Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos expanded on his pledge to set up a $2 billion philanthropy fund in a presentation Thursday night at the Economic Club of Washington.
Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos will hire an executive team to run a network of nonprofit preschools serving low-income communities.
Bezos expanded on a pledge announced early Thursday of $2 billion to help pay for programs to support homeless families and early childhood education, the largest philanthropic push yet from the world’s wealthiest man.
His new foundation, the Bezos Day One Fund, will provide grants primarily to existing family shelters, he said Thursday night before more than 1,000 people at the Economic Club of Washington. The emphasis, however, will be on creating and operating “Montessori-like” preschools that will help prevent children in low-income families from falling behind in their education.
“If a kid falls behind, it’s really hard to catch up,” Bezos said, speaking about his own childhood that included preschool and a teacher who said he was so focused on tasks she had to move his chair to get him to start a new project.
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Bezos was interviewed at the event by David Rubenstein, co-chairman of the Carlyle Group. The crowd included Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, who are both trying to snag Amazon’s second North American headquarters. The project — Amazon says it will announce a location this year — promises 50,000 jobs over the next two decades.
Bezos fended off a question about his choice, dropping no hints about the company’s plans and saying the decision will be announced before the end of the year.
Bezos has a home in Washington, D.C., owns The Washington Post and Amazon has significantly increased its lobbying presence in the capital. Bezos and his company are frequent targets of criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump and, more recently, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who’s made the billionaire a symbol of income inequality when pushing for better wages for workers and fewer government benefits for companies.
Bezos declined to discuss his conversations with Trump and said he doesn’t feel the need to defend his company from attacks. However, he said it is dangerous for politicians to “demonize the media.”
“There has never been an elected official or public figure who has ever liked their headlines,” he said. “You’re going to get scrutinized. It’s healthy.”