tv David Rubenstein Interview CSPAN September 13, 2015 10:30pm-11:04pm EDT
succeeded him in a special election where she is now in congress. she has spoken of this a number of times. when she was elected to congress, she has given media interviews on this and does speak about this in the spirit of what kind of person leo ryan was and the mission he went on and why it was so important for him, and also the way he was a mentor. in some accounts, he is described as a father figure to her. >> you are watching american history tv all weekend, every weekend on cspan3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook. visitedcan history tv the national archives in washington to talk with billionaire philanthropist david rubenstein about what he calls patriotic giving. on exhibit are two documents he
the 1290 seven magna carta and a rare 1823 in great copy of the declaration of independence. mr. rubenstein spoke with us from the gallery that bears his name and where magna carta is .isplayed yo this is about 30 minutes. >> we are at the national archives with the magna carta here because of you. ats was your first effort what you call patriotic philanthropy. tell me the story of how you got started with this document. mr. rubenstein: it is not as if i was growing up saying someday i want to own a magna carta. what happened was i was reading my mail and saw i was invited to a reception in new york at sotheby's where the magna carta would be displayed and i presumed it sold. i thought there was one in london. when i got there, the curator explained there are 17 copies.
there are several different versions. this was the only one in private hands. it had been bought by ross perot in the early 1980's and put on display in the national archives. he decided to put it up for sale. it was to be auctioned the following night. the curator said it would be unfortunate if it left the country because it is the only one in the united states. it was the inspiration for the declaration of independence, the bill of rights, the constitution. i thought it should stay here. i figured of the 17 copies, one should stay in the united states. i resolved to come back and buy it. i did not want to tell anybody because it sounded presumptuous. i went to the auction and was fortunate to win. i called the head of the national archives and said i'm going to put it here on permanent display forever. host: there is more color and nuance to the story. i heard you were surprised mr. perot, a patriot, did not
stipulate it should they in the united states. mr. rubenstein: he did not stipulate that. i don't know the reason. i think he was happy i was the winner, i am told, because it make sure it would stay in the united states. i did see his son. they were happy it worked out this way. i don't know why he did not stipulate that. it worked out ok. now anybody can see it in the national archives. it is the only version that went into effect, the 1297 version. the 1215 version is historic but never went into effect. it was abrogated by king john months after he put his seal on it because he was afraid he would be excommunicated by the pope. it never went into effect. the other versions did not have lasting effect. this one did go into effect for many years.
host: when you won the auction, what was your feeling? mr. rubenstein: the auctioneer came in and said congratulations. who are you? because i have never been at 70's as a customer. i explained who i was. he said it is years provided you have the money. he said now that you own it, you can slip out the side door. nobody will ever know or there are 100 reporters here and they would like to know. i set i'm happy to meet reporters. i said i am buying this on behalf of the country. it is a down payment on my obligation to repay the gift i have for being an american citizen and i want to help the country this way, so americans can see it. what is the value of seeing it? it is a piece of parchment 800 years old. is somebody going to have a life experience seeing it? hopefully, it will make people think more about the declaration
of independence and other historic documents to learn more about history. my theory is if people learn more about american history, they will be better citizens and have a better country. host: part of our goal is not about the project you have funded but about your motivation and goals. being washingtonians, we are very familiar with the carlyle group. it seemed as you were building the company, you and your cofounders were not very public people. yet you decided i'm going to go out and talk to 100 reporters. was that a conscious decision on your part? since then, you have been more public. the earlytein: in years, we were not that successful. nobody paid much attention to us. it became clear we made more money we could spend. my partners and i have become much more involved in the community and in philanthropy. i was one of the first signers of the giving pledge, there were
40 others. that means you will give away half of your wealth. i said i will give away more. i'm determined to get back to the country. i have been blessed. i came from modest circumstances. i started a company that became more successful than i thought it would be and are trying to getting back to the country. areiotic giving means you giving back to the country in a way that reminds people of the historic importance of certain things in the country. monuments, documents, the things. all philanthropy is patriotic any sense -- in a sense helping your country. i mean you are getting back people of heritage and history. all philanthropy is good. this is one segment of what i do. i got more attention for it because not as many people are focused on it. many people give money to health and education, as i do, but not as many people give money to patriotic philanthropy. i'm trying to encourage others to do it because i don't have all the resources to do it myself. host: you have have given money
to a number of organizations funding or areal entirely government institutions. people say, why isn't the government doing that? what is your response? mr. rubenstein: the government has indebtedness. the government will not be able to fund things the way it used to be able to. the national archives, the library of congress, the smithsonian, the kennedy center, they don't get from the federal government the kind of money those organizations would like. the only way they will be able to do the things they should do is get private support. i am encouraging other people to give to these organizations to raise money to do certain things the government cannot get the money to do. do you getyou give, to decide what the exhibits look like? do you have input on how things are displayed and what the messages are?
