CMD transcribed audio of Betsy and Dick DeVos being interviewed at an event called “the Gathering” in 2001. The audio is available here.
Founded in the mid 1980’s, the Gathering is an annual conference and fundraiser attended by wealthy members of the religious right. According to Bruce Wilson of Two Care Center Against Religious Extremism, an organization that monitors religious extremism in the United States, describes the Gathering as: an event “which each year brings pious billionaire donors together with ‘idea men’ who have bold plans to remake America and the world.” The purpose was “to pool their fortunes to roll back objectionable aspects of modernity – especially women’s rights, gay rights, the teaching of evolution and environmentalism in schools, and return America to its alleged biblical foundations. They also envisioned a bold new era of muscular ‘biblical capitalism’ and a strategic partnership between churches, corporations, and the state.
Man: The worst nightmare in this role is that you look out and your speakers are there. Ah, but there they are. Isn’t that great? We are so glad to have Dick and Betsy here with us tonight and I’m going to ask if they would, or did I miss them? Thank you. Come on up and they’re already wired up and mic’d and they’re going to sit here and we’re going to move the podium back and we’re going to have a conversation. Many of you know Dick and Betsy, if you were here last year you remember my brilliant introduction of Chuck Colson, he told us later on it was the single worst introduction he’d ever had because I got up and froze. I couldn’t remember knowing Chuck and everything I knew about Chuck just went right out the door. But I’m not going to do that with Dick and Betsy because these are two wonderful people that I’ve known for ten or twelve years in one capacity or another. The biography that’s in the book is pretty simple. It’s the biography that’s not in the book that we’re going to talk some about tonight. We’re going to talk about family, we’re going to talk about where they came from, we’re going to talk about where they see themselves going too. What they care about. What the issues of their heart are. We’re going to talk about their kids and we’re just going to have a good time with them tonight. Y’all ready for a good, they’re ready for a good time.
So we’re going to do this for about twenty-five minutes, until I run out of questions. And then we’re going to take questions from you. So, they have agreed that they’re willing to do that with y’all, I told them that they can trust you and so. We’re going to do this for about twenty-five minutes and then we’ll take questions from the audience. Dick and Betsy are the founders of the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation. Dick, as many of you know, is the president of Alticor, the parent company of AmWay Corporation, Access Business Group, Quickstar incorporated and PYXIS Innovations incorporated. Betsy is the chairman of the Windquest Group and chairman of Choices for Children and the past chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. They both serve on numerous, and that is numerous political and community boards. Dick and Betsy have four children and reside in Ada, Michigan. And we are so glad that they are with us tonight and if you would give them a short burst of applause, allow me to jump into this chair and wire up. (applause). Well, we said something about a biography that’s not a book, and the whole point of The Gathering is the joy of giving and not many of us come to giving with no history at all. I think it would be really interesting for people to hear some of your giving biography. How did you grow up among givers? Or did you grow up among givers? And it was different for both of you. How did, how was that? Tell us something about your parents and your family and your growing up.
Dick DeVos: Well different because we had different parents obviously (laughter), so never quite the same. Many people in the Christian community have become familiar with my father being a public speaker and being asked what it’s like to grow up with him as your father and my standard response has been, I really don’t know, he’s the only father I’ve ever had, I have nothing to compare him to (laughter). We have each our own experience, yet it’s very much a parallel situation. For me, growing up in a Christian home, decidedly Christian home, my parents gave as much as a part of life of their life as breathing. It was just something that was always a part of our home, it was never a decision, it was just a part of life. That was, it certainly started with the church in our case and support for the church, but as resources became more available it expanded to include broader community involvements and giving into community as well as continuing along with a philosophy extending from our faith into the political realm. Giving in the area of politics as well. For me it’s been something I’ve had the privilege of growing up and watching.
Man: You’ve gone about giving all your life?
Dick: Yeah, yeah.
Betsy DeVos: Although I have different parents from Dick (laughter) obviously, I was blessed to grow up in a Christian home as well. For my family, it was much the same way and giving was a part of my memory ever since I was a young child. My dad started a business when I was about nine years old and as that business grew, you can’t hear in the back there? Sorry. I’ll talk a little louder, is that better? As my father’s business grew my parents were able to give more and more of their resources and it was just by example really that I learned to give. Their actions spoke much louder than their words ever did and that’s just a real blessing that I grew up with and one which we hope we are able to pass on to our children as well. I’d like to note that we have one of our children with us and she’s going to be really embarrassed to have me introduce her, but our second child, our sixteen-year-old daughter Alissa(?) is here with us. Aliss, stand up a minute (laughter, applause).
