(Transcript) Peter Kaufman Q&A at the Redlands Forum

If you’ve visited my compilations page, you’ll know that Peter Kaufman was one of the people responsible for my compilations. He encouraged me to take copious notes, organize them, and write them up. He doesn’t write/speak publicly often, but when he does, you’d be wise to listen.

For those who don’t know him, Peter is the longtime chairman and CEO of Glen-air, a multi-billion-dollar aerospace company that creates and distributes mission-critical interconnect solutions. He is also the editor of Poor Charlie’s Almanack (which I have based many of my compilations on), one of the greatest books of all time, and recommended by people such as Warren Buffett, Lu Li, Bill Gurley, Bill Gates, Naval Ravikant, and Josh Wolfe.

This is a transcription of the Q&A session after Peter’s speech at the Redlands Forum on 1/16/2020.

A transcript of the speech can be found here.

*Transcribed 7/11/2020
**Lightly edited; any errors should be attributed to me

And if you want more from me, you can follow me on Twitter @kevg1412, or subscribe to my substack A Letter a Day, where I share some notes on one of the letters from my compilations each day.

Peter Kaufman Q&A ft. John Dorsey

Emcee: I think that Peter will take some questions, right? If there are some questions. And do we have our fine mic runners, Dr. Walker and Mrs. Burgess? Thank you.

We didn’t get the word out to our students tonight. Not their fault, our fault. But these guys love to run stairs right, Shar? Okay, we got a question right up there, Shar.

Please introduce yourself and then ask your question.

Q1: Hi, my name is Anne. I’m just curious to know how long he lived and where he ended up. I mean, did Mr. Rockefeller, you know, honor him till the end of his life? I mean, I’m sure it’s in your book, but I want to know now.

PK: Well, it’s not in the book. It’s actually kind of sad. Because Rockefeller’s son, as sons tend to do, thought that he ought to be in charge of his dad’s foundation. And… he kind of got pushed aside.

He wrote his memoir, called Chapters in My Life, which hasn’t been in print, for you know 80 years or something. I bought the rights to that book, and I’m going to reprint that book. Because I think this is a story that needs to be told.

And I’ll tell you something else. I sent copies of this book to Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, several university presidents that I know with a note to each one of them. And I said, if you’re looking for a model for large scale philanthropy, how to do it right, it’s here in this book. This is how to do it right. It’s not just top down, is it? It’s bottom up. You have to know the details or you actually do more harm than good. So actually, it is rather sad. And perhaps it’s because he never promoted himself.

Any other questions? Yes.

Q2: Have you run into any other people that, similar to this, that perhaps we’ve not heard of, or have you–

PK: Well my best example I mentioned, is George Marshall of top down and bottom up. He’s been nominated by Stephen Ambrose, a historian, as the greatest man of the last 100 years, and I think that’s


Let me tell the D-Day story. I love telling the D-Day story. Top-down, bottom-up.

What’s the top down understanding of D-Day? Well it’s very simple. We have to stop Adolf Hitler. We have to. He may enslave the world. Millions could be killed. That’s the top-down understanding. So is D-Day necessary? Absolutely necessary.

What’s his bottom-up understanding? My stepson is one of the soldiers that’s going to be in harm’s way. I could lose my stepson, my wife could lose her son. Okay? Is that bottom-up understanding? You bet it is. What decision did he make? Got to go ahead.

When you combine top-down and bottom-up, you make correct decisions. So I’m sorry I can’t give you more names, these are very rare people – exceedingly rare – but boy do they leave their imprint on human civilization and we should be very grateful that they did so.

Q3: Okay, he was a very unusual man, but is this something that institutions, colleges, organizations can teach people? Or is this something [that] just has to come naturally?

PK: Well, let me ask you. What do you think? Do you think if you’d have heard this story when you were in high school, in college, do you think it would have made any impact on you? would it would you have lived your life any differently?

Q3: I think I probably would have, if I couldremember it – [I think] that you have to have a vision, I mean,you – you can learn – we all can have tools, but if we don’t have the creativity to know how to implement them, it doesn’t go very far. So as I sat there listening, I thought, well, what can I take from this, or what can we all take from this? He obviously was a detail man, but he was also a visionary. He obviously probably could write and communicate in a manner that the people he needed to convince understood him. So I’m just thinking, like you know, where can we go with this to improve what we do in our own organizations.

PK: Well, I mentioned earlier today an African proverb that’s one of my favorites. It says if you want to go quickly go alone, if you want to go far go together. And if you’ll notice, every single thing that Frederick Taylor Gates did, involved going together, didn’t it?

