Robert F. Smith on the Power of Philanthropy

Robert F. Smith CEO Headshot

As Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners Robert F. Smith has given hundreds of speeches over the years from the World Economic Forum in Davos to college commencement addresses, but he often touches on the power of philanthropy.

For example, in 2019,  Smith was awarded the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy award in recognition of his philanthropic gifts to make college more affordable. The award is given annually to honor innovative philanthropists and aims to inspire a culture of giving.

During his acceptance speech, Smith touched on how his experience growing up and watching his parents give back to the community helped form his strong belief in philanthropy and using it to help “liberate the human spirit.” 

“I grew up in Denver, Colorado the son of school teachers and I saw my parents exhibit a form of philanthropy every day,” Smith said. “My mother wrote a check every month for $25 for United Negros College Fund for over 50 years and I saw my father bring his organizational capacity to do local YMCA so that the kids in my neighborhood could enjoy the outdoors, and he led the North City Park Civic Association, so we could participate in this great fabric that is America of voters.”

Smith expanded on why his parent’s philanthropic efforts helped drive his giving and purpose.

“I’m the first generation in my family to have all my rights in America. And when I think about that I take that responsibility seriously. To bring all of the education and dedication and effort to create in this world and this economic structure, opportunity that I can then drive into philanthropic fabric to do what I think is the most important thing on this planet, which is to liberate the human spirit.”To listen to Smith’s entire speech at Carnegie Hall, click here.