buffett_gates-art-streiber.jpgInvestor Warren Buffett and Microsoft founder Bill Gates announced on Wednesday that they have met with the top billionaire in the country asking them to give away at least 50 percent of their wealth to charity.

What began with a private New York City meeting involving Oprah Winfrey, Michael Bloomberg, Ted Turner, David Rockefeller, and George Soros has now resulted in The Giving Pledge campaign, which will post public declarations from peers who take the pledge via a new website.

Four families already announced their pledge to give away at least half their wealth — real estate and construction billionaire Eli Broad, venture capitalist John Doerr, media entrepreneur Gerry Lenfest and former Cisco Systems Chairman John Morgridge.

The Bill Gates family has already given away $28 billion in recent years, and Warren Buffet has given $6.4 billion to the Gates’ foundation so far. In 2006, Buffett made a public commitment to gradually give all of his Berkshire Hathaway stock to philanthropic foundations. In a letter this week explaining his philanthropic ideas in Fortune magazine, he says he couldn’t be happier with that decision.

“Millions of people who regularly contribute to churches, schools, and other organizations thereby relinquish the use of funds that would otherwise benefit their own families. Many people give extensively of their own time and talents to help others — gifts that often prove far more valuable than money.”

“What I can do, however, is to take a pile of Berkshire Hathaway stock certificates and commit them to benefit others who, through the luck of the draw, have received the short straws in life. To date about 20% of my shares have been distributed. Yet, I will continue to live in a manner that gives me everything that I could possibly want in life.”

“Some material things make my life more enjoyable; many, however, would not. I like having an expensive private plane, but owning a half-dozen homes would be a burden. Too often, a vast collection of possessions ends up possessing its owner. The asset I most value, aside from health, is interesting, diverse, and long-standing friends.”

For the full story behind the pledge, who is signing on, and what the drive might mean for the world, read Fortune’s, “The $600 billion challenge.”

(READ the entire public letter from Mr. Buffett at CNN.Money, here)

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