Friday, February 15, 2008


Philanthropy is a process that is largely misunderstood by most of us. Here is James Armstrong receiving a proclamation from Mayor Will Wynn honoring him on February 23 with "James Armstrong Day." That day the Opera Ball will be held which is honoring him this year. James puts his name on donor lists and endowed the opera's Music school to be the James Armstrong Music School. At Ballet Austin's new home, the multi-purpose studio with a glass wall to the street was christened the "Armstrong/Connelly" studio for he and his partner. You might think people do this for attention, but really for most of us the attention isn't all that welcome. I worked on a capital campaign with James and he told me that his father taught him to never give anonymously. "My father told me that if your friends see your name," he said, "then they will give, too." People do give to honor one another's causes and it matters who is asking. My father never had much opportunity to be a philanthropist or to teach his kids about giving in the big leagues. But I've learned a bit from people like James who were kind enough to befriend us.

Which, of course, brings me to a line I came up with which is funny but also very, very true for me: "I always wanted to be a philanthropist, but I never had enough money!" I wouldn't enjoy the attention James gets but I would enjoy the giving and the power one's money has to change things. And thanks to James and others in our community like Ernest and Sarah Butler I would understand the power of using your name on your giving to influence others.

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