mr. rubenstein: i'm not an expert. i either have an idea and say i would like to get money for this or they may come to me with a proposal. but i have no expertise in this. the magna carta is here. they asked if i would put up money to put a gallery together where it and other historic documents could be displayed. i had no role in where they put it or how they organized it. it is a good thing because i have no expertise. host: have you watched as people have gone through? mr. rubenstein: not really. i have been here on occasion. people are interested in it. this document does get people's emotions. they have heard about it but have never seen it. upstairs is the original declaration of independence, constitution, and the bill of rights. i like to hold events and show the documents. drop because they have heard about the documents but never seen them.
it does make people feel more patriotic when they see these documents. host: i have heard you in speeches decry the lack of history education by people in the united states. , it seemsring societal trends are going the other direction. we are social media driven as a society. what can be done to turn that around? do exhibits like this make a difference in the long run? there is noin: doubt people in our country are concerned about the lack of science and technology training. therefore, we may be falling behind some foreign country. the phrase stem has been invented to say we need to do more insights, technology, engineering, and math. i think that is a good thing. but i wish people cared about history and humanities at an equivalent because i think you are a better citizen if you know the history of the country, the history of the world, how to
think outside of the box and do things not just dependent on stone-related education -- stem-related education. i do promote the idea of having people learn more about history. i do think it is an important thing. others are doing it. maybe i have gotten more attention because of the documents i have been able to buy. i think it is important we have people learn more about our country's history on the theory that if you are more knowledgeable, you will avoid the mistakes of the past and be more proud of what we have built. even though we have problems, we have built an incredible country. host: you were a school kid in baltimore. your parents did not graduate from college, perhaps not even high school. what inspired your only is just in history -- your own interest in history? mr. rubenstein: i was always history in -- interested in history. i was a major in political science at duke university. i like to read history.
it is something i can understand better. if it was physics, i would not be as knowledgeable were able to talk about it. host: was there a good teacher that interested you? to a people can point person that flipped the switch on. i had excellent ones in the baltimore school system and in college as well. i began to realize it was something i was interested in. i like to think about what it was like to be involved with those historic events. i always try to read history books and say, what would it be like if i had been there? what would it be like if i could talk to these people? very often when i'm interviewing i say, what would you have liked to have asked were said to this person? i often wonder what i would like to say to abraham lincoln or george washington or other great american figures if i had a
chance to talk to them. ant: if you could define aspect of american history your most interested in that informs your contributions and what you read, is there a particular mindset, time, or set of people that most interest you? mr. rubenstein: the revolutionary war history, the founding fathers, benjamin franklin, thomas jefferson, are all people i have read about and are interested in. also, the civil war, abraham lincoln, all the figures that led to the victory for the north and maintenance of the country. i think all periods of time when we go through wars are interesting. world war i and world war ii. i would not say there is anyone. i think they are all incredible figures.
