The Biggest Philanthropist You’ve Never Heard Of
Adrienne Arsht learned to give while growing up in Wilmington. She may call a triumvirate of large Eastern cities her home now—if the relentless traveler can be said to have a home at all—but she can never leave Delaware behind.
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Arsht often has to walk that diplomatic line. She stopped getting involved in politics after the last election, choosing instead to focus on her foundation work.
Though a sign in her kitchen reminds her that the word “no,” is a complete sentence, she mostly says “yes.” Yes to being on a board. Yes to visiting friends for an event.
She’s always said yes, she says, telling a childhood story of how she volunteered to make cupcakes for class—though not her class. Arsht brought cupcakes for another teacher who was having a birthday. It became a family joke, she says.
All that responsibility takes a certain courage, and acceptance of the caretaker role. It’s a role that came with being part of the Arsht family, a heritage, she says, of taking care of yourself and not asking for help.
“What I want on my tombstone is, ‘She had courage and she was a good friend,’” says Arsht.
While Arsht has friends around the world, as well as family, she mostly goes it alone. She travels alone. She went to the White House state dinner for Mexico alone. But her friends aren’t above doing a little networking of their own, it seems.
“What would I get the woman who has everything? “ says Carper. “Maybe the perfect man. There are any number of guys who’d like to stand in line and vie for her hand.”
Arsht laughs solidly for a few minutes after being told about Carper’s matchmaking scheme. Very diplomatically, she says she looks forward to seeing the senator’s picks.
Then, she’s off. Back to New York for a show and a concert and a gathering and dinner, all with long-term plans and hopes and dreams in the making.
And every time she opens her wallet, she sees a little saying by Edmund Burke, a little reminder of how she wants to live her life, for the rest of her life:
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
“It’s very powerful and it defines me every day when I wake up,” she says.