Warren Buffett was the guest of honor last night for the 25th anniversary dinner of the Economic Club of Washington, D.C.
The chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. shared the stage with David Rubenstein, chief executive officer of the Carlyle Group and the club’s president, for its dinner speaker series. On the small table between their two chairs was Buffett’s ever-present can of Coca Cola.
Google Inc. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, MicroStrategy Inc. CEO Michael Saylor, and BET Networks CEO Debra Lee were among the 1,600 at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park hotel.
Rubenstein at one point asked the 81-year-old Buffett about his likely successor.
“You’re not on the short list, David,” Buffett deadpanned.
“Am I on the long list?” Rubenstein asked, to applause and laughter.
“He’s a big flirt,” said Lee about her previous meetings with Buffett. “He’s really funny.”
Deploying his folksy humor, Buffett regaled the crowd with stories from his youth in Washington, as the son of a U.S. congressman. Rubenstein presented Buffett with a varsity jacket from his alma mater, Woodrow Wilson High School, an original map of Washington and a copy of the Declaration of Independence.
Boosting charitable giving by the club and its 570 members is one of Rubenstein’s priorities as president, a position he has held since 2008. Last month, he announced funding to raise the amount of merit and need-based scholarship awards to local graduating seniors to $10,000 from $5,000; he also made possible increasing the number of recipients to 44 from 38.
In honor of its anniversary, last night the club gave $50,000 in grants to organizations including E.L. Haynes Public Charter School, Latin American Youth Center and the Alexandria Seaport Foundation, which provides paid apprenticeships in boat building to disadvantaged youth and young adults.
The primary draw of the club is its speakers, and Rubenstein’s track record on this count is also impressive. Lloyd Blankfein, CEO and chairman of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., is speaking to the club on July 18. Facebook Inc. Chairman and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and President Barack Obama are on his wish list. The conversations are broadcast on C-SPAN.
The club was founded in 1986 and is one of the younger “Economic Clubs” across the U.S. The Economic Club of New York began in 1907, the Detroit Economic Club in 1934.
Women make up 25 percent of the club, for which the annual dues are $1,850. A membership committee led by Christopher Simmons, Washington Metro managing partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, makes selection decisions. Membership has grown by 5 percent annually during the past five years.
Rubenstein’s term has seen the development of smaller dinners, board meetings and lunches for more intimate interactions. Lee hosted one of the first lunches on May 7.
Tonight the Friends of Adam Smith will hold its gala at the Mellon Auditorium and present its Adam Smith Award to Rep. Harold Rogers, Kentucky Republican.
(Stephanie Green is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
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