George Soros may be the 29th richest person on the planet – with an estimated worth of $11 billion – but things weren’t always so rosy for the illustrious investor.
Interviewed on Harlem Talk Radio, the Hungarian native, whose family was forced underground to evade the Nazis during World War II – and who later worked as a railway porter – recounts what prompted his most recent act of munificence.
This week, George announced that his Open Society Institute made a $35 million donation to Back To School New York, a joint effort with the State of New York and U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services that provides grants of $200 per child to more than 850,000 families receiving public assistance or food stamps. The money is to be used to buy clothes and supplies for the new academic year.
“Once, I was also a recipient of support, when I was a student. I was studying at the London School of Economics, and working as a waiter at night,” George, who turned 80 this week, tells host Simone Perry.
“Then my tutor discovered I was doing that – and that I had to do that – so she submitted my name to the Quakers.
“They sent me a check like this, without any questions asked. I didn’t have to apply,” he adds.
“And I thought, That’s the way to do it. So it gives me a real pleasure to do it for other people now. In a way, it paid off for the Quakers to send me 40 pounds.”
Also on the show is N.Y. Governor David Paterson, who worked with George to add another $135 million in federal stimulus funds to Back To School New York.
“I’m just trying to help a situation that these people don’t understand,” says the governor in response to critics who bashed the program, which – unlike food stamps – allows the grants to be redeemed for cash, and thus prone to fraud and abuse.
“Either they don’t understand, or they deliberately criticize it because there’s a stigma about people who are on any kind of assistance – that they’re all welfare cheats, that they take their checks right to the liquor store, and all kinds of stereotypes.”
To hear Harlem Talk Radio‘s full interview with George and the governor, click here.
To read more about George’s philanthropic efforts, click here.
To check out the Harlem Talk Radio website, click here.