i don't think anyone can rival george washington and abraham lincoln for their importance to the country, but other presidents have done historic things for which we should be grateful. host: do you have a photographic memory? mr. rubenstein: i wish i did. i don't. i read a lot of things and remember them but not completely photographic. host: when you are talk, you are able to recall extensive amounts of data on a moments notice. mr. rubenstein: my brain may work that way. but my general view is when you are listening to a speech or doing an interview, you should try to do it without notes. i trained myself to do that. people feel when you are speaking without notes, you are paying attention to what you are saying and know it yourself. when i do an interview, i don't like to look at notes because the person i'm interviewing would say you're getting something somebody else gave you. you are not having a conversation with me. when i give a speech, i find it is more effective when you're talking to the audience. occasionally, i've had to read
speeches. i don't like to do it. generally, i prefer to know what you are talking about. you can have a conversation. it is not like a speech. it is a conversation. host: you're going to challenge me not to look at my notes. mr. rubenstein: there's nothing wrong with it. it does not work as well for me as other people. host: after the shootings in charleston, there has been a rapid reaction and rethinking of the way states and the federal remembers honors or civil war history and figures. i'm thinking about the flag of mississippi and in south carolina. there are civil war confederate statues being boxed up now. there is a national debate. the democratic party decided to in the name of the jefferson-jackson dinner. about theour thoughts
revisiting of how we preserve history when it becomes offensive to people? mr. rubenstein: i think we should always remember the people who signed the declaration and constitution were slave owners. most of our early presidents were slave owners. when you learn about the great things george washington and thomas jefferson did, you should put it in the context that they were slave owners. today that does not look good. i think you should learn the good and bad. i don't think we should ignore these figures as important, but i do think you should recognize this is a different time and they did things we would now find offensive. whichafter this project, started in 2007, the next eight years have been full of this kind of work. how do you decide which projects he will give money to? tell me about one of your favorite ones. mr. rubenstein: i tried to do two things.
by historic documents and put them on display were america can see them and do more to learn about it and be better citizens. i thought rare copies of the declaration of independence, emancipation proclamation, the 13th amendment signed by lincoln, and put them on display in major cities. i think people have liked to see these documents. another thing i try to do is find historic buildings that need additional support to be rehabilitated. monticello or mount vernon or the mansion where robert e lee lived are some places i have been involved with. do that in other areas. i am also trying to make sure people learn more about american history and try to identify things that would be useful for in gettingo my part people to know more about history. host: you don't have a foundation. you are doing this through your
own auspices? mr. rubenstein: i don't have a foundation. i have not figured out any benefit for me so i find what i think i showed an unfortunate to be able to do that. host: how does it work? do people send you proposals all the time? mr. rubenstein: the giving pledge, you are a walking -- when you signed the giving pledge, you are a walking advertisement that you are giving away your money. i get requests from people i have never heard of and people that knew me barely and some i am involved with a great deal already who ask for additional support. generally, i like my own ideas better than somebody else's. it is not uncommon to like your own better. if i have an idea for something and somebody comes to me with an idea, there is no doubt sometimes people have good ideas and i will support them. it is a random process. it is not having a systematic
team to analyze these things for me. i do it on my own. other people have people that help them. maybe that is a better process, but i do these on my own and figure out what i want to support. i am sure i have made mistakes and some things have worked out better than i deserve. host: do you have an annual figure in mind or as a project interest you? mr. rubenstein: i tried to give at least half of my annual income. i'm very fortunate that is a pair of not of money. i try to give away at least that every year. i'm very fortunate that is a great amount of money. i just turned 66. i'm fortunate to have gotten to 66. i probably have another 15 years or so to go, maybe more. i'm trying to give it away during my lifetime. in my will, many of these things are dealt with. host: it is more fun to do it