Dick: That’s right, that’s the truth, that’ll be the truth teller. If you don’t buy anything we’ve said you can check it out with her. (laughter)
Man: How many of you have your children with you? Would those children stand? (laughter, applause). There’s a lot of talk in The Gathering about children and it’s a lot of good talk. This is probably the most offspring, I don’t want to call them children, but offspring we’ve ever had. Did you grow up aware that your families were somewhat different in their capacity to give?
Betsy: Let me start with that one because, you know both of us are children of entrepreneurs and we, through most of my childhood it was pretty much a normal childhood as compared to all my friends and neighbors. So, it wasn’t until, for both of us, until we were well into our High School and college years that there was a noticeable difference between what our parents could do versus other parents so that was not a unique experience for us. For our younger siblings, it was, it was the case and you’d have to ask them how it was for them to get a comparison, but for us it was pretty much a normal childhood growing up.
Man: Same for Dick?
Dick: Same, absolutely.
Man: Because I know a lot of kids are surprised when they find out somehow, they’re different and suddenly it just falls in on them. But you were included in the giving.
Dick: Well sometimes that happens and I think it’s, with families it’s unfortunate that happens because information is withheld. In our case information was always available to us about our situation, our parents did involve us in giving, or made it a very much a part of the family with things that they were doing. Not everything necessarily, there were always things that they were doing quietly, just not because they were trying to keep it secret, but just that they were doing quietly that they didn’t necessarily bring us in, but it was done in a very much open spirit within the family and so it provided us the privilege of watching and learning. Learning about the process that they went through and decision-making. Given a large number of opportunities to sort through resources. How did they sort through that and how did they, what were their motivations for giving, their drives? And just a great experience to be able to share it openly with them.
Man: They really talked to you about it, it wasn’t a secret, the giving?
Dick: No. Not at all, not at all. Well, there were parts of it that were a secret though, in Betsy’s family. Betsy’s father, who has been gone now a little over five years, if you ever had a secret and wanted a man in this world who could keep it, he was the guy. He could keep it very, very quiet and it was a real joy for us to have actually found out a bunch of stuff with people when he passed away very suddenly and the number of people that came on the days and weeks that followed that had said what he had given or what a difference he had made in their life, in small ways. We were speaking to someone, found out there was a van for a handicap child and he’d provided some, a few thousands of dollars, but it made the difference to allow this family to buy a van so that they could transport their child. We had never even heard about this, but he just, it was something that was put in his heart to help this family and he just did so in a quiet way and that brought, some of those things did bring a real joy to us.
Man: So, it feels great to hear those stories even now when people come up to you and say, ‘I want you to know what your father and mother did for us.’
Betsy: One of the things though that I think was important for us to observe and which we have carried on in our relationship is the fact that both of our parents were involved in those decisions and I know in some cases it’s one spouse or the other that often makes those decisions. But I think it’s been very beneficial for me to see both my parents involved in those decisions and discussions from early on. And because my dad did pass away suddenly and my mother was suddenly left with a Foundation that was a pretty substantial responsibility, it was nothing that was new or strange to her. It was something that she could continue to work with and make good decisions about because she had had that experience all along.
Man: How are you doing things differently or the same with your children now, does it vary from child to child? Or are you trying to just, uh, you what I’m trying to ask.
Dick: Does it vary from child to child, different from our experience? In our situation, and for those of you that don’t know us, we live in Ada, Michigan which is sort of a bedroom community of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids is a relatively small town, maybe half a million people in the Grand Rapids community. And within the context of that community, our family is known. Because of the business success and, thankfully for philanthropy, for giving into the community over a number of years. And so, our children grow up in a very different environment than the environment we grow up in, in terms of the expectations and the pressures and the visibility that they have and the issues they have to deal with. When they go to a show, as we went to a traveling Broadway show recently, they don’t go to the corner theatre, they go to a place known as DeVos hall. And that puts a special burden on a child, on a teenager especially, so the situation with them is different. I think we have to deal with it very differently than our circumstance may have been growing up. We think it’s so critically important that we do all that we can both in word and in deed and by example even more importantly to communicate the importance of giving in the same way it was communicated to us.
