N’Gunu Tiny talks about one of his major inspirations, philanthropist, pioneer and visionary Andrew Carnegie.
With a focus on bringing financial inclusion to everyone in Africa, the Emerald Group functions with an eye to morals, ethics and helping others. And part of that is the importance of education, philanthropy and social innovation.
Mr Tiny finds inspiration and information from all walks of life, and there are few pioneers in the world of business that are particularly valued. One such person is Andrew Carnegie.
Who was Andrew Carnegie?
Andrew Carnegie was born in Scotland in 1835 to Scottish/American parents. He went on to become one of the most famous, and most loved, industrialists and large-scale philanthropists of the time.
He eventually became one of the richest people in America, having led the development of its steel industry in the late 19th century. His philanthropy stretched from America across the British Empire, and from around 1900 onwards, he gave away 90% of his entire fortune – roughly the same as $5.2 billion as of 2020.
The money went to all kinds of foundations, education institutions and charities, and he had a particular interest in the wealthy paying their share. Carnegie made this public in 1889 when he wrote an article called Wealth in the North American Review. Today this is known as The Gospel of Wealth.
Those of us in the field of philanthropy consider this manifesto for giving its foundational document. Carnegie thought that wealth should be used to make other people’s lives better during the giver’s lifetime. One of the most famous quotes from is: “The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced”.
How Carnegie built up an immense fortune
Carnegie emigrated to the US when he was 12 and by the 1860s had started investing in the railroads. He became even richer as bond salesman and started the Pittsburgh Carnegie Steel Company, which he sold to JP Morgan in 1901.
This company went on to become the basis for the US Steel Corporation, and for Carnegie meant that he jumped ahead of John D Rockefeller as the richest person in America for a number of years.
Until, that is, he started to give it away. The latter half of his life was completely devoted to using his wealth to help other people. With his fortune he founded:
- Carnegie Hall in New York, which is now one of the most prestigious concert halls in the world and an official New York City Landmark since 1967.
- The Peace Palace, the international law building in The Hague, Netherlands.
- Carnegie Institution for Science (CIS) in Washington, which funds and performs scientific research.
- Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), a foreign policy thinktank with centres in India, Belgium, Russia, the US, China and Lebanon. In 2019, the thinktank was ranked as the number 1 in the world.
- Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, which benefits universities, students and their staff across the country.
- Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, to recognise individuals who perform extraordinary acts of heroism in normal civilian life in Canada and the US. Also to financially support those disabled or the families of those killed. The people who are recognised receive the Carnegie Medal and are eligible for scholarships and other benefits.
- Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Pennsylvania, which is a private research university formed after the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research and the Carnegie Institute of Technology merged in 1967. Alumni include 20 Nobel Prize winners, 124 Emmy Award winners and ten Oscar winners.
- Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, which consists of four museums operated by the Carnegie Institute which include a library, recital hall and the original museum of natural history and of art.
The legacy of Carnegie is immense and far-reaching
This hugely impressive list isn’t the sum total of Carnegie’s philanthropic legacy. He also funded libraries and swimming baths in his native Dunfermline, regularly gave money to hospitals and research centres and so much more.
He also contributed to many magazines, including the already mentioned North American review and The Nineteenth Century. He bought a number of newspapers in England, which he used to advocate for the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of what he called ‘the British Republic’.
Carnegie published three books on travel, befriended all kinds of world leaders, offered $20 million to the Philippines towards the end of the Spanish/American war for them to buy their independence from the US, joined the American Anti-Imperialist League in 1898 along with the likes of Mark Twain and ex-presidents Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland.
It’s impossible for me to cover everything Carnegie did through philanthropic use of his wealth. From 1901, he devoted the final 18 years of his life to using this cleverly accumulated wealth to help millions of people in acts of philanthropy that resonate today.
In total, Carnegie funded around 3,000 public libraries in 46 US states, but also in New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, Britain, Australia, Canada, Fiji and the West Indies. He part funded the establishment of the University of Birmingham in 1899, and donated millions of dollars to all kinds of foundations, trusts and research projects.
Carnegie represents the good that business leaders can do
Carnegie believed that business leaders should live a life of two halves. The first devoted to accumulating wealth in intelligent and non-destructive ways, and the second in using it to benefit others.
He was a phenomenally successful businessman with divisive opinions and a strength of character that did little to harm his relationships with others. While advocating for the end of the Monarchy, Carnegie forged friendships with all kinds of global leaders and English Prime Ministers.
For me, Carnegie exemplifies the very best that you can be as a business leader. He never stopped making intelligent decisions that helped him become, at one time, the richest man in America. But much more than that, he never stopped planning and thinking about how he could use that to leave the world in a better place. He’s the epitome of inspirational.
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