Financial History 140 Winter 2022 - Page 18

EDUCATORS ’ PERSPECTIVE pictures that make his point clearly and contribute to the letters ’ continued popularity with investors worldwide . His longlived and well-deserved reputation derives from the long-term success of Berkshire Hathaway that is clearly communicated year after year in his annual letter to shareholders .
Rogers , like Buffett , gained the trust of millions of Americans who relied on his views on politics , foreign affairs and even Wall Street . No one , however , looked to Rogers for investment advice . That would have to wait for that other midwestern oracle .
Eddie Cantor — performer and avid investor Warren Buffett — the “ Oracle of Omaha ”
Brian Grinder is a professor at Eastern Washington University and a member of Financial History ’ s editorial board . Dr . Dan Cooper is the president of Active Learning Technologies .
never thought much about money ; Buffett focused on money from an early age . Rogers grew up in and loved the rural Midwest ; Buffett prefers the urban environment of Omaha . Buffett also cares more about spelling and grammar than Rogers ever did . Nevertheless , it is in their writings where the similarities of these two oracles from the plains are the strongest .
Both Rogers and Buffett draw from their midwestern influences and engage in a down-home , gather-round-the-crackerbarrel style of writing that is illuminating and unpretentious . Consider the following gems from Buffett ’ s Berkshire Hathaway Inc . Letters to Shareholders , which he began writing in 1978 :
To paraphrase Jackie Mason , at these [ savings and loan ] associations it was the managers who should have been wearing the ski masks . March 2 , 1990
At some point these managements will indeed get the message : The most important thing to do when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging . But so far that point hasn ’ t gotten across : Insurance managers continue to dig — sullenly but vigorously . March 1 , 1991 4
In the business world , unfortunately , the rear-view mirror is always clearer than the windshield . February 28 , 1992
If history supplied all of the answers , the Forbes 400 would consist of librarians . February 28 , 1997
Big opportunities come infrequently . When it ’ s raining gold , reach for a bucket , not a thimble . February 26 , 2010
These Rogerian-like observations are not what typically flows from the pens of American CEOs when they write their annual letters to shareholders . However , their appeal lies in an unsophisticated bluntness , candor and clarity that not only delights but conveys an aura of truthfulness that is rarely seen on Wall Street . Buffett readily admits mistakes , celebrates successes and dismisses the absurdities of business leaders and academics in a way that elicits trust from his shareholders .
The annual letters , which Buffett personally writes , are meant to inform investors about the past year ’ s activities , to educate current Berkshire investors and to attract more quality shareholders . 5 Buffett successfully paints memorable word
Sources
Buffett , Warren E . and Lawrence A . Cunningham . The Essays of Warren Buffett : Lessons for Corporate America . Durham , NC : Carolina Academic Press . 2019 .
Buffett , Warren . Berkshire Hathaway Letters to Shareholders , 1965 – 2012 . Salt Lake City , UT : Explorist Productions . 2013 .
Cantor , Eddie , David Freedman and Jane K . Ardmore . My Life is in Your Hands and Take My Life : The Autobiographies of Eddie Cantor . New York : First Cooper Square Press . 2000 .
Cooper , Dan and Brian Grinder . “ Caught Short : Eddie Cantor ’ s Lasting Impact on Wall Street .” Financial History , Issue 87 , pages 10 – 12 . Winter 2007 .
Cunningham , Lawrence A . Dear Shareholder : The Executive Letters from Warren Buffett , Prem Watsa and Other Great CEOs . Manhasset , NY : Cunningham Cuba LLC . 2020 .
Cunningham , Lawrence A . “ What ’ s Warren Buffett ’ s Secret to Great Writing ?” GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No . 2016 – 43 . 2016 .
Linneman , William R . “ Will Rogers and the Great Depression .” Studies in American Humor 3 , 173 – 186 . 1984 .
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