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Pianist Peter Buffett to conduct a conversation at Ohio State

Pianist Peter Buffett, who is the youngest son of investor Warren Buffett, is set to host a 'Concert and Conversation' on Sept. 24 at Weigel Auditorium. Credit: Courtesy of C Taylor Crothers

Pianist Peter Buffett, who is the youngest son of investor Warren Buffett, is set to host a ‘Concert and Conversation’ on Sept. 24 at Weigel Auditorium.
Credit: Courtesy of C Taylor Crothers

His philosophical and philanthropic world views can easily seem overbearing and arrogant.

Indeed, being told to “follow your dream” by Peter Buffett — the youngest son of investor Warren Buffett ­— can feel to some like an offense. It’s an irony not lost on Buffett, though.

“I say, ‘I know what you are thinking, and I get that,’ and then I tell my story,” he said. “Through the story, people shift their minds, and certainly their projection of what I probably am to them, based on my dad.”

Buffett is not in the investment business like his father. He has been, for more than 30 years now, a singer-songwriter, a composer, a philanthropist and, more recently, an author. 

His book “Life Is What You Make It: Find Your Own Path to Fulfillment,” which has sold nearly half a million copies worldwide, is the basis of his show “Concert and Conversation,” which he will present in the Weigel Auditorium on Wednesday.

“If you find something you’re really passionate about — for some people it may take a while — this is the thing to focus on,” Buffett said. 

His show, intended mainly for college audiences, “is basically for people in transition, or thinking about a transition,” he said.

By teaching his audiences to go with what they love, he said he is passing on a lesson his father gave him.

“My parents always emphasized on finding my own path,” he said, admitting that his father’s money was a “lucky head start.”

“I believe that if I didn’t have that (money), I would have probably started not in a very different position, but I would have worked for someone else,” he said.

With an initial $90,000 from his father, he started a small studio business, offering studio time and recording services. This subsequently developed into creating his own compositions and recordings later on. 

“I basically said yes to everything (that was offered to me),” he said, in regard to the work that was offered to him. 

Despite the money, Buffett’s famous last name didn’t really help him much in the beginning.

“Surprisingly, 30 years ago or even 20 years ago … the only ‘Buffett’ people knew was Jimmy Buffett, the musician. Honestly, nobody really knew who my dad was, and frankly I didn’t know really what my dad did,” he said.

“There was no real obvious sign that (my dad) was wealthy, and people of the outside world, if they weren’t following things as closely in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and even into the ‘90s, they wouldn’t know who he was.”

Buffett is also, together with his wife Jennifer, co-president of NoVo Foundation, which he describes as a “big driver behind how my music has changed.” The foundation, which aims to address economic and gender issues, focuses on “balancing things up,” he said.

“The Warren Buffetts of today should behave more like indigenous people,” he said, arguing that society has lost touch with values such as community and focuses too much on short-term revenue and return on investment.

“The Indian people, right there in Ohio, were originally running under the idea that they were making decisions for generations into the future. And so they thought very carefully about the choices they made,” he said.

Buffett tries to shift global mindsets, many of which made the wealth of his father. He doesn’t see a contradiction, but instead said he feels “very good about using the wealth that my father created to try and get to some of the root causes of social problems, even when they’re related.”

“Sometimes the things (my father) has done as an investment strategy may be good as an investment strategy, but not so great for the social good in the long run,” he said.

He added, though, that it was not Warren Buffett or any other specific person causing many of the problems we face today.

“Some ideas weren’t in my dad’s head because they weren’t in the consciousness of that time,” he said. “It isn’t anybody’s fault. It’s just the way we evolved.”

For that reason, he presents his life philosophy to as many future decision-makers as possible. Finding your passion, he said, is not self-centered — “it’s a different kind of consciousness,” because people who are passionate care about their community. Students, he said, are in a position to change society. 

“Maybe (the show) have an effect on them, and one of them may go out so that it changes the balance and makes things more equitable for everyone,” he said.

His storytelling goes along with his music, which has become more and more political. 

“When I see something, I want to say something,” he said.

OSU students who want to discover Buffett’s views can do so Wednesday, when he comes on campus for the first time.

“I am just one person doing my part,” he said, “but now, because of who my father is, I may be able to take a stage and talk to people and do these things. I’m trying to do the best with what I got.”

OSU students had mixed reactions on taking life advice from someone who came from such a privileged background.

“In his particular case, (I wouldn’t), because he had the cushion of money,” said Natalie Toth, a first-year in food science. “It matters if they built up their success on their own.”

Ernie Hou, a first-year is business, had similar sentiments.

“It is a little bit unfair, because everybody doesn’t have the same opportunities and the same background,” he said.

Alex Banerjee, a second-year in psychology, however, said Buffett’s background gives him credibility.
“(The Buffetts) obviously know what to do, and how to be successful. He wouldn’t come to OSU if he didn’t know what he was talking about. I am guessing he learned well from his dad,“ Banerjee said.

Buffett said he will use the show to talk about the key messages from his book with songs to highlight his sorry.

Doors open at 7 p.m., and the concert starts at 7:30 p.m.

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