In an age when "big business" and "corporate greed" seem to be synonymous in the public mind, some bright lights occasionally emerge from the darkness brought on by AIG big spenders and over-the-top high-livers.
One such light is the CEO of the Aflac Insurance Company (known for the duck in the TV commercials). Dan Amos announced last week he would forego a $13 million golden parachute his company would owe him were he to be fired or lose his job in a merger or acquisition. In an interview with USA Today, Amos said, "If they don't think I am doing a good job, they don't have to worry about paying me off." How refreshing.
It would be nice to know how many honest, humble and philanthropic business leaders we have in America. I'm sure they far outnumber the bad ones so often profiled in the media. But then honesty, charity and virtue are not "news," we are told. Maybe not, but by promoting the sleazy and tawdry, rather than the virtuous and admirable, you are likely to get more of the one and less of the other.
The Philanthropy Roundtable, a national association of individual donors, foundation trustees and staff, and corporate giving officers, this month awarded the founder and CEO of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain, S. Truett Cathy, its William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership. The prize, named after the late secretary of the treasury, recognizes the highest ideals of corporate and individual philanthropy.
Cathy is the poster boy (if at 87 one can still be called a "boy") for selflessness and integrity. He is also a model for what giving back can do for individuals and a nation. "My wife and I were brought up to believe that the more you give, the more you have," Cathy told Philanthropy magazine. "Few people actually believe in this, but we do."
What has been lost in this model, which is reflective of another age, is the amount of satisfaction one gets by pouring one's life into other people. In our marketing environment, big houses and boats, private planes and lots of money in personal accounts are said to be the source of pleasure and contentment. Cathy's wealth, while considerable in dollars, is defined by nonmaterial standards. This includes the $18 million his WinShape Foundation spent just last year on foster homes, college scholarships, a summer camp and marriage-counseling programs.