Remarks delivered by Mr. Michael Rockefeller, Great-Grandson of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., at the Commemoration of the 85th Anniversary of the Rockefeller Donation for the League of Nations Library, 10 September 2012
On 10 September 2012, the UNOG Library inaugurated the John D. Rockefeller League of Nations and United Nations Archives Reading Room in commemoration of the 85th Anniversary of John D. Rockefeller's donation for the League of Nations Library.
A portrait of the visionary philanthropist painted by Frank Salisbury in 1947, was donated by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.'s son David Rockefeller, Sr. on the occasion of the dedication of the reading room in his father's honor.
Michael Rockefeller, great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., represented the Rockefeller family at the inauguration of the reading room. Below are his remarks (as prepared) and the text of the letter from David Rockefeller, Sr. to UNOG Director-General Kassym-Jomart Tokayev that accompanied the donation of the portrait:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting me to participate in this occasion.
This dedication to JDR Jr, my great-grandfather, is a reflection of the long tradition of Rockefeller philanthropy and involvement in civil society and reflects the family’s long-standing goal of working to solve the fundamental problems that affect all humanity, both domestically and internationally.
I would like to read a letter written by my great Uncle, David Rockefeller, who is unable to attend today:
September 4, 2012
Dear Under-Secretary-General Tokayev:
I regret not being able to join you, your colleagues and guests In Geneva to mark the 85th Anniversary of my father’s gift to the League of Nations; a gift that enabled the magnificent Palais des Nations to be constructed. Although I was a young boy at the time, I still recall Father’s great respect for the League and his hope that this new international body would help to bring about a peaceful international order. Sadly, that was not to be, but the hope lived on through one of the most terrible wars in the history of mankind.
As you know my brothers and I shared Father’s belief in international cooperation, and after World War II all of us were supportive of the creation of the United Nations Organization, and pleased to be of some assistance in convincing the leaders of the organization to locate its headquarters in New York City. Succeeding generations of the Rockefeller family have continued this commitment to international collaboration as an effective way to address the scourges of poverty, ignorance and violence in its many forms.
My family and I are deeply gratified by the United Nation’s decision to create the John D. Rockefeller, Junior Reading Room in the League of Nations Archives. I am also pleased to donate a portrait of Father to be displayed there. It is my hope that it will remind people of his generosity, but more importantly, of his conviction that strong international organizations had an important role to play in the creation of a just, equitable and peaceful world.
With my very best wishes,
Many might wonder why in 1927 a man living 6,000 km away from Geneva would donate $2mm to build a library here.
JDR Jr. grew up in a house that thought globally. He was only six in 1863 when his father made his first international oil sale, in China. As a young adult, Jr. turned his attention from business to philanthropy, and he applied the lessons he learned from his father, advisors and from his own religious and disciplined life to the world of philanthropy.
He had come to believe in international tolerance and understanding, so in the 1920s, despite the United States’ lack of support for the League of Nations and he himself being no fan of Woodrow Wilson, Junior was already looking for a more meaningful way of helping the League. The RF was already funding many of the League’s projects, and his staff was studying the issue war and peace, specifically the contrast of advances in waging war versus the lack of advances in nations dealing with each other on a global scale. The study’s conclusion was to support the League’s scholarship efforts.
Out of this study came a $2 million dollar gift to the League in 1927 to build this library, which he would be extremely pleased today to see being utilized to further the cause of multilateralism by providing a venue for in depth research and careful study of global problems.