We’re going to stop and take the time to go talk to all the Baptists and find out what do they think the educational structure in Minnesota should look like. And then he said, and then we’re going to fundraise from all the Baptists, even the small donations. Why? Because where your treasure is – that’s where your heart is. He did a fantastic job of always staying together with the group.

So I think we can all learn from that. I speak at a number of different universities every year, and I can tell you they’re not all the same. And one of the great compliments I’ve given Shelley and her group on University of Redlands, is they are a go together, go far group. And some of the Ivy League schools I talk to, they’re not that way. They’re go fast, go quickly, go alone. So, hopefully, these things can be taught.

Now, this story has had an influence on at least one person, certainly influenced me. You know, grab my Apple again and hold it up. I want to live a life like Frederick Taylor Gates did. I want to do things that are additive sum, potentially infinite in nature.

Now this gentleman, stand up John – John  Dorsey’s visiting from Greensboro, Alabama, and he has a program there that we’re currently having conversations with the University of Redlands regarding his program. It’s a Medical Fellows Program that perhaps Redlands students can participate in. And it’s one of the ways that I’m trying, in my own life, I’m supporting John to try to be like Frederick Taylor Gates.

I hope that one day we can scale this program across the whole United States, and deliver medical care as it should be delivered:  community-based one-on-one. We’re moving in the exact opposite direction. I don’t need to tell anybody in this room that that’s what’s going on – digital files, artificial intelligence, doctors via Skype.

But our motto is that the only true remedy for whatever ails a human being, is another human being. John has a fabulous model for doing exactly that, and I hope after our work matures a little bit, John will come back and give a talk here to you and report on our progress.

Thank you.

John, why don’t you share?

[Can] we have the microphone?

John’s never going speak to me again after this.

JD: I was not prepared. Can you hear me? I really wasn’t prepared to speak tonight, so… But basically, I think most people in the room would agree that, sort of, healthcare is a mess right now and everybody’s looking for a solution.

And I don’t know that there is a silver bullet that sort of fixes it all. But one thing – when I came through medical school, I was extraordinarily frustrated and felt as though there were these good people: medical students, residents, nurses, [attendants] all working very, very hard – but there just seemed to be this odd disconnection where everybody seemed frustrated, and the patients seemed frustrated. And I had a hard time sort of understanding what was going on. Why was it that we were doing what we were supposed to be doing, but it just didn’t seem to be making such an impact?

And so I ended up doing a residency and community psychiatry – and how many of you guys know what community psychiatry is? So community psychiatry is basically taking care people are down and out, people who are in and out of homelessness, people who are in and out of incarceration, people are living in a lot of turmoil – drugs and alcohol – and that really crystallized to me what was the disconnect.

Was we were trying to provide technical solutions for things that were much broader than technical solutions could really address. And so I started to think about how could we develop a system that actually met the needs of the bulk of patients.

Because if you look in any emergency room setting, or family medicine setting, or almost any hospital, most patients, they may not be as extreme as that, they do have a lot in common with those sorts of patients. And I really wanted to sort of not only develop a system that address their needs, but really mobilize the next generation of community health leaders, college students, and medical students to really be part of shaping that future solution.

And so I moved to Greensboro Alabama about 14 years ago. Small town from Orange County. Made a trip across the country and landed in a small rural town down there and started a fellowship program for students who are between college and medical school to really begin to shape this and develop this model.

And basically, what we do is, as a psychiatrist or a family medicine doctor, you see 25 30 patients a day. they come in with a lot more going on than you can fix with medication or other things. We assign them to – assign fellows, we call them – students between college and medical school. Each of them are assigned around 10 health partners and they work with the patients and actually extend what I can do into the community and into the home and actually address the broader issues.

And it takes me from a position of where I feel powerless to actually empowered to actually make a difference in patients’ lives. And as the students really learn about this sort of – the human side and the community aspects of healthcare – and we extended that same idea not only into healthcare but looking into education.

So there’s very – there’s actually weird parallels between what’s going on in healthcare and education. If you think in elementary school you’ve got, let’s say take a third grade teacher, you’ve got 30 kids in your classroom, all at different academic levels, all different behavioral issues, all different attention spans, and they all end up in my office because they need medicines for attention deficit disorder.

And I’m like maybe that’s not entirely the answer for this. Instead, why don’t we take these same students who are working with health partners, and have them work in pairs in teachers’ classrooms to provide the one-on-one, sort of small group attention to the kids so that the kids who are behind can be caught up the kids who are ahead can be pushed forward and the teacher’s actually set up for success in managing the different sort of issues that the teachers are going through.

