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Warren Buffett gets personal

April 16, 2010 12:00 am

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Doris Buffett at age 81 with Sunshine Lady Foundation's Diane Grimsley at Beaufort-Morehead City, N.C. Airport in 2009. Late in life, she found happiness in helping individuals in trouble through no fault of her own, giving $100 million of her own money to people she often talked to personally on the phone. She plans to give away the rest of her substantial fortune to people who have had bad luck before she dies. warren-buffett-baby-picture.jpg

Doris Buffett with Warren Buffett as an infant, inscribed by Warren to Doris. warren-buffet-doris-buffett-family-picture.jpg

Mother Leila Buffett with (left to right) Bertie, Warren and Doris, ages 4, 6 and 9 respectively in 1937. Leila, who may have been bipolar, emotionally abused Doris and Warren, causing Warren to run away from home and Doris to believe she was worthless for the first seven decades of her life.

Giving It All Away:
The Doris Buffett Story

Below is a foreword for the new autobiography on Doris Buffett. It was written by her more famous brother, Warren, and is published on fredericksburg.com with the permission of the book's author, Michael Zitz, of Fredericksburg.


"My sister, Doris, is a philanthropist, but far from an ordinary one.

"Some people write a large number of checks; others invest a large amount of time and effort. Doris does both.

"She’s smart about how she does it as well, combining a soft heart with a hard head.

"Doris wisely employs a multiplier factor in her philanthropy, getting others—an army of “Sunbeams”—to aid her.

"These troops don’t enlist for pay, but rather are inspired by Doris’ goal of helping those who have suffered bad breaks in life and have had their plight ignored by others.

"If you’ve created your own problems, don’t bother to call Doris. If some undeserved blow has upended you, however, she will spend both her money and time to get you back on your feet. Her interest in you will be both personal and enduring.

"I’ve never believed that in philanthropy, merit should be measured by dollars expended.

"Lower-income individuals dropping a few dollars into a collection plate every Sunday are likely giving up something their families would enjoy—a more extensive vacation, improvements to their home or the like.

"Real sacrifice is involved.

"To the contrary, neither I nor my children have ever foregone a purchase because the money needed for it was instead allocated to philanthropy. Our gifts, however large, have never impinged on our lifestyle.

"Doris, by no means, lives a spartan life. But she does give away money that, were it used personally, would make her life easier.

She is one of the rare well-off individuals who reduces her net worth annually by making charitable contributions.

"She thus marginally reduces her own standard of living so that she can vastly improve the quality of life for thousands of others.

"For Doris, a lot of good for others takes precedence over small amounts of good for herself.

"More than a century ago, Andrew Carnegie wrote his famous Gospel of Wealth, concluding, “the man who dies rich dies disgraced.”

"Carnegie eventually walked his talk, but only after dallying a bit. At seventy-five, he had given away less than half of his fortune, either because of a supreme optimism about his health or because he enjoyed tempting fate.

"(He then avoided “disgrace” for all time by making a huge gift to the Carnegie Corporation.)

"Doris, it should be noted, has followed Carnegie’s dictum far more religiously.

"If she has her way, the last check she writes will be returned to the payee with “insufficient funds” stamped on it.

"I don’t want to close without telling you about what I believe started Doris on this path. She—and our sister, Bertie, and I—were educated by a wonderful man, our father, Howard Buffett.

"His love for us was unlimited and unconditional.

"He encouraged us to go our own way, instilling in each of us a confidence in our potential.

"The route Doris has taken would please our father beyond measure."

— Warren E. Buffett



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