Man: So, open information is still really important in teaching children about giving and about wealth?
Betsy: And giving them the opportunity to give themselves at a younger age to learn that habit and to get into the habit of giving. I mean they, all of the children receive monthly amounts and a portion of that goes immediately into the tithing and they have their own charitable checking accounts which they of course check with us on making the contributions, but we feel it’s important for them to have the responsibility even starting at a young age. Our 10 year has his account that he is able to make decisions and most recently it was the American Red Cross as you might imagine. But we think it’s really important for them to have that opportunity to experience that starting at young ages so that when they do reach adulthood that this is not something that’s new and different to them.
Man: Since you did have different parents, how did you all meet?
Betsy: Through his old roommate. Who I dated a couple of times.
Dick: That’s alright I was dating her cousin at the time. (laughter)
Man: it’s a small town.
Dick: It works, it’s a very small town.
Betsy: But the cousin was from Kansas.
Dick: Betsy was going to school in Grand Rapids and we met through my roommate and discovered, to our great surprise that our families had summer homes within half a mile of each other and we’d never met so.
Man: That’s great, you’ve been married how long?
Betsy: Twenty-two years.
Man: You all recently, or maybe not so recently have become very active in education and I asked you once, in fact for the newsletter. I said that when you are a high visibility person sometimes it’s easier to choose a low visibility issue, why make yourself a target? And yet you’ve chosen one of the lightning rods of American culture which is education. Now, why did you do that? Why did you take that risk?
Dick: It has, it had no intellectual basis at all. (Laughter) It really didn’t because I think for all the reasons you’ve articulated education in America is a massive system, tremendous political pressures and dynamics around it, all sorts of emotion and history and a purely intellectual exercise wouldn’t have led us there, but the Lord did lead us there quietly by the heart. First to lead me to being encouraged to run as a businessperson, to run for the State Board of Education, which in Michigan is an elected position and so I was elected to the State Board of Education in 1990 in Michigan. And my career was such that I could devote the time to it, I served in that position for two years before my career change.
I went back to what was then the AmWay business now Alticor to head it up and was not able to continue serving on the Board. It had opened a window for us to see what was happening within education, that led us to an exposure to a program that was a very fledgling program of providing tuition support and that led us right by the heart straight into education. Betsy want to talk about Education Freedom Fund and what, how that got us going?
Betsy (17:50): Well I’m sure many in this room are familiar with scholarship programs that have popped up all over the country that really focus on K through 12, often K through 8, but sometimes K through 12 students, low-income children whose families don’t have an opportunity to choose where their children go to school. We lead a program in Michigan which is currently funding about, well we split the program off last year, until last year it was four thousand students, the portion that we are funding this year or helping to support this year supplies scholarships to two thousand students in Michigan which we feel, well there’s multiple times the number of families who apply for these scholarships and our experience with that really demonstrated to us the need for fundamental change and my background has always been in politics and in partisan politics and that was, that is where I kind of like to mix it up. And Michigan has a very restrictive Constitution as to how you could possibly even begin to reform education.
So, the combination of our leadership in the scholarship program and our real, heartfelt desire to see change for more than just the couple of thousands kids we’re able to help led us to be involved with an Initiative in Michigan which was not successful last year, but which has spurred the debate and our efforts continue in Michigan as do many folks in other states around the country. As Dick said, this is not something we sat back ten years ago and calculated that this was something we needed to do, it really is something that’s grabbed us by the heart over the years. All you need to do is look at the letters that some of these single moms write, just pleading for a chance to give their child a better education and that’s enough to motivate you for a good, long time.
Dick: That’s really what I said when God led us by the heart into this issue because we were involved in helping with the scholarships and that was a real privilege and we’d get these letters back from these moms. We have a very small staff that does the project and they just ship over these stacks of letters and Betsy and I learned very quickly to not sit and read these letters in the wrong places because we would invariably end up sitting there weeping together. And so, we thought this wasn’t a good thing to be sitting in airports or especially not driving a car. You would read the letters, and you get the letters on yellow legal pad, you’d get them on drug store paper, you’d see, it’d be pencils. It would be terrible spelling. Awful grammar. Clearly evident of a parent or grandparent who had missed the opportunity for an education, oftentimes through no fault of their own because the system missed them. And so desperately desiring an education for their children. You just could not help but sit and cry for the kids that you are not able to help who are caught in that situation.
