At 10am on Friday, February 28th, 2016, Mr. Buffett -the oracle of Omaha- walked briskly into the conference room of Berkshire Hathaway where students from 8 schools waited patiently. He introduced himself to the audience with a genial wave and mentioned that he was not a movie star to deserve such a warm welcome, which made us laugh. His positive energy and enthusiasm could be observed on the faces of all participants the moment he entered.
Throughout the entire two hour fifteen minutes Q&A session, the investment mogul, who was once terrified of public speaking, never showed any signs of nervousness and fatigue. He answered each of the questions comprehensively, peppering his answers with personal anecdotes, and clear and insightful analysis. His jokes were down-to-earth and so was his sense of humour and wit. His ability to recall past events vividly left me in awe. I found myself so impressed with his eloquence and charisma.
Questions ranged from his professional views on investing, his business philosophy and Berkshire Hathaway corporate social responsibility. His thoughts on the role of females in the world of investments, the greatest misconceptions about him, and what attributes best explains his success as well as his philanthropy and what his typical day looks like were among issues he addressed.
Answering a question on the role of women in investment, he shared a very personal story with the group. He told us about his sisters and wife‘s love, and how they had helped him connect with others and appreciate the world, moulding him into the man he is today.
His response to a question on what attribute best described him was thought-provoking. He recounted a story of how he and Bill Gates coincidentally wrote down the same attribute in a similar meeting, “Focus”. He emphasized that focus emanate from passion-without which he wouldn’t have been the investment mogul he is.
His optimism in life and passion for what he does permeated throughout his responses, especially when he said “Investment is a painting without boundaries. I paint wherever I want”.
Unlike the stereotypical no-nonsense businessman, his manners are uniquely different, and it was refreshing to see an over eighty-year-old man act with youthful energy. He exceeds all expectations and is one of the nicest, most genuine, intelligent, down-to-earth person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.
After lunch at the Field club, he took photos with all the groups present. One of such photos currently hangs on my wall. Perhaps, one of the most valuable lessons to take away from the meeting is our capacity as humans to form trustworthy relationships with others, and to focus on discovering our passion which will drive our success. Recounting of these experiences reminds me of the importance of taking risks and exploring new interests each day.
The visit to TDAmeritrade, Omaha World Herald Newspaper, The Omaha Union Station and Borsheims were amazing and made the trip to Omaha a memorable one.
Finally, I want to express my sincere gratitude to the SDSU Economics Department, Dr. Wang and the Investment Club for this once-in-a-life-time opportunity which will be forever cherished. This life-changing experience has broadened my intellect, knowledge and depth of understanding in the investment industry especially as an international student. I will commend the investment club for a good job and will recommend that women are given more of such opportunities to learn about the investment industry in the future.
Raymond A. Opoku