Leadership 100, one of the major Greek American charitable membership organizations that supports the National Ministries of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, will proudly present the renowned business leader and philanthropist, Peter G. Peterson, to its members and guests as the featured speaker in its first Forum on Business and Philanthropy to take place at 6:30 pm, Thursday, September 9, 2010 in the Atrium of the Olympic Tower at 645 Fifth Avenue (entrance at 51st Street) in New York City. A reception will follow.
The American tradition of philanthropy and business philanthropists has been widely cited as a unique feature of the nation’s culture from its earliest beginnings. In modern times John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie were household names. In recent times, the names of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are celebrated in the daily press and in everyday life. But no one has better defined the relationship of business and philanthropy with such poignancy and insight that derive from immigrant roots and faith in humanity than Peter G. Peterson, whose history and achievements are best known in the board room, the Greek American Community and at Leadership 100 where he is one of its most prominent members.
In a recent letter in answer to an appeal of Warren Buffet to American billionaires to give half their wealth to charity, Peterson was quick to reply:
“I am very pleased to pledge that I plan to contribute the substantial majority of my assets to philanthropy. As you know, I am well on my way. I do so with great pleasure. And for several reasons. My parents were Greek immigrants who came to America at age 17, with 3rd grade educations, not a word of English and hardly a penny in their pockets. Their dream was the American dream, not just for themselves but for their children as well.”
“My father took a job no one else would take – – washing dishes in a steamy caboose on the Union Pacific railroad. He ate and slept there and saved virtually every penny he made. He took those savings and started the inevitable Greek restaurant, open 24 hours a day for 365 days a year for 25 years. Throughout this period, he always sent money to his desperately poor family in Greece and fed countless numbers of hungry poor who came knocking on the back door of his restaurant. Above all else, he wanted to save so as to invest in his children’s education.”
“As I watched and learned from my father’s example, I noticed how much pleasure his giving to others gave him. Indeed, today, I get much more pleasure giving money to what I consider worthwhile causes than making the money in the first place. As I checked with other philanthropists, I found this was a very common experience.”
Peter G. Peterson is Founder and Chairman of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation whose mission is focused on “undeniable, unsustainable and untouchable” threats to the nation’s fiscal and economic future and to future generations of Americans. He is Chairman Emeritus and Co-founder of The Blackstone Group, a private investment banking firm. He is the Chairman Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations (having served as Chairman from 1985-2007). He is also founding Chairman of the Peterson Institute for International Economics (Washington, D.C.) and founding President of The Concord Coalition. Peterson was the Co-Chair of The Conference Board Commission on Public Trust and Private Enterprise (Co-Chaired by John Snow, formerly Secretary of the Treasury). He was also Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York from 2000 to 2004.
Prior to founding Blackstone, Peterson was Chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers (1973-1977) and later Chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers, Kuhn, Loeb Inc. (1977-1984). He was Chairman and CEO of Bell and Howell Corporation from 1963 to 1971.
In 1971, President Richard Nixon named Peterson Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs. He was named Secretary of Commerce by President Nixon in 1972.
Born on June 5, 1926, Peterson graduated from Northwestern University with a B.S. (summa cum laude) in 1947. He received his Masters in Business Administration with honors in 1951 from the University of Chicago.
He has been awarded honorary PhD degrees by Colgate University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Northwestern University, New School University, the University of Nebraska, the University of Rochester, and Southampton College of Long Island University.
Peterson is the author of several books, including Running On Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It; Gray Dawn: How the Coming Age Wave Will Transform America – and the World; Will America Grow Up Before It Grows Old?; Facing Up: How to Rescue the Economy from Crushing Debt and Restore the American Dream; and, his recently published memoir, The Education of an American Dreamer: How a Son of Greek Immigrants Learned His Way from a Nebraska Diner to Washington, Wall Street and Beyond.
Peterson, who resides in New York City, is married to Joan Ganz Cooney, Founder and Chairman of The Executive Committee of Children’s Television Workshop, (“Sesame Street,” “Electric Company,” and “3-2-1 Contact”) and is the father of five children and nine grandchildren.