I quoted often from a single mom in Detroit, writing thanking us for a scholarship and we’re learning recently now to not, when someone says thank you for what we do, what we are privileged to be able to do. Instead of saying thank you, a response that we’re learning now is to say bless God because it’s through Him that we’re able to do what we do, not because of anything we have, so. Whenever I say that, please note it’s really a bless God thing. But this mom, terrible penmanship again, putting a point on it said I went to the Detroit Public Schools, said I went all the way through to 9th grade, nobody cared, they just passed me along. Nobody told me I could ever be anything, nobody ever told me that I was OK. They just passed me along, in 9th grade I quit. My son is going to get an education. And you could just, the passion of that, how can you not help but stand with her?
Man: I’ve read some of the newspaper articles in the Michigan papers and some of the reporters have said these people and people like them are obviously anti-public schools. They want to destroy our public schools in favor of sending everyone to private schools. So, are you? (laughter)
Betsy: No, we are for good education and for every child have an opportunity for a good education and having grown up in families that are in the business world we both believe that competition and choices make everyone better. That ultimately, if the system that prevails in the United States today had more competition, if there were other choices for people to make freely that all of the schools would become better as a result and that excellence would be sought in every setting. So, you know, we’re very strong proponents of fundamentally changing the way we approach education. We understand it’s going to be a long process to get there for everyone, but every child is special and unique and every child deserves a chance to get a good education. The fact that we could decide where each of our four children went without a second thought about it, we remind ourselves of that often because there are 10’s, 100’s of thousands and millions of children in this country that are forced to go everyday to a school that’s not meeting their needs. And it’s just not right.
Dick: If we look at the policy issue I would just encourage those who are interested in this that, to look at public schools because we use the word public schools and what we’re really talking about is the content/context(24:55) of public education. And so, what I try to explain to people in the midst of our campaign was to challenge folks and say let’s look past your own history. Look at what is the objective of public education and what should it be within our community. It ought to be in our community offering every child, no matter where they come from, no matter what their background economic or otherwise, the very best educational opportunity we can provide. Isn’t that what public education is, as opposed to exclusive education or discriminating education? This is about allowing every child that desires an education to achieve the highest level of education. Now let’s not confuse that very laudable concept with the way we currently applied it in America, which is forcing people to operate within what are in most cases government run schools. That is an execution that is an attempt to deliver this higher promise. The real promise that has been one of the great things for America has been access to quality education, it hasn’t been the way we’ve delivered it.
Man: But wouldn’t it have been easier to simply fund Christian private schools and be done with it? Just build up great Christian private schools.
Betsy: But the fact is there’s no, there is not enough, there are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education. We could give every single penny we have, everybody in this room could give every single penny that they have and it wouldn’t begin to touch what is currently spent on education every year in this country. And what is, in many cases not efficiently spent or not well spent. So, our desire, and this is another thing that we learned a couple of years ago, we went on a trip to Israel with a marvelous teacher who talked about the geography in Israel, where the coastal plain where the pagans lived, the Israelites lived in the foothills and the crescent in between was called the Schefela. And he really challenged all of us on that trip to be active in the Schefela. The Schefela where the cultures meet and that has been something that has been really impactful for both Dick and me, is to continue to think about where we can be the most effective or make the most impact in the culture in which we live today. And so, our desire is to be in that Schefela, to confront the culture in which we all live today in ways which will continue to help advance God’s kingdom. Not to stay in our own little safe territory.
Dick: It would have been a lot easier and a lot less controversial to just go fund the small number of private schools that possibly we could have funded. But what about those kids in the urban community in Detroit that wouldn’t have the ability to access and what are we going to do to drive for better performance across all of our education? It was really a systemic view that we looked at and it was working within that Schefela to allow for our Christian worldview to be, our Christian world view which for us comes from a Calvinist tradition, which is to be very much a part of the world and to provide for greater opportunity, an expanded opportunity some day for all parents to be able to educate their children in a school that reflects their worldview and not each day sending their child to a school that may be reflecting a world view quite antithetical, which unfortunately is the case in some places to the world view that they hold with their family.
Man: Some people, maybe even in this room would say why waste your dollars on non-Christian things? Just support Christian things. Why get involved in politics? Why get involved in public education? Why do those things? I mean if you are really going to be a Christian, just fund Christian things. You’ve chosen not to do that.
