk about it. >> was there a good teacher that interested you? usually people can point to a
source to someone that flipped the switch on. >> i had excellent ones in history. college i did as well. i can't say there's any one. over a period of time i began to realize it was something i was interested in. i just kind of like to think about what it was like to be involved with those historic events. and i always try to read history books and say what would it be like the if i were there and what would it be like to talk to these great historic figures. in the reverse position, i ask them, say they're an author, what would you have liked to ask this person or said to this person. i often wonder myself what would i like to say to abraham lincoln, george washington or other figures if i had a chance to talk to them. >> if you could define the aspect you are most interested in that informs your contributions and what you read, is there a particular mind-set, period of time, set of people that are of most interest to
you? >> well, i would say the revolutionary war period is historic. and founding fathers, george washington, hamilton, madison and benjamin franklin, thomas jefferson. i read a lot about and i'm interested in. that was an historic time in our country. and also the civil war. abraham lincoln and all who led in the north and the making of the country as it was. wars are very interesting. world war i with woodrow wilson. i think they are all incredible figures. and i can't think anybody, though, can-can george washington and abe lincoln for their importance to the country. but a lot of presidents did things for which we should be grateful. >> do you have a photographic memory? >> i wish i did. i really don't. but i do have to read a lot of things.
not completely photographic. >> whenever you talk you are able to recall extensive amounts of data about particular periods of time on a moment's notice. >> my brain may work that way. when you're making a speech or interview, shoe try to do it without notes i have trained myself to do that. people feel when you are speaking without notes you are really paying attention to what you are saying and you really know it yourself. so when i do an interview, i don't like to look down at notes because the person i'm interviewing is saying, well, geez, you're really getting something somebody else gave you. you're not having a conversation with me. when you give a speech, it is better to talk to a an audience and not looking down. generally i prefer to know what you're talking about. it's not like a speech. it's just a conversation. >> you're going to challenge me not to look at my notes.
>> realize i shouldn't say that. but it doesn't work for me well as it does with other people. >> after the shootings? charleston, there's been a very rapid reaction and rethinking of the way states and even the federal government honors or remembers civil war history and figures, thinking about the flag in mississippi and south carolina. there are civil war confederate statues boxed up by states right now. there is the national debate going on. the democratic party has just decided to end the name jefferson jackson dinner saying the figures no longer represent the party. what are your thoughts about the revisiting of how we preserve history when it becomes offensive to people? >> i think we should a always remember the people who signed the declaration of independence, one-third of them were slave
owners. when you learn about the great things that george washington, thomas jefferson did, they were slave owners. so i think you should learn the good and the bad. i don't think we should ignore them a as being important. you should recognize they lived in a different time and they did things then that today are offensive and immoral. >> after this project, magna carta, 2007, the next eight years have been full of a great deal of this kind of work. how do you decide which projects you're going to give money to? tell about about your favorites things. >> one, buy historic documents and put them on display where americans can see them, think about american history, and do more to learn about it and perhaps be better citizens. i bought rare copies of the declaration of independence, emancipation proclamation, the constitution, and so forth. and put them on display in various places in washington or
other major cities. and i think people like to see these documents. another thing is is buy historic building that maybe need additional support to be rehabilitated. montpelier where james madison lived. or monticello where jefferson lived. or the mansion where robert e. lee lived at the top of arlington are some places i've been involved with. so those are some things i'm trying to do. but i'm trying to make sure people learn about american history and try to identify things that would be useful for people to know and try to do my part is getting people to know more about history. >> you, i understand, don't have a foundation? you're doing this all through your own auspices? >> i don't really have a foundation. i guess there are tax reasons why you could have one or not. i haven't figured out any benefit for me. so i fund whatever i fund and i'm fortunate to be a able to do that. >> how does it work?
