Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Warren Arrives

We pulled up to the Field Club, a very nice but understated country club. It’s the kind of place that clearly has seen generations of use and is kept in good repair, but it isn’t designed to impress. Just a comfortable place to meet friends and have a meal.

We were directed toward what probably normally serves as a banquet room. There were large round tables with white table clothes, buckets of Coca Cola products at the side, and a small table at the front with two cans of Cherry Coke, Warren’s drink of choice.

About 40 students from NYU’s Stern School of Management had already arrived and they checked us out as we spread out around the remaining tables. The tables had many copies of books by and about Warren Buffett that people had brought along for autographs. “Buffett Speaks” and “The Essays of Warren Buffett” were spread throughout the room, most of them well-thumbed. Indeed as everyone was uniformly dressed in dark business attire I had the incongruous remembrance of Mao speaking to his followers who clutched little red books of this thoughts on communism. Same admiration, but very different ideas!

At 10:12 am Warren Buffett arrived with an aide, a young woman, who directed him to the front of the room. He walked in to a standing ovation and immediately took charge of the audience. Warren Buffett is tall and energetic, and looked much younger than his 78 years. He was clearly energized by the students, and they returned the enthusiasm. We all felt that we were in for a special occasion.

Warren greeted us all and immediately thanked the UC Davis students for “what you did yesterday.” He was referring to the 100 students who, just as last year’s UC Davis students did, arranged to volunteer at area organizations – the Boys and Girls Club, Girls Inc., United Way, and the Girl Scouts. The NYU students look puzzled. What had UC Davis students done? Warren continued, “What you did will have an effect beyond the work you did, and will be an example for the girls.”

Warren started off with a comment about the economy sliding into near-recession and then launched into what would be the first of many jokes, some salty, and funny asides. “I was just talking to a young banker who went home to tell his wife that he would not be getting a bonus this year.” The banker told his wife she would have to learn to cook so they could fire the chef. The wife responded, “Well, I guess you’ll have to learn to make love so we can fire the gardener, too.”

Warren was off and running.

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