Rubenstein Pens Smithson Letter

Campaign Co-Chair David Rubenstein

Campaign Co-Chair David Rubenstein 

April 23, 2013

Campaign co-chair and Smithsonian Regent David Rubenstein penned an imaginary letter to the honored guests at the 2013 Regents Recognition Dinner from James Smithson, the Smithsonian’s founder and first benefactor.

Here is the text of that letter:

Dear Friends,

I am sorry that I cannot be with you tonight in person, but I can assure you that I am here in spirit.

Through the advent of new technology, I am at least able to communicate by email, thanks to the assistance of my new good friend, Steve Jobs.

I never imagined when conceiving the Smithsonian, and providing the initial funds for it, that the Smithsonian would grow to the enormous complex of museums and research centers that it has become. Seeing this occur from afar has given me great pleasure. I never had the pleasure of having children, but now feel that the museums and research centers, and other facilities, are my children, and no father could be prouder than I am.

I know that my funds were not enough to create such a wonderful progeny. Indeed, I also know that the funds I provided in my will were actually lost by your government. And so I am particularly thankful to your government for replacing those funds, and also for letting the result still bear my name.

But, of course, even the initial government funds were not enough to create what exists today. What exists today is the result, in large part, of the dedicated efforts of so many employees and volunteers, and the unbelievable generosity of thousands and thousands of people over a great many years.

I recognize that the philanthropy of your citizens is indispensable to continuing to operate the Smithsonian at its current level, and just as importantly, to enable the Smithsonian to reach its ultimate potential. And reaching that ultimate potential will benefit all people — not just Americans and not just those who visit the museums and research centers. 

Tonight I know you are honoring a number of the most generous of these citizens and these philanthropists. I have read and seen what they have done, and their contributions are heart-warming and certain to help the Smithsonian begin to reach its great potential.

So I want to personally add my thanks to those you are honoring tonight. They are contributing to the increase and diffusion of knowledge, and no doubt that will enable them some day to get to where I have the pleasure of being. But hopefully not anytime soon.

Thanks to all of you and thanks for helping to make the Smithsonian, and the world, a better place. I am forever in your debt.

Faithfully yours,

James Smithson

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