Betsy: Well I think it goes back to what I just mentioned, the concept of really being active in the Schefela of our culture. To impact our culture in ways that are not the traditional funding the Christian organization route, but that really may have greater kingdom gain in the long run by changing the way we approach things. In this case the system of education in the country.
Dick: Let me just take you to a quick trip to an archaeological dig in the Schefela in Israel. And the archaeologists in this particular community, which was between where the pagans lived on the coastal plain where the Philistines lived and where the Israelites lived up in the mountains. And as the archaeologists went down, they found that there were, they found in various food storage areas, they found varying layers as the years went by where some layers were completely devoid of pig bones and pig remains. And other layers there was pig remains integrated throughout that community. If you’re familiar with Jewish tradition obviously, pigs are not kosher, those were not acceptable for eating. So, if you were, if in fact the Jewish people were influencing that community the pig bones were gone.
They were out of there and so there were periods of time when the Jewish community was influencing that town and there were times when obviously, they took, and their influence wasn’t being felt at all, the pig bones were right back in. So the question that we continue to challenge with is to say we could run away and just go back up into the hills and live very safely and very comfortably or are we going to exist on the Schefela and try to impact the view of the community around us with the ideas that we believe are more powerful ideas of a better way to live one’s life and a more meaningful and a more rewarding way to live one’s life as a Christian than to just run away in the hills and allow the world to spin around us. And we keep going back and saying, our job is to figure out, in a contemporary context, how do we get the pig bones out of our culture?
Man: That’s a great image. How many of you are interested in education one way or another here? Well we’re going to open it up and it’s not just about education, but it’s about, now I’ve checked with them and I said you’d behave yourselves and wouldn’t ask anything off-color anything like that. But I think this is a good opportunity for you to ask what’s been going through your mind as you’ve been listening to Dick and Betsy talk. What would you like to know about their giving? Or their family, or their interest in education, politics or the community? If you would speak loudly and if I need to I’ll either repeat it, in your case I might rephrase it (laughing) come on Richard ask the question…. (inaudible question being asked) As a percentage of your giving how much have you shifted toward what the Lord has burdened you with toward education?
Betsy: I’m looking back at Ginny Vanderhart here, she probably knows that answer better than we do.
Dick: Ginny, Ginny is the director of, she operates many of our family foundations including ours. Ginny do you have any… she’s probably working on a calculator right now.
Betsy: It’s her birthday today.
(Ginny speaking inaudible)
Dick: Thirty to forty percent to education that would be inclusive of both Christian, that’s both direct support for Christian education for the scholarship programs that we’re involved with and some other education impact areas.
Betsy: A lot of our giving in the past couple of years has been by nature of the Initiative we were involved with, had to be political giving which of course is not, does not fall under the Foundation. And so, it would have been probably a little bit higher percentage the last couple of years, but…
(inaudible question 34:25)
Man: If this became a model, would you see yourself putting more into it?
Betsy: I would say that most, I mean more than half of our giving ultimately is in some way involved with education, but we are involved with a lot of Christian schools and this Education Freedom Fund program, which I would define as ultimately Christian in it’s nature because actually, in excess of 90% of the parents who receive these scholarships choose some Christian school for their child to go to. You could probably define it any number of ways, but that is really our primary focus.
Man: What are your thoughts on homeschooling?
Betsy: We like homeschooling a lot. I’m not so sure our daughters do, they homeschooled for three years.
Dick: Home school is a tough issue to get at from a public policy standpoint and is, in the case of Michigan, we found it very difficult and therefore were not able to find a way in our Initiative, to include homeschooling within the voucher initiative that we were advocating. Although I think the imagery of homeschooling has shifted dramatically given the very positive results from many home school experiences, it still is easily critiqued from a public policy standpoint, it has been a hard one to break through. The only thing that I’ve seen recently that’s very, that was very impressive that I would commend to home schoolers to consider is, check out an organization called K12, Bill Bennett has been involved with developing a curriculum, I just met with his people and spoke with Bill a couple of days ago. He reviews this curriculum personally, its online, it’s self-paced. It really is reflective, although it’s not specifically Christian it is designed for a full public school environment. It is very clearly consistent with Bill’s and our shared Christian world view and from what I have seen of it, it could be a very valuable tool for homeschoolers and for homeschoolers to consider I would recommend it.
Man: I’ve got a question from Bob Schoolfield and then, right over here.