yourself i would imagine. mr. rubenstein: if you think you're going to get to heaven and be able to see what people are doing, that is fine. i'm not sure i will get to heaven and be able to see what people are doing so i would rather do it alive. host: i have heard that you employ the mother standard. if your mother gets excited about a project, it makes you feel good. when a billionaire who has built a successful company, it is interesting mom is excited about your history giving. mr. rubenstein: in the universe, the stalinist magnetic force is between a mother and son, particularly if it easy -- is a good relationship. i'm fortunate my mother is still with us living in florida. she is very engaged in terms of reading about what i do. ien i was building carlyle, think she was proud but not as proud as she has become as i'm
doing things to help other people. host: what does the rest of your family thing, your children, your spouse? mr. rubenstein: i think they are happy i am happy. happiness is the most elusive thing in life. the fact i'm happy makes them happy. they see me as a role model and are doing things themselves. they want to do their own lives. their lives should not be dependent on being my child or spouse. they are doing good things. you try as a parent to be supportive, but you try not to smother them. it is a bit of a burden growing up in a wealthy family in that people have expectations of what you will do when it may not be possible for you to do what your parent did. it is a combination nobody has figured out perfectly. how you give money to children, how much money they should have to give away, how much money we should give them for their own living standards. it's complicated. we oftenving pledge,
debate what you should do with your children. no one has figured this out perfectly. host: we did not mention the washington monument. after the earthquake, there was lots of concern about the damage to the iconic structure. you pledged half of the $15 million. i saw the head of the park service and asked if i could put up the money to fix it. he said ok and told me what it would cost. i said no problem. later, he said congress was willing to be involved. i think it is a good idea to have a public-private match. i hope can do that with more things. it worked out. it took a while to get it done. i did get to the top. it is an incredible view. it was quite inspiring. host: i heard you also sketched your initials up there. mr. rubenstein: you can take a look at it. it is an inspiring building.
it was the tallest when built and is still the tallest obelisk in the world. it is 555.5 feet, probably the tallest structure in washington forever. host: the mansion has been in disrepair for a long time. spot because of its proximity to the arlington cemetery. what do you want to accomplish? this is associated with general lee and the civil war. it is alsoein: associated with george washington. it was built as a monument to george washington on land the family-owned. robert e lee married into the family. that is how he happened to live there. i view it as a monument to washington as well as robert e. lee. i see it as the capstone of
arlington cemetery. people are buried there who have given their lives to our country. it is a religious place. visit.can i think it should be in better shape. i realized it was decrepit and was not as interesting as a place as i thought it should be. i told the park service i would put up the money to fix it. it is in the process of being fixed. it is not only because of robert e. lee. it is a monument to george washington and also a great but hen, robert e. lee, was an incredible american in what he did before and after the war for the united states. i think being a arlington is an historic place. something that is the capstone of arlington should be in better shape. run: mount vernon has been
by the mount vernon ladies association, a private organization. it has had a lot of success raising money. what more did you feel you could do to such a successful place? the association bought it in the mid-1800s and did a terrific job restoring it. it was a holy shrine in washington was alive and after his death. it had fallen in disrepair. they've done a wonderful job restoring it and making a great place to visit. they wanted to build a president for washington. george washington did not have a library. i wanted to help them get the library built. i have done that and other things. i think they have an excellent organization. i try to help them with something i thought was a good idea. host: what is the best washington biography you have read? mr. rubenstein: there are
terrific ones. charnell's book on washington is spectacular. host: when you think about him and his contribution, you mention we have to member he was a slave holder, what are the things we should remember george washington for? mr. rubenstein: george washington invented our country in many ways. he invented the country because he won the revolutionary war as a general. secondly, he presided over the constitutional convention. without his doing so, i'm not sure we would have had a constitution. he invented the constitution, the country, and the presidency. he did those things that invented so many important and the country by hoping to win the war. the most important thing he did was he gave up our. ast people who win wars
