Another Side of David Rockefeller We Can Learn From


We have in the past few days written about David Rockefeller, the American billionaire philanthropist, who died a little over a week ago at 101.

We said he was super rich and kind, an exponent of America’s first truly rich family. Like his grandfather, John D. Rockefeller Sr., David gave away a lot of money, even to Liberia.

But there was something else about David Rockefeller that we have not yet touched upon.


David Rockefeller was a highly disciplined man. He had more money than his entire generation could ever use. Some of it was inherited. Remember his grandfather, John D. Sr. – and by the same token David’s father and all the uncles, aunts and cousins, who were also rich.

But a lot of David Rockefeller’s wealth came from his own initiatives, especially in banking. He joined Chase Manhattan Bank right out of Harvard and in time grew it into one of America’s most successful banking institutions. After over 60 years, it is still one of the world’s leading financial centers, now known as JPMorgan Chase.

The first thing we learn about David Rockefeller’s discipline is his careful handling of money. He never spent it recklessly. He invested, not in the good life—wine, women and food and other pleasures—but in business.

How do we know that he did not spend his money on women? Three reasons: first, we know what the lust for sex does to men—sickness and short life; second, it depletes your finances; third, messes up your family life. Mr. Rockefeller, however, lived a very long life—a century plus. And when his wife died in 1996 they had been married for over 50 unbroken years.

Look around the world, and even Liberia, and see what people often do with their money—we are talking of very small money. We know of at least one Liberian man—who off and on had one job, but had at least four women and 18 children, most of whom he could not educate—and didn’t even care.

Right here in Liberia, too, we have had people who became relatively rich—surely not as rich as Rockefeller, yet with a lot of money to spend. And what did they do with it?

Instead of using some of that money to improve the schools that educated them, their fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters—the College of West Africa (CWA), Bromley, St. Patrick’s, St. Theresa’s Convent, Monrovia College, St. John’s and its girls division, Bethany, and high schools in Buchanan, Greenville and Cape Palmas, these rich Liberians sent their children, from very young ages, to England, Switzerland and the United States, spending hundreds of thousands of US dollars improving other people’s schools—people in rich and highly developed Europe and America who did not need our money.

Look at Liberian education today. Take CWA alone—the school that trained MOST of Liberia’s leaders, including our current President and Vice President—neglected, substandard, and has been that way since the American Methodist missionaries left. How shortsighted, selfish and uncaring can a people be! Why does God help people to become rich—to be mean, selfish and self-centered? Now look at where Liberia is today.

But look, too, at the Rockefellers, epitomized in so many, but most especially David. He supported many educational causes around the world; and what did he do for the schools that educated him—Harvard and the University of Chicago? He gave them millions of dollars, and just one of his gifts to Harvard amounted to US$100 million.

The other reason we extol David Rockefeller’s discipline is that he focused on his business and left politics alone!

They say when people get money, they want power. Look at some of the people running for office in Liberia. Many have some money, and instead of starting big businesses and industries to employ more people and help develop their country, no, they want and have to be President!

But many without money are also seeking elective office, in the House and the Senate—why? For the same reason most of the others who are there and have been there wanted legislative power—to become lawmakers to pay themselves fabulous salaries and benefits, while the people they claim to represent live in poverty and squalor on under a dollar a day.

What is our point about David Rockefeller, discipline and politics? Unlike so many rich people, including the current American President, David knew his limitations and decided to stick to what he knew and loved best—business. In this, he made the world—and himself—far richer, and happier.


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