A conversation with billionaire philanthropist David M. Rubenstein (Part 2 of 2)

Apr 18, 2023

The Carlyle Group co-founder and co-chairman talks to Daniel P. Schmidt and Michael E. Hartmann about his upcoming PBS documentary series examining the history and meaning of some of America’s iconic national symbols.

In 1987, David M. Rubenstein co-founded the Carlyle Group, a highly successful private investment firm, of which he is also co-chairman. The firm currently manages an estimated hundreds of billions of dollars, from offices around the world. Rubenstein’s reported personal net worth is in the billions, too.

He is a pillar of the country’s financial, philanthropic, and media establishments.

Rubenstein has led funding of the preservation of several of the West’s most-important historical documents and the restoration and maintenance of America’s most-prominent historical monuments and memorials. He serves on the boards of many prestigious nonprofit institutions, as well.

He’s written or edited books—and has been and is an engagingly informed and inquisitive host of programs on Bloomberg Television—about wealth generation, leadership, and history.

On April 26, Iconic America: Our Symbols and Stories with David Rubenstein will premiere on PBS. The eight-episode documentary series closely examines the history and meaning of iconic national symbols—artifacts, places, and archetypes—from across the U.S., including Fenway Park, the Hollywood sign, the Gadsden flag, and the American cowboy, among others.

Rubenstein was kind enough to join us for a recorded conversation last month. During the first part of our discussion, which is here, we talk about what he calls “patriotic philanthropy.” In the second part, the just more than eight-and-a-half-minute video below, we discuss the upcoming Iconic America series.

For Iconic America, “I developed with people that have won Emmy Awards in television production a series designed to remind people of the meaning of various historical or patriotic icons of our country, things that people don’t know as much about,” but by learning more about, they may “learn more about our country and maybe be better and more-informed citizens,” Rubenstein tells us.

“There are an infinite number of icons or symbols of our country,” he continues. “We had to pick eight, and we picked eight to have a geographical dispersion in the country and basically cover different types of things.”

“All of us who are Americans are obviously proud of what the country has been and become, despite the flaws,” Rubenstein concludes. “We have become the beacon of freedom and liberty in the world. …

“If we want to continue to be the beacon of liberty and freedom in the world, we have to make sure that our country is still strong and kind of take the strength from our past and improve it in some ways when we can.”