A constellation of celebrity philanthropists gathered today in Davos to talk about the tough state of giving: Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Jet Li and Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus.
Among the highlights:
—Former British Prime Minister Blair thanking host Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian billionaire who has his own foundation to do good, for “describing me as a European.” (Pinchuk had also called him “charismatic” but Blair let that one pass.)
—Blair noting that 1933 was one of the largest years for giving in the U.S.
—Clinton telling the well-heeled crowd that “we’ve got planes at Davos parked as far away as Milan,” in an effort to help them put their own suffering in perspective.
—Gates, who sat with a bemused smile for much of the proceedings, arguing that he’s “not all that negative” about the environment, noting that “government generosity” in most countries (with the exception of places like Italy) has not gone down.
—Virgin’s Branson complimenting companies like Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia and Interface (Interface!) for incorporating a spirit of giving into their corporate cultures.
—Jet Li enthusiastically sharing his techniques for getting more than one million Asians to participate in his charity.
—Yunus noting that “human beings are more than money-making robots” before teasing Gates to say he “had to get out of the business world” to “do something”.
—Women for Women International founder Zainab Salbi standing up to note that there wasn’t a single woman on the panel (even the moderator was male).
—Gates informing “Brave New Talent” founder Lucian Tarnowski, self-described as 25, that giving among young Americans is abysmal when compared with previous generations.
—MPower Ventures CEO Roy Sosa telling me why Yunus’s model of microcredit doesn’t work in the U.S., from the high fixed expenses of many poor consumers to the impact that violence has had on inner-city culture.
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