“When you promote the arts, you’re promoting the best the human brain can come up with.”
–David Rubenstein, 2016 David Rockefeller Lecture
Last week, the David Rockefeller Lecture on Arts & Business was reborn. 50 years ago David Rockefeller – former Chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan Corporation – gave the founding address for the Business Committee for the Arts. 50 years later David Rubenstein – co-founder and CEO of The Carlyle Group, one of the world’s largest private equity firms – revived the lecture series with a humble, humorous, and passionate speech to an audience of over 200 at The TimesCenter in Manhattan.
After remarks from Americans for the Arts CEO, Bob Lynch, and President and CEO of the Conference Board, Jon Spector, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Youth Orchestra Blakey Ensemble performed a short set for the crowd. Acclaimed singer, Renée Fleming, introduced Rubenstein by outlining his unfailing support for the arts, culture, and history around the country, and thanking him for dedicating so much of his prosperity to charitable causes.
Kicking the speech off with a joke that he was asked to speak simply because his initials match David Rockefeller’s, Rubenstein eschewed the podium in favor of standing directly in front of the audience. He balanced the speech with moments of measure and wit, and argued that “business leaders should talk about the arts more commonly than they do. The three central factors in measuring the sustainability and ethical impact of an investment in a company (ESG) should become ESGA: environmental, social, governance, and the arts.” He stressed that when business leaders “promote the arts, they’re promoting the best the human brain can come up with.”
After talking about how much he enjoyed the musical sensation, Hamilton, Rubenstein read a playful and imaginary letter from Alexander Hamilton in the afterlife, relaying his regrets for not supporting the arts and design in life as much as Thomas Jefferson did. He closed by saying that we should all learn from Hamilton’s remorse for not recognizing the power of the arts while living, and reaffirmed his commitment to supporting the arts in the community, the workplace, and life.
To learn more, check out the video from the lecture on the Americans for the Arts website.
Founded in 1967 by Rockefeller, the Business Committee for the Arts encourages, inspires, and stimulates businesses to support the arts in the workplace, in education, and in the community. The lecture series was created to advance Rockefeller’s belief that the arts are essential to free enterprise and human achievement, and to encourage businesses to form alliances with the arts as an expression of their broader responsibility to their communities.
Want to follow David Rubenstein’s lead? Find a partner in the arts and get started.