On June 21, 2007, The Blackstone Group went public. Within an hour, the investment firm's co-founder Pete Peterson became a billionaire.
Just as immediately, he set about giving the money back.
A philanthropist and student of philanthropy, as well as a longtime advocate for securing America's fiscal future, Pete decided to devote much of his new fortune - $1 billion - to a foundation that would tackle some of the critical challenges threatening the nation's well-being. Among them: large and growing budget deficits, dismal national and personal savings rates, and a ballooning national debt that endangers the viability of Social Security, Medicare, and our economy itself.
For too long, these issues have been the increasingly costly gorilla in the room. Policymakers of all stripes know they are unsustainable, and yet they've been politically untouchable, with special interests and career-minded elected officials lined up to block efforts to address them. The media and the business community seem to share Washington's short-sightedness, preferring to focus on today instead of covering and investing in the future.
Pete decided to invest much of his personal fortune in an unprecedented effort to persuade our leaders and citizens to confront the inconvenient truths threatening our economy and America's future, generally, at home and abroad. He determined that his foundation would have the resources and the leadership to act as an independent, nonpartisan convener and facilitator of solutions that transcend age, ideology and party lines. That it would tackle not only the debts and deficits directly threatening the economy, but also the challenges weakening the foundation of our future: out-of-control energy consumption, an education system that lags behind other developed nations, and a health care "system" that costs more and yet leaves more people behind with each passing year.
Finally, Pete decided that this foundation would make a special effort to inform and engage the people who are most threatened by the collective reluctance to address these issues: young adults.
Pete's dedication to America stems from his own life story, a classic tale of the American dream. He is the son of a Greek immigrant who moved to America as a teenager with no money, no knowledge of English, and only a third-grade education. Taking a job as a railroad dishwasher, he slept and ate in a caboose and saved his wages, eventually opening an all-night restaurant in Kearney, Nebraska. He sent his son to college. From there, Pete went on to succeed in the corporate world, serve in the Cabinet, and on one summer morning, become an instant billionaire.
The Foundation is dedicated to securing the future of all Americans, and to reversing the recent loss of faith that our children will have better lives than we do. By promoting responsibility today and opportunity tomorrow, we will do our best to keep the country strong and keep this very American dream alive.