(Barely audible question 37:20) Earlier in the history of the United States the church pretty well dominated…. Things have changed since then and my question is, what happened? My second question is, what will it take to get the Church (inaudible) back…
Man: Things have changed since the early part of this country’s history in terms of education and what will it take to? The church involvement and what will it take to change it back?
Dick: I’m not a historian to the extent of trying to unpack everything that resulted in the church moving away but in my opinion the church has sadly retrenched from its center role in our community. To where now as we look at many communities in our country, the church, which ought to be in our view far more central to the life of the community has been displaced by the public school as the center for activity, the center for what goes on in the community. Here was an interesting challenge we had in the context of our political campaign. We had parents who were very much interested in reforming and changing the public school and having a voucher opportunity in some of the urban settings to get out of the schools. And their pastors were very supportive because they knew that the education that they were getting was bad.
Second problem for the pastors and for those churches? The biggest employer in their community was the public school. The church has, many segments of the church have lost their voice when it comes to this particular issue and thankfully now I think many are finding their voice. It is certainly our hope that churches would continue, no matter what the environment, whether there’s government funding someday through tax credits or vouchers or some other mechanism or whatever it may be that more and more churches will get more and more active and engaged in education. We just can think of no better way to rebuild our families and our communities than to have that circle of church and school and family much more tightly focused and being built on a consistent world view.
Betsy: If I could just add to that very quickly? I think for many years the church in general has felt that it’s important for the children of the congregation to be in the schools to make a difference, but in fact I think what’s happened in many cases in the last couple of decades is that the schools have impacted the kids more than the kids are able to impact the schools. Young children need to have a pretty solid foundation to be able to combat the kind of influences that they’re presented with almost on a daily basis.
Man: We’ve got 3 more questions. One here, one here and one way at the back of the room and then Dick and Betsy have agreed, we’ll have to save that one I’m sorry, have agreed to be in the, and I don’t even know what kind of tree this is, but it’s called Boojum. It’s across the hall and we’re going to do an up close and personal with Betsy, you want to spend, with Dick and Betsy excuse me. And if you want to spend time with them, they’re very open to discussing this topic and other topics as well. So, let’s do 3 questions.
New Man (slightly inaudible): Thank you for letting God call you into using time (inaudible 41:10) in the three different areas. The traditional charitable which includes (inaudible) education… tax deductible 501(c)3 and so on. And then the public policy, I imagine you had to create a 501(c)4 for your ballot initiative campaign would involve a heavy non-tax deductible expenditure campaign. And then finally the political party and political campaign activity (inaudible) whatever. My question is, and it’s partly because Judy and I are trying to do, work in the same 3 arenas, at a lesser scale than you are by quite a bit. How do you handle the tension among the 3 and the allocation… (inaudible) could devote all your time, money probably to any one of these?
Betsy: Depends who is in the best sales position at the time.
Dick: it does require, I guess in the situation we grew up with one comment would be that you do need to be very discerning when you sit down and deal with issues, what hat you’re wearing, what role you’re playing and we just try to do that prayerfully as best we’re able. And we don’t sit down and do political donation discussions at the same time that we review our charitable and community work. We segment them a bit and try to be diligent about what hat we have on at a given time, whether it’s an involvement with a program or what we’re fundraising for, we just try to be very articulate about that. Obviously for record-keeping purposes, but also more for emotionally to do, so that we really give focus.
Where you end up spending your time and your talent, that’s something that I would hope that we all consider prayerfully and there are, I believe and I think we would believe that Christians can be used in all 3 of those categories very powerfully and that where the Lord leads each of us is an adventure that each of us have to truly seek out and seek where it is that He places our skills and our gifts and our passions and what areas of our life He blesses to encourage us to continue to stay involved.
Betsy: And I think there are different seasons too. Our giving in each of those areas has changed in every year. When I have been more directly involved with partisan activities we have devoted more of our resources to support and to supplement those activities. So, I think it’s not something that you have to look at in a rigid fashion, but really evaluate on a year by year basis or periodically.
Man: Right over here. Question was, what’s the philosophy of transfer of generational wealth and how have you developed that philosophy and that practice?
Betsy: We have developed it by example from our parents and I would say that we, our parents’ philosophies have been very consistent and I think we are pretty much in synch with how we view transferring wealth to the next generation. We think it’s important that our children understand the responsibility they have before they are faced with the responsibility. And so, we’ve been trying to start training them in that regard and I know that there was a session today, I believe, that talked about some of the specific areas in which that could be accomplished. I can’t say that we’re experts in it, in any regard and Alissa would probably tell you as much, but I think our philosophy has been, learn from our parents and because we did share a very similar philosophy I think we’re very consistent in how we view that.