And what’s been remarkable, is if you think about it – Shelley and I were talking earlier – If you think what’s happened, I think broadly across the country, is these community-based, citizenship-based, non-professional initiatives, used to be by talented women who sort of ran sort of educational initiatives and healthcare initiatives. But the world’s changed, obviously, women are working and so you don’t have that infrastructure.

And so, really, my thought was, let’s take the next generation of students and really teach them about community-based citizenship where they can actually participate in reshaping and supporting that sort of structure in that community-based structure and actually make a difference within the healthcare system, in the education system.

So that’s kind of what we’re doing.

Q4: Can you describe… [inaudible]

JD: Yes. Yes. So we started out – so it’sincreasingly – when I went to medicalschool the idea was you graduate fromcollege and you went straight to medicalschool. That was just kind of the commonpath. More and more I think collegesRedlands and most schools across thecountry and most medical schools – areencouraging students to take a year ortwo to gain a little bit of real-worldexperience and life experience. [There’s] more tobeing a doctor than just being a goodstudent. And so we – there reallyweren’t that many – or aren’t really anycommunity health gap year programs.

There’s Teach for America which focuses on education, but nothing really focusing on healthcare or community health. So 10 years ago we launched this program with three students. They spend one year with us, some stay on for a second year and take on a greater leadership role. We started with the three students. Over the last 10 years, we’ve had 90 students come through, with Peter’s generosity.

We started in Greensboro, Alabama. Tested a pilot in the next town over in Marion, Alabama to see if it really could be scaled, but that was very culturally similar. And Peter’s generously offered to support a pilot in Pomona, California to see if it could be done in California, a different cultural setting.

And that Pomona had a variety of reasons, Peter had been connected and knew the president of Pomona College, that’s where I went to college, and so it seemed like a natural sort of movement in that direction. And so we’re excited to have 12 fellows working with the schools.

One story I was telling, when we didn’t know how the partnerships we’re going to go with the healthcare organizations in the schools, so we approached the School District in Pomona, we said what would you think of having this group of students, twelve students, straight out of college, work with an elementary school, work with your teachers in grades K-5. And their response was how many of our 27 elementary schools could you work with?

We were like, we can start with one. So that’s – so I liked I liked Peters, sort of in his story, talking about take small steps, but incremental small steps. If you have a good idea, and you implement it properly and pay attention to the details, you really can over time. Because there’s no way when you take something as big as healthcare, it could just seem so overwhelming. That’s what I think everybody is trying to do – is take the Big Shot.

And that’s just not going to work. It’s just too big and too complex. But if you take small-scale steps, you can actually make a difference both at that individual level but then by preparing the community health leaders of tomorrow.

And I think that we really can grow exponentially in terms of the number of sort of health leaders who over the next 30-40 years, because it’s really going to be their system, and they should take responsibility for helping to shape the solution for the system.

PK: Thank you. Shelley?

Emcee: Oh, Jack has a question.

Q5: Peter, what caught your imagination and why did you do the research you did on this person? And I want to know more about who you are. What is it that’s motivating you? I mean you have had huge success in your career. You run a multibillion-dollar business. Why are you so interested in going bottom-up in communities making them work? I want to understand who you are.

PK: So I grew up in Santa Ana in a middle-class family. Went to public schools. But for a young kid, I had lavish tastes. I wanted a stingray bicycle. I desperately wanted a stingray bicycle. My dad was so cheap. He wouldn’t buy me my stingray bicycle.

So I started at age 13, sorting deposit bottles at the pantry market. They paid me in cash. you know, I’m super sure it was totally illegal what I was doing. But I really liked it I liked. I liked working with my hands and I liked making money and I was saving for my stingray bike.

Shortly thereafter, I went down and got a work permit, and I actually got a job as a busboy. and then I got a job at Hogue Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach working in the kitchen. One summer I spent the whole summer scrubbing pots next to Gabriel Guzman – an immigrant from Mexico – he didn’t speak a word of English. That’s why I speak Spanish. I spent the whole summer scrubbing pots talking Spanish, learning Spanish with Gabriel Guzman. Okay? Now I love Gabriel Guzman – he’s one of my most dear people I’ve ever met my whole life.

So I saw the world from the bottom, didn’t I? I saw it from the bottom of a range of institutions. And what did I see? Almost universally, how bad the managements were of all these institutions. My direct supervisors almost without exception were assholes. And they specialized in abusing down and kissing ass up. Now do you think we had any respect for these supervisors of ours? Of course we didn’t have any respect. But what about the people above them? We didn’t respect them either did we? Well, how capable can they be if this idiot is fooling them? He’s not fooling us and we’re high school kids. Okay?

