WASHINGTON - D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton welcomed new members of Congress to the District Thursday evening. They hosted a reception on Capitol Hill and made sure to bring up D.C. statehood. But this event also honored David Rubenstein, a prominent Washington philanthropist who was given the key to the city by the mayor.
It is only the third time Bowser has given out this honor as she said it is for “his very generous and unparalleled philanthropy to the great treasures of Washington D.C.”
Rubenstein is the co-founder and co-chief executive officer of The Carlyle Group, a highly successful private investment group based in Washington D.C. Rubenstein's net worth is estimated at somewhere around $2.5 billion.
He is known as a patriotic philanthropist as he has donated tens of millions of dollars for projects in the nation's capital to restore some of the most beloved monuments, memorials as well as the National Archives. He also has contibuted to hospitals, universities and even funded the giant panda program at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.
Not only is he extremely generous, but he has a sense of humor as well.
“My biggest contribution to the city of Washington has been paying parking tickets for many, many years,” Rubenstein joked after receiving the honor.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was among those who thanked him for honoring the symbols of our democracy.
“He is a man who has supported the beauty of Americans’ heritage in so many ways,” said Pelosi. “In fact, an unsurpassed way. Unmatched by anyone else.”
Rubenstein grew up in Baltimore. His father was a postal worker and his mother was a housewife. He said they often took him to visit the nation’s capital.
“Everything in this city was free and I realized I got a lot of benefits out of this city by going to free museums and free art galleries and free monuments,” he said.
During the earthquake repairs to the Washington Monument in which he funded, Rubenstein had the chance to stand outside and touch the tip at the top of the structure.
“I held on very tightly,” he said. “I wanted to make sure I didn't fall, but it was quite a view.”
We also asked him about one of his biggest business regrets.
“My son-in-law was a classmate of [Mark Zuckerberg] at [boarding school] and eventually they went to Harvard together, and my son-in-law told me about this new company called Facebook and he asked me if I wanted to invest and I said, ‘No, it will never get anywhere.’ So that was a big mistake.”
He has had plenty of success nonetheless. But if you spot him on the street, you may notice he drives around in a 17-year-old Mercedes station wagon.
“I'm not that big of a car person, but I keep driving until it stops going and so far it keeps going,” said Rubenstein.