Dick: We have made plans and provision to pass on financial resources to our children in addition to charitable intent that we have. And, our goal would be that the children would use those resources to hopefully, and Lord willing, in a manner very consistent with what we would have. And it was sort of a question, you can stick it all in a Foundation, you know you can put all your money into a charitable Foundation, that’s fine. You’re going to trust then what a group of trustees or you are going to trust your children to be responsible and act responsibly. So, we have chosen to pass forward funds to our children and yet to do it in a way that prepares them and helps them to appreciate and understand the value of work. The value of the funds they’ve been given and the importance and the responsibility, almost I would use the word obligation then to give out of what blessing has been passed to them. Our children, just so you know life wise, our children are nineteen to age ten so we’re still sort of early on in that process.
Betsy: And I would just add too. None of our parents ever mandated that we give, but because they were such great examples to us, it was not even a discussion about how we would begin our marriage and our family and relationship. It was always a part of our marriage from day one. And to a person, our siblings are, pretty much have the same approach. And so, I guess, that being said, the actions of our parents have spoken much louder than the words over the years.
Man: One more question way in the back.
Man: Have you had any success in encouraging other believers to enter into politics because this can be a calling?
Betsy: I would say yes. There have been a number of people with whom I have worked over the years who are in positions of influence either in elected office or in key staff positions with elected officials. It hasn’t, I don’t think my conversations with them have been as intentional about urging them because they are believers, but if they have an interest in and an obvious gift to be involved politically I have certainly tried wherever possible to encourage them to pursue politics, to pursue public policy life because you are right we do need more believers involved in it and it is not an easy arena in which to be involved because you do get beat up a lot.
I have people ask me all the time, how can you possibly stand to be involved in it? I don’t know how, I mean, I did not set out when I was in college to be involved in partisan politics, it was something that just happened. And if anybody had asked me a few years ago, if I had ever wanted to be a state party chairmen of a partisan party I would have said no, I don’t have those goals. But, you know God put me in those places and to the extent that I can encourage others who for unexplainable reasons find themselves heading in that direction too, I have done that and will continue to do so because it is critically important that we have believers involved in public life.
Dick: Betsy was really, very modest. She was chairman of the Michigan party and because of her own witness, her own example quietly, you know, not wearing John 3:16 on her shirt, but because she, it was clear to her allies and adversaries alike that she was principled, that she had a clear vision of what it was that was her worldview, her political view. And she executed it in a Christ-like manner and that gained her respect on both sides of the aisle. It demonstrated, I think in a very powerful way, to a lot of people who are now in political office, seeking or considering being involved in politics because they saw that you know Betsy DeVos could do it and she could live and she could maintain that walk and that witness and make an impact and a difference within the community and she understates what she has done in terms of being able to encourage others.
And she’s actively now recruiting candidates to run for state office in Michigan today. Very actively involved in encouraging and developing, but also being a great example. As we all know we heard it about our kids, they, it’s just so true within communities. We can talk until we’re blue in the face, but an example is worth a thousand words. And Betsy has been a wonderful example and I’m very, very proud of her.
Man: Let’s thank Dick and Betsy (applause). Two things again, there’ going to be the up close and personal and that’ll just, there’s dessert out in the back, uh, grab your desert, go to the boojum room. And I don’t know if Steve Ferguson wants me to announce this or not, but there is, is it ok? Because it’s in the program. ‘New developments in creative mass media’, if you have not been part of an informal discussion with Steve Ferguson, you have not lived. So, and I just hope that you can live through it. But, if you have any interest in creative mass media I would encourage you to go spend time with Steve.
Now let’s close, let’s be grateful to God for his time we’ve had. Lord, we are your people, sheep of your pasture. You are our Shepherd and we will lay down tonight in peace. And we will rest. Lord thank you for an example that is worth a thousand words in both Dick and Betsy. Thank you for their parents for generations of parents who have believed and not just taught, but lived it out. Lord we thank you for this room, full of believers, thank you for the temple that is not made with human hands. And that you are our shield, our protector, our savior. So, we offer up this day to you and we offer up tomorrow and we ask for a great day. We pray and we ask and we are grateful for in Jesus, amen. Thank you! Y’all have a great evening.