BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY INC. 1440 Kiewit Plaza Omaha, NE 68131
October 17, 2008
Dear Mr. Buffett,
I am sure that you receive many letters and solicitations on a daily basis, and most of them will be immediately thrown into the recycling bin. Nevertheless, I had a powerful dream about you last night that I wanted to share with you. It is known that you are one of the richest men in the world (maybe the richest?) but it is also known that you are a man of liberal ideas.
I dreamed that I befriended you—in a very genuine way—and that you, in turn, helped to finance my children’s higher education. I know it sounds absurd, but in the dream I was thinking, “This man, so much in the public eye, has billions of dollars. Why shouldn’t I just ask him for $300,000 to help educate my children?”
In the dream we understood each other perfectly without speaking; there was no need for desperate, embarrassing appeals. There you were, Warren Buffet, with that trademark crest of white hair, the generous Nebraska smile. We shared a deep love of poetry. Your son was also in the dream, and he loved poetry as much as you.
You may think this letter is crazy, but I am not a desperate person. I am a teacher, writer, and a poet. My first novel was published by an outstanding literary press, and soon a book of poems will be published. My husband is a talented painter whose work combines the abstract and the figurative. He teaches part-time at a local college.
Despite these minor successes, our big worry right now is the ungodly expense of sending our two children to college. We have very few assets (not much left since the recession started) and good credit, but we don’t want to lose our meager savings to put the kids through school. Debt is an awful thing. You are a very wealthy man, so you probably can’t truly grasp how awful debt is. I have been poor, and I never want to go back to the place we once were, counting pennies from the change jar to put a gallon of gas in the car.
My daughter is now applying to schools in New York to study theatre—and her prospects are excellent. (I am enclosing her picture and resumé. Isn’t she amazing?). NYU is her first choice, but the expense is above $50,000 per year; and most of the financial aid is in the form of LOANS! Can you imagine?
I don’t know why I dreamed of you, Mr. Buffet. Maybe I heard your name on the news lately because of the financial crisis that has hit everyone except you, apparently. Maybe I dreamed of you because I heard that you are philanthropic. In any case, consider this letter an old fashioned petition for help. Money to you is easy—you know how to make it, invest it, and accumulate it. As for me, I only know how to make poems. Poems have an intrinsic value—I believe they really do. But my poems are not going to get my children through school. Such is the nature of capitalism.
I am enclosing my daughter’s headshot and CV, so you can see that if you were to help us, you’d be investing in a young woman of genuine beauty and talent—with high hopes and a bright future.
There is always much more to be said, but I will leave the letter here, especially knowing that you are probably not reading it anyway. I hope it reaches you in good health. Please send my warm regards to your son. I feel like I know him already.
Your friend (in my dream),
PS: Here is one of my latest poems. I hope you like it.
And now I am turning away from you the way a ripple turns from a stone sinking into the bed of its river and the you is not you and the I is not me and a sunset is departing on the skin of the stream shimmering on the lip of our current— your motion, mine different, yet intertwined. We can trace the origins of motion to a moment but it’s impossible to see where things will end.
Kim Jensen is a writer, educator, and political activist whose books include, The Woman I Left Behind, Bread Alone and The Only Thing that Matters. Her fiction, poems, and essays have appeared in many journals and anthologies. Her recent doctoral dissertation in Creative Writing is a post-September 11 novel called Forget Jerusalem. Active in the peace and justice movement for many years, especially the struggle for Palestinian liberation, Kim is associate professor of English at the Community College of Baltimore County where she is the founding director of the Community Book Connection, an interdisciplinary literacy initiative that demonstrates the vital connection between classroom learning and broader social issues.