So I saw all this, Jack. I saw it from the bottom. A series of fluke-ish circumstances brought me into contact with some masters, some mentors, who taught me what the top looks like. So suddenly, by a fluke, by accident, I’ve got the bottom, and I’ve got the top. And I just applied it. And did it ever work. Oh my god did it work.

And I’ve used it in everything in my whole life. I’ve done six major capital campaigns. Every time there’s a project that fails in Pasadena, a school project, they come find me. Let’s go get that Peter, you know, he knows how to do this.

Yeah, because I do it like Frederick Taylor Gates did. I go and talk to everybody. I get all the input from everybody. and what does that do? It designs the plan, doesn’t it? And then when you go to raise the money, everybody’s willing to contribute. Why? It’s their plan. they own it.

So, you know, that’s who I am. Part of who I am is, I love history. I just love learning from the past. And I studied Rockefeller and that’s what got me into Gates. Who in the world is this Frederick Taylor Gates? Rockefeller says he’s the best businessman that he ever encountered? Better than Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie?

Well I’ve studied Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie. They were unbelievably capable businesspeople. Who in the heck is this Frederick Taylor Gates? And I found this book. And I went out on the Internet – I have more disposable income today than I did when I was trying to buy that stingray bike, okay? And I bought every single copy that was available of Frederick Taylor Gates’ memoirs. I got like 24 of them, and the last few, is you know, getting scarcity. Where there’s scarcity, the price goes up. I paid $300 a piece for them. But what did I have? I had the inventory. And I sent them to Bill Gates and I sent them to Warren Buffett, and I got really nice letters back from them saying, you know, this is the most thought-provoking book I’ve ever seen on philanthropy.

But I’m going to take that book and I’m going to redo it and I’m going to put annotations on the side. I’m going to navigate the reader through the book and I’m going to try and make it – I’m going to target it – for these big, philanthropic family foundations. I’m going to send them all a copy of this book. They throw in the trash, they throw it in the trash. But maybe, maybe one of them, two of them will read this book and say, you know, this is correct. This is what our family fortune should be devoted to. And if we do it right, guess what will happen dear? We’ll go from being on the letterhead to being on a postage stamp.

And isn’t that what you really want in life? Be remembered on a postage stamp. His program has the has the potential to be a postage stamp program. It’s the best thing I’ve ever seen, okay? And I’ve been around. It’s the best thing I’ve ever seen. Do you mind if I tell the story of how it happened? That I called you?

This is, it’s kind of creepy, it’s kind of weird, okay? I don’t go to church. I’m the chair of the Cathedral in LA. I’ve been the chair since it opened, because Cardinal Mahony asked me to do it. He says, the only guy I know who could make everybody get along, okay? So I said okay, I’ll do it.

I’ve learned a lot doing it, but I don’t go to church. But I’m going through my mail one day—I get all this mail. I stand over the trashcan. I just throw it [and throw it into the trash]. And I come to the Pomona Alumni Magazine. I didn’t go to Pomona. I’m not interested in Pomona Magazine. And yet I couldn’t throw it out. My hand would not throw it out. Something in my head said you need to read something in it – I’m not making this up. I know it sounds weird – you need to read something in here.

I opened it up. I open it up to this page – and here he is standing there. It says, Something’s Happening in Greensboro. And it’s the story of what he’s doing. And I start reading this, like I had to get my yellow pen, I go get my yellow pen, highlighting almost the whole thing.

This is exactly – this is the model. This is the solution to the healthcare problem in America. And a guy, an unknown guy in Greensboro, Alabama is doing it. A top-down, bottom-up guy. John Dorsey.


End Notes

This is Part 2: The Q&A. Part 1: The Speech, can be found here.

Peter doesn’t have a public web presence, but if you enjoy this speech, the next best person to follow is Blas Moros, who works with Peter at Glenair. You can find his website here and follow him on twitter @blasmoros.

  • The book in question, Frederick Taylor Gates’ autobiography, can be found on Amazon. Unfortunately, it’s going for $996.99. Fortunately, Blas has written up (and read) a summary and shared his takeaways here.

And if you want more from me, you can follow me on Twitter @kevg1412, or subscribe to my substack A Letter a Day, where I share some notes on one of the letters from my compilations each day.

Additional Reading

Written by FTG

Writings about FTG

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