do people send you proposals all the time? >> when you sign the giving pledge you are a walking advertisement that you are going to give away your money. >> the mail slot must be full constantly. >> i get $50 million in requests every week for gifts. i get them from people i've never heard of, some people that i am involved with a great deal already. generally like most people i like my own ideas better than somebody else's idea. if i have an idea i'm more likely to support it. but there's no doubt some people have good ideas. and i will support them. so it's a random process. it is not a case of having a systematic team. kind of do it on my own. other people have people that help them do that. maybe that's a better process than mine. i just do this on my own and figure out. i'm sure i made a lot of mistakes. some probably worked out better
than i deserved. >> do you have an annual figure in mind? >> i don't have a figure. but i try to give away at least half my annual income. so that's fortunately a fair amount of money. i try to give that way every year. i just turned this week 66. and so i'm fortunate to have gotten to 66. i probably have another maybe 15 years or so to go. maybe a little bit more. and so i try to give it away during my lifetime. >> it is is more fun to do it yourself than someone after you're gone i would imagine. >> if you think you're going to get to heaven and you're going to see what people are doing but i'm not sure i'm going to get to heaven. i'm not sure i would be able to see what people are doing. so i would rather do it when i'm a alive. >> i saw on "60 minutes" you
employ the mother stand. when your mother gets excited it also makes you feel pretty good about it. you have to say when someone is a billionaire and has built an incredibly successful company, it is rather interesting that mom is excited about your history giving. >> well, let's put it this way, in the universe the strongest magnetic force is a that between a mother and son. particularly if it's a good relationship. i'm very fortunate my mother is still with us. she's living in florida, which i like to say is a suburb of baltimore. and she's very engaged in terms of reading about what i do. when i was building she was proud but not as proud as the things i do when i give away money and doing things to help other people. >> what does the rest of your family think of this? your children, your spouse? >> well, i think they're happy that i'm happy. happiness is is the most elusive thing in life. the fact that i'm happy makes them happy. they all see me i guess as a bit
of a role model and are trying to do things themselves. i think they want to have their own lives. their lives are not being my child or my spouse. you try as a parent to be supportive. buff you try not to smother them either. it's a bit of a burden growing up in a wealthy family in people have such expectations you do yourself when it may not be possible to do what your parent did. it's nye combination nobody have figured out perfectly. how to give money to children, how to make them feel productive, how much money do you give them for their own living standards. it's complicated. at giving pledge meetings we often debate what you should do with your children. nobody has figured this out obviously perfectly. >> a couple of the individual projects in the time that we have. we didn't mention the washington monday. . after the earthquake, there was a lot of concern about the damage.
did you a matching pledge. >> initially i saw the head of the park service. i asked if i could put up the money to fix it. he said okay. he told me what it would cost. i said no problem. but then later he said members of congress or someone wanted to match it or at least be involved. i didn't obviously care. it was a good idea to have a public/private match. i hope we can do that with more things. it took a while to get it done. i did get to the top of it. it is an incredible view. i looked from the top of the washington monument. it was inspiring. >> i heard you sketched your initials. >> time will tell. when you get up there you might see it up there. it was the tallest building in the world when it was build. it is still the tallest obelisk, stone structure. sit 555 1/2 feet. >> let's go across the river to the mansion that has been in disrepair for quite a long time.
sit an iconic spot pause of the view of washington, its proximity to the arlington cemetery. what do you want to accomplish there? it is one of those things associated with general lee and the civil war. >> it is also associated with george washington. it was his step-grandson who actually built it. and therefore it was built as a monument really to george washington. and it was a land that george washington's family once owned. later robert e. lee married into the custus family. but i view it as the cap stone of arlington ceremony. if you go to arlington where so many people are buried, it's a really religious place. and i think the top of that where people tend to visit after they've done something at arlington or visited i think it should be in better shape.
when i toured it, i realized it was someone decrepit and really wasn't as interesting as a place as i thought it should be. i said to the park service i would put up the money to fix it and now it's in the process of being fixed. it is not because i think it's only robert e. lee but to george washington and to robert e. lee who worked on the south in the civil war obviously was a general. but he was an incredible american and what he did after the war and before the war for the united states is quite incredible. i think people at arlington is an historic place. something that is the cap stone that should be in better shape. >> in mt. vernon, george washington's home, since it became a registered historic site by a private organization, it has had a lot of success in raising money. what more did you feel like you could do to such a successful place?
