Berkshire Hathaway Rules
Well I've been busy! As my Canserversary approached I planned a weekend getaway to Omaha, Nebraska early May. What better place to celebrate life than the heartland? It was by invitation I was asked to join the Berkshire Hathaway stockholders weekend strictly for fun. I have been given much encouragement throughout the years by Warren Buffett and his loving secretary Debbie Bosanek, whom I adore. They have both been so kind and uplifting throughout my unpleasant journey with cancer .
Warren's first wife Susan, who also had tongue cancer, had been using the same doctors that I started with in San Francisco. This opened communication with Warren and Debbie that has made me realize that there are still a lot of wonderful people left in this world. You just have to find them.
Last year Debbie asked if I'd like to attend the annual meeting and I thought it would be a lot of fun. I was worried if I could make the trip at all. At first I planned to drive and take Dicky, but my doctors didn't think it was a good idea with a biopsy looming. The thought of taking a personal trip kept me on a positive track for months as I looked forward to Debbie's annual dinner party at Piccolos for only the fun people, which turned out to be 100 of her closest friends.
|The Ticket To OZ|
While on the plane I sat next to a woman named Pat who was accompanying a young high school student, Emma Buchanan, who won a contest to meet Mr. Buffett because of a essay she wrote. She was one of five across the nation to receive the this honor. Emma won the trip through the GENYOUth Foundation Adventure Capital Campaign. Each of the five students won $4,000 for their schools to start programs to educate their communities about healthy eating, exercise, and healthy living. They were so very excited about attending the annual meeting and meeting Mr Buffett.
|Mr. Buffett and Emma Buchanan|
I arrived two days before the annual meeting to assure I had plenty of energy for the weekend and that I was rested for the private dinner party Friday night. Debbie kept insisting it was only for the "fun" people. So I had to make sure I had my fun on! It was a very diverse group of fun people for sure. I enjoyed the evening immensely!
|Warren Buffett discusses business with GENYOUth winners|
After the party I went back to a quiet hotel room that the Berkshire office had arranged and found a box of See's Candy on my bed. At the party Debbie had given us a bag of really cool M&Ms imprinted with the likeness of Warren. How cool is that? It was turning out to be a real sweet weekend. The following morning I awoke to a lobby full of cameras and press. There were bright lights and interviews, make-up chairs and camera crews that seemed to show up out of nowhere! It was like someone flicked a switch and there they were LIVE on CNN. Add to that the 40,000 stockholders that filled the arena that morning and I was a bit overwhelmed.
|The Candy Man Can|
I spent 20 years attending conventions and suppliers shows and hearing about company plans and goals for the upcoming year, but I have never seen it done on such a grand scale. This was HUGE and it seemed to go off without a hitch. The entire city of Omaha plans for this event. This is not a weekend for the faint hearted.
I started the morning early. Thankfully the hotel was attached to the venue by catwalk, so I didn't have to walk far or stand out in the cold rainy weather. Once we were allowed in, I made my way to the suppliers show to watch Warren and his pal Bill Gates throw newspapers with a few select people in the crowd. It was a madhouse with even more camera crews and TIGHT security. I couldn't even look Bill's menacing bodyguard in the eyes. He had a very intimidating stance and I usually flinch for no one.
|I put $500 down on Crazy Lady in the Third Race|
|It's Mister Bill|
The whole weekend I had a sad feeling tugging at me. I wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for Susan Buffett. There isn't a day that goes by I don't think about Susan and what she went through before she died. She fought hard and survived tongue cancer only to die of a stroke shortly after. So unfair and such a kind hearted woman. We shared a common charity in San Francisco, Glide Memorial Church, though I didn't even know of her at the time. Our paths might have crossed, yet we never met.
I once took our Love Kitchen (a semi decked out with a complete portable pizza kitchen) rigged to feed the homeless and help with emergency situations to Glide and fed over 2,200 people in one afternoon. Gosh, that was almost 25 years ago. It was a very humbling experience and I was educated that afternoon by Reverend Cecil Williams and the never ending stream of the destitute. It taught me that not everyone who lives on the street is a derelict or crazy person. There is a lot of real need and tragedy out there. It helped me realize that giving back to the community is not only necessary, it's emotionally rewarding. But that's another story for another blog.
|The LOVE Kitchen|
You all know I tend to go off topic a lot here, so I'm sure you're used to it. Now back to the annual meeting... I wanted to sit next to the group of students and their chaperons, but I was told they had to watch the meeting from a conference room in the hotel. So, I was forced to view the spectacle alone. The arena was packed and people were standing in the aisles. I won't go into too much detail because I don't know what I can talk about, but it began with an impressive video showing the GEICO Hump Day Camel commercial that's now on TV. GEICO is one of Berkshire's investments. Then came a lengthy question and answer phase that I kind of zoned out with. Though some of the comments from Warren and Charlie Munger were very entertaining.
I began to realize I was there to see Debbie and Warren and the whole business side of the equation that half the world was there to see disinterested me. I'm not sure why. I've always enjoyed many of the topics discussed. And yes some of the 40,000 in attendance came from all over the globe to hear Warren and his partner Charlie speak their profound financial wisdom. I found some of it interesting, but it was missing some of the meat for me and it was just too crowded to be much fun.
I have a different perception of Warren, I guess because investments have never been a topic. I see him as a kind man, a person with compassion. Though I'm not stupid enough to go head to head with him in business, I certainly would be honored to work along side with him. Respect is a hard thing to come by these days, even harder in business, and even harder yet the longer you're involved in it and Warren's been at it a long time. And this is one man with integrity whom I can respect.
Later on Warren sold jewelry directly to stockholders with an appointment at crazy discount prices. But don't think he was pushing the cheap stuff. Although I'm sure he'd be glad to sell you the cheap stuff if you paid enough for it. The private room cordoned off with red velvet ropes and heavy security held nothing but the best money could buy. Here is just a sample of what you could pick up for a cool $250,000. This is a Christopher Designs of New York original, with 18 carats of exquisite diamonds. Just the thing to make your honey melt. If you're interested let me know. Maybe I can get you a discount. :)
|How to make a woman happy 101|
When I look at Warren I see a fun man, young at heart, who in his youth once convinced his friend Kerlin to strip naked on a golf course and fish golf balls out of a pond at midnight. The man who played the Ukulele and sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to put his children to sleep. The man who never left his wife's side as she battled her way through tongue cancer in San Francisco. I hope I see the real man, even though most define him by his monetary accomplishments. That has no interest to me.
Warren encouraged me when I tried out for America's Got Talent with his witty banter that just made me appreciate him even more. Oddly I'm missing the whole mogul side of the equation and I can't put my finger on why. He has a lot of my father's qualities and I guess that makes me feel differently about him. In fact my father made his living as a paperboy on the streets of Detroit as a kid during the depression, so the whole newspaper throwing contest brought back a flood of memories of my dad that weekend. I left Omaha tired and rather sad for a number of reasons...mostly because I miss my dad.
THANK YOU DEBBIE FOR YOUR GENEROUS HOSPITALITY!
These kids are an inspiration. A video from the GENYOUth weekend in Omaha.