Darren Walker on Mark Zuckerberg and a new generation of philanthropists

While Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropic pledge has generated controversy, Darren Walker believes their “disruptive optimism” will spur solutions to the greatest challenges of our time.

Published in the Sacramento Bee | December 27, 2015
Zuckerberg’s multibillion-dollar philanthropy pledge will spur imaginative solutions
By Darren Walker

Back in 1908, when John D. Rockefeller announced his intention to create a foundation, the news caused a firestorm. During this pre-income-tax era, inequality was rampant, and Rockefeller was the richest man in America. Immediately, the public and their representatives in Congress questioned the motives behind his act of philanthropy, certain that it was little more than a monopolist’s nefarious scheme.

In fact, after five years of congressional rebuke and rebuff, he turned instead to the state of New York, which in 1913 incorporated the foundation that still bears his name.

Today, inequality is rampant once again – and it has contributed anew to society’s cynicism about a new generation of wealthy philanthropists and their motives. Indeed, in the Bay Area as in New York City, this new wave of philanthropy takes place against a backdrop of gentrification, skyrocketing housing costs and widening wage gaps.

While there is reason to be concerned about concentrated wealth at the top and growing inequality in our society, Mark and Priscilla are calling attention to some of today’s most significant areas of injustice and inequality – controversial and systemic problems, not comfortable and simplistic ones.

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