general say i will stay in power. aftere gave up power the revolutionary war and went back to mount vernon, king george said he is the greatest man on the face of the earth. it is so unusual for a winning general to give up power. he also did that after the second term. he could have stayed forever and had someone related to him succeed him or someone he could have designated a successor. he chose not to do that. giving up power was one of the most important lessons he left the country. host: if you could be a scholar in your own library studying an aspect of george washington, what would it be? mr. rubenstein: the years between when he gave up leadership and became president were interesting times. he did not want to be president but he did a spectacular job
helping the country while not in office. those are important years as well. host: in monticello, a major gift to thomas jefferson's home. what are you doing with that? mr. mann -- mr. rubenstein: i thought it needed repair and asked what would be helpful. they had ideas. we wanted to build out the monticello, make it look like it had existed years ago. it was a plantation. we wanted to build out the slave quarters to make people realize monticello was an incredible house designed by an incredible man the likes of which we will not see again, but he was a slave over and ran a plantation. i think people should recognize it was a plantation and see the slave quarters. we are trying to improve the second and third floors that people do not usually get to see. now people can do that. host: we have about five minutes left. you have a lot of money to give
away over the next 15 years or so. how do you plan going forward to do all this? it must take an enormous amount of time. mr. rubenstein: i have less money than other people who have signed the giving pledge. i'm fortunate i have money to give away. i look at where i can make a difference. i don't have the money of bill so i or warren buffett, cannot tackle the problems they are because i don't have those resources. i'm looking where i can start something that would not otherwise get done. i can finish something having a hard time getting finished. i can do something that will be completed while i am alive. i want to solve -- i'm not sure i have the resources or lifespan to solve the problems in africa. that does not mean i should not start, but i'm looking for things where i can see something completed while i am alive and where i can get something started that is not being done or finish something having a
difficult time being done. host: can it be small? mr. rubenstein: i do think small that don't get as much attention. many things not in the history area are smaller like scholarships. i'm interested in many things. maybe you have something? host: just asking. getting back to your love of reading, you mentioned you interview. we covered you at a number of panels you have moderated. why have you added that to your public schedule as well? what do you get out of it? mr. rubenstein: i enjoy it because i enjoyed reading the books or about other people. i enjoy entertaining people. i try to do it with humor and make it entertaining. it is fun for me and one of the things i enjoy in life. i would not say i had your skill or experience, but i enjoyed it nonetheless. host: is there an interview you have not landed yet? mr. rubenstein: i would like to
interview you. host: other than that? mr. rubenstein: i've interviewed warren buffett and bill gates. i have not interviewed barack obama. i have interviewed bill clinton and i will be doing george is soon, so i will enjoy that. we just learned that jimmy carter has announced that he has cancer. what is your relationship with him and what did working with him mean to you? >> i was very young, so it was a while ago. he was an incredible person to work for. he gave young people an opportunity and he was young himself. he was 52 when he became president and let the office at 56.
he's now 90 years old. he has done incredible things since he has left office. he has written 26 books and has done incredible things like curing guinea worm and river blindness in africa. foras been a role model other presidents. because of what a former president has done, it used to be that you set on your porch for a few years and died. now we have former presidents with the it ability to influence the world with good things once they leave office. bill clinton has done this and george bush and i suspect barack obama will. president quarter was a person who helped create that. -- president carter was a person who helped create that. i have seen him from time to time.
aboutstarted with talking your acquisition of the magna carta. i feel -- as you look at the important documents, have there been any you've had your sights on that you have not been able to get? >> the constitution, bill of rights, and declaration of append -- event dependence are the most important. address, lincoln road outside companies. -- lincoln wrote out five copies. sale.ill never be for those are quite interesting documents. i think it is the greatest speech ever given in our country. it brings chills up your spine. >> this document is on permanent loan.
could you ultimately change your mind and take it back? what is the idea of a permanent loan designation? >> i could always give it, but i would like to own it. i can make sure it will be displayed in appropriate ways. if they put it in the basement, is not convinced it displayed appropriately. upon my death i suspect these organizations will be happy. >> as we sit in front of the magna carta, i will say thank you for spending and half an hour with us. >> my pleasure. >> up next, other tenants davis discusses