>> the mt. vernon ladies association bought it in the late 1800s and did a great job of restoring it. it is is a holy shrine. when george washington was alive and after his death had fallen into disrepair. they made it a great place to visit. but they wanted to build a library to george washington. most presidents have libraries after they have left office. george washington didn't have a library. and so i was trying to help them a bit in getting that library built. i have done that and some other things there. i think they have an excellent organization. americans learn a lot about history. >> so while we're talk building washington and your interests, what is the best biography you have ever ready. >> ron chernal, his recent one volume book on washington is spectacular. >> and when you think about him and his contribution, you mentioned that we have to remember that he was also a slave holder, what are the
things we should remember george washington for? >> george washington should be remembered for this. he invented our country in many ways. he invented the country because he won the revolutionary war as a general. we might not have won that war. secondly, he presided over the washington convention. i'm not sure we would have had a constitution. he invented the constitution and invented the presidency as the president of the united states, the first president. so he did those things that invented the constitution, presidency, and helping to win the war. but he gave up power after he was a revolutionary war general. when he gave up power after the revolutionary war, king george iii said if that's true, he's the greatest man on the face of the earth. it is so unusual to give up
power and not run something afterwards. but washington did that. and he did it after the second term as president. he could have had somebody related to him succeed him. or someone he could have designated a as successor. he chose not to do that. he chose to go to mt. vernon and give up power. it is one of the most important lessons he left the country. >> if you could be a scholar studying some aspect of george washington, what would it be? >> the years between the time that he gave up revolutionary war leadership and became president, those are interesting times. he didn't want to come back and be president. he didn't want to preside over the convention. he helped the country while he wasn't really in office. so those years are important years as well. >> so we go down the state to monticello, a gauge gift to the people who run it there, what are you doing with that one? >> when i toured mont cello, i thought it needed repair.
i asked what would be helpful to them. they had some ideas. one of the things we wanted to do is build out monticello to make it look like it had existed years ago, which is to say it was a plantation. so we wanted to build out slave quarters to make people realize monticello is a great house. but he was a slave owner and ran a plantation. i think people should go and recognize there was a plantation and see the slave quarters. that's one of the things we're trying to do. we want to improve the second and floor floor. people usually didn't normally get to see. now they can do that. >> we have five minutes left. you have a lot of money to give away. if you're thinking about much of your wealth the next 15 years or so, how do you plan going forward to do all of this? it must take an enormous amount of time? >> well, i have less money to pledge than some people.
but fortunately i do have money to give away. they are ones i can make a difference. i don't have the money of bill gates or warren buffett. i can't tackle what they are had he tackling because i don't have those resources. i can start something that wouldn't get done. i can finish something that's having a hard time getting finished and complete something while i'm alive. if i wanted to save the health problems in affect, i don't have the resources or the life span to see that to fruition. it doesn't mean i shouldn't start. but i want to see things be completed while i'm alive. >> can it be small as well as large? >> it can be. i do things small as well. they don't get as much attention. many things i do are not in the history area, scholarships or things like that. but i'm interested in many things. maybe you have something you're interested in. >> not pitching.
