Berkshire Hathaway 2003 Annual Meeting Audience Question # 42

Warren doesn’t make requests to his friends for anything

Warren Buffett:

Number 5. It’s more fun.

Audience Member:

I’m Will Graves from Winter Park, Florida. I’m a graduate instructor with Webster University. And I’d like to address two questions to Mr. Buffett.

I appreciate the accessibility of Mr. Buffett. He makes us feel so warm here. Could I call you Dad?

Warren Buffett:


Audience Member:

I’ve got one question regarding a National Treasury situation and one considering a national treasure.

Back in September 11, you appeared on “60 Minutes” and performed a national service, taking your valuable time and giving up your private life for a few moments by speaking about the general stock market, and how people should not be getting too excited, and they shouldn’t be worried about investing for the long-term.

And what I was wondering is, if you would ever consider making another appearance on “60 Minutes” at the time when whoever the president is at the time brings up the Social Security debate.

I spend a lot of time with non-profit organizations, and the outrage that you hear from the working poor is that we talk about the tech turnaround, the tech profits of the last few years.

They’ve gone through a whole cycle where people became multimillionaires at a time when the working poor never even got a minimum wage increase.

And if you think of people like this who have a net worth of a thousand dollars or less, just as an example, and just imagine what it’s like for them to be forced, in the future, to be horrible investors because the U.S. government forces them to have something called Social Security, which they can’t get out of, and they get a lousy return.

What I’m wondering is, if you would consider, when we have a candidate, whoever it might be at the time, say that you don’t want to put a small portion of Social Security into the long-term stock market because it’s a risky proposition? If you would take your track record on “60 Minutes” and say, “I don’t think so.” That’s the first question.

And number two, while I’m asking you to volunteer for something, I found myself being thrust into something in the last three weeks.

I went to Cypress Gardens the last day with about 20,000 people there. And the lady was handing out 15,000 fliers. Several weeks from now I’ll be before Governor Bush with the Friends of Cypress Gardens. We have a website,, trying to keep a developer from clear-cutting the trees in Cypress Gardens, a national treasure.

And my question is, would you consider contacting your cousin, Jimmy Buffett, about possibly helping us in some way? Doesn’t have to be money. It might be an appearance. Just might be some connections, where you might be able to help us in our efforts.

Warren Buffett:

I get asked to contact… probably the one I get asked to get contact the most is Bill Gates, but I get asked to contact all kinds of people.

And I mean, everybody is slipping me envelopes with letters in them, sending things to the office and saying, “Won’t you get this person?” and all they can say is no. I don’t do… I don’t make requests of my friends, basically, for anything.

And I just… I would spend the rest of my life doing it. They would feel… I would never know… you know, what they were doing… you know, I would never know what they were doing because I was asking, versus what they really felt. I mean it’s an impossible… from my standpoint at least… that’s an impossible game to get into, in terms of that.

I mean when Kay Graham was alive, everybody, you know, wanted her for one reason or another. And they’ve all got causes.

And, frankly, they, you know, they want to use me to get her, or Jimmy Buffett, or whomever, to say yes to something that they’re saying yes to, partially because they feel they don’t want to say no to me.

And I, you know, that… I just don’t want to use my friendship for that purpose, frankly. And I don’t do it, even for things that I strongly believe in, myself. I do them… they may know what I’m doing, and if they want to pick up on it, fine.

But I have never… I can’t remember ever requesting anybody to make a contribution or do anything myself. I mean what I do is a matter of record, and, you know, if other people want to pick up on it, fine.

But I’ve never had one of those honorary dinners where they send out, you know, to all the suppliers to Berkshire and everything and start leaning on them and saying, you know, “We’re honoring Warren.”

Well, hell, if they want to honor me they can honor me without soliciting all my friends for money. I mean, I don’t consider that much of an honor if the reason they picked me was because I got rich friends. So, I just don’t do that.

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