Our Views on Philanthropy
There are many battles worth fighting. This conviction has been a driving force behind our philanthropic commitments, along with numerous mission-driven commercial ventures. My wife, Tayler, and I are firm believers in tikkun olam, the Jewish mandate to “repair our broken world” – beginning with the recognition that it is in fact a mandate. Similarly, although “mitzvah” is commonly interpreted as “good deed”, it translates literally as “commandment”. While it takes innumerable shapes, this is work that fundamentally must be performed. The below is not meant to serve as an exhaustive account of our philanthropic activities, but rather as an introduction to the principles, focus areas, and key causes that have guided us.
We created the Cicero Institute to partner with modern-day Ciceros: courageous policymakers and public-spirited entrepreneurs who oppose special interests and uphold the common good. Cicero includes both a 501c3 to research and educate on policy, and a 501c4 to create and pass important legislation – policy solutions based on non-partisan entrepreneurial thinking that applies transparency, accountability, and frameworks inspired by the values of our free society to maximize opportunity for every citizen.
America’s universities have long been the envy of the world, yet a look at our elite campuses reveals that they are drifting ever further from their founding ideals. Students are conditioned to view challenging ideas as violent and oppressive, and are forming rigid new orthodoxies that aim to overturn the foundations of Western culture. Meanwhile, the cost of higher education is soaring, fueled by administrative bloat, overeager public and private lenders, and a pervasive obsession with rankings. The cronyism of higher education is so pervasive that even the idea of forming a new university is viewed as heretical. We risk forgetting that great universities did not simply appear – they were built.
The University of Austin (UATX) was founded on the same principles that once sustained the first American universities: the sacredness of free inquiry, the promotion of classical liberal values, and the promise that no school of thought may silence another. These principles demand that both teachers and students become relentless pursuers of the truth. The goal of UATX is to develop, not indoctrinate, courageous leaders who will imagine innovative solutions to our most significant problems. Since truth is independent of any one sect or dogma, UATX will sustain its independence from passing trends or pressures. It will sustain the free and fearless inquiry that itself sustains America’s success.