just asking. so getting back to your love of reading, you mentioned that you interview. we covered you in a number of panels you monitored, interviews you have done. why have you added to that your public schedule as well and what do you get out of it? >> i enjoy it. i enjoy reading books. i enjoy entertaining people a bit. when i do it, i try to do it with some humor and try to make it entertaining for people. it's fun for me. just one of the things i enjoy in life. but i wouldn't say i have your skill or experience in doing it. i enjoy doing it, nonetheless. >> is there an interview that you haven't landed yet? has anyone said yes? i want to interview you. >> it would be a short interview. >> we can reverse some day and i get to interview you. >> but other than that? >> i have interviewed warren buffett and bill gates and i find that interesting.
i haven't interviewed barack obama. that would be fun. i have interviewed bill clinton. and i will be doing george bush. maybe barack obama will give me a chance some day. >> we just learned that the president you worked for jimmy carter, has cancer. it seems it might be serious. what is your relationship with him like and what did working for him do? >> i was very young. i was 27 to 31 when i do it. it was quite a while ago. he was an incredible person to work for because he gave young people an opportunity. most of the staff was very, very young. he was 52 when he became president. left the office at 56. he is now 90 years old. he's lived longer than anybody that has been president of the united states. he has done incredible things. written 28 books. he has done incredible things like help cure guinea worm and river blindness in africa. the carter center.
he has been a role model for former presidents. and we have a new office in effect because of what president carter did, which is the ex president, former president. it used to be if you were a former president you sat on your porch for a few years and died. george washington lived three years after he left office. now we have the ability to influence the world and do good things. bill clinton has done things like this. george w. bush. i suspect barack obama will do the same. we created goodwill am bass tors from around the world. >> did you maintain your relationship with him over the years? >> i would say he is very busy and i wouldn't want to claim a close relationship with him but i have seen him from time to time. >> i want to close where we talked about your acquisition of the magna carta. as you look at the important documents that have framed this country, are there any that you have your sights on that you haven't yet been able to get? >> these are historic documents. you know, the ones that are most
important, the constitution and bill of rights and declaration of independence. and there are rare copies of them. there are always more that might come along. one of the most important things is the gettysburg address. lincoln wrote out five copies of it. two of them are at the library of congress and will never be for sale. one is at the white house. one at cornell. and one at the abraham lincoln library. if i don't buy them they will never be for sale. it is an incredible speech, i think the greatest speech ever given in our country. when you read it, it brings chills up your spine how eloquent and brief it was. >> to understand this document is on permanent loan. it belongs to you but you have loaned it. could you ultimately change your mind like mr. perot and then take it back? >> the way i have looked at these documentsis is this. i could always give it, of course. but i would like to own it. when i own it, i can make sure it will be displayed in an
appropriate way. if i give it to an organization and they put it in the basement, i'm not happy that it has not been displayed properly. i can make sure it was displayed the way i think it should be displayed. ultimately on my death, i suspect these organizations will be happy. >> on that point, as we sit in front of the magna carta and it's almost time for people to come in and look at, thank you for spending half an hour with c-span. appreciate your time. >> my pleasure. >> you're watching american history tv. all weekend every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span history. >> he was a nazi. he was a concentration camp
commandant. he was responsible for the murder of thousands of jes. >> jennifer teaga on the discovery that her grandfather was known as the butcher of plasou. >> you would see a tremendously cruel person. he was capable -- he had two dogs. he trained them to tear a human apart. i think it sums it up really good. he was a person who -- there was a pleasure that he felt when he killed people. and it is something that when you're normal, if you don't have this aspect in your personality, it is is very, very difficult to grasp. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern and pacific on c-span's q&a.
>> recently american history tv was at the society for historians of american foreign realizes in arlington, virginia. we spoke with professors, authors and graduate students about their research. this interview is about 20 minutes. james gray wilson, the a author of a new book on reagan, gorbachev, but also the historian for the state department. let me ask you about that first. what is your job? >> i'm one of the number of historians at the state department led by our elite historian dr. steven randolph. we work on a project called the foreign realizes of the united states series, which is a congressionally mandated documentary record of u.s. diplomacy and daughter of foreign relations. we currently work at about 45 covering the reagan administration from everything such as the