“Love one another, for that, is the whole law; so our fellow men deserve to be loved and encouraged-never to be abandoned to wander alone in poverty and darkness. The practice of charity will bind us-will bind all men in one great brotherhood.”
Conrad N. Hilton
Every week I try to share different stories of people who impact change through their life’s work and the organizations they build to serve others. Most of the time these people are alive to share their journey first hand. However, the other day I had the privilege of spending the day at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and I came away from the day being inspired and in awe of one hotel magnet ‘s lasting legacy of compassion.
For any of you who have ever stayed at a Hilton Hotel, you know the name, but did you know the man behind it? I didn’t and was beyond inspired by not only what Conrad Hilton accomplished in his life and even more what he is accomplishing posthumously.
His story began on Christmas Day in 1887, born to humble beginnings with a German-American mother and Norwegian immigrant father in territorial New Mexico. His life was rooted in the beliefs of hard work, dreaming big, God and country. He served in New Mexico’s first state legislature before enlisting in World War I and followed his mother’s advice to “find his own frontier.” He set out to Texas hearing of the oil boom in 1919 and thought he would try to buy a bank but bought a hotel instead.
Thirty years after buying his first hotel and many thereafter he acquired the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. A man who was known for his honesty, optimism, fairness and his belief that “man with God’s help and personal dedication is capable of anything he can dream.” He was the first to franchise hotels, developed the airport hotel and developed the first hotel chain. As his empire expanded across the country and eventually the globe he was determined to use his belief in the power of travel fostering an understanding among peoples of the world.
Conrad Hilton lived an amazing life and had a genuine and deep passion for serving those in need. He left almost his entire estate to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation upon his death in 1979 with a goal to alleviate human suffering throughout the world and created a global legacy of humanitarianism.
The other day as I sat in this fantastic discussion at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation learning more about how his estate is impacting education, homelessness, foster care, HIV AIDS, and access to clean water just to name a few of the Hilton’s initiatives. The foundation has given ten million dollars a year to the homeless alone. I witnessed one such moment of his legacy as a local Los Angeles girl, who grew up homeless, received the gift of education. It was a moment of true grace.
I left the day in awe of the impact one life can make on so many and that Hilton’s life continues to make. The foundation’s work is guided by the clear intentions expressed in Conrad’s last will and testament. Since his death, the foundation has distributed 1.6 billion dollars in grants around the globe to fulfill the words on Conrad Hilton’s tombstone, which said, “Charity is a supreme virtue and the great channel through which mercy of God is passed on to mankind. It is the virtue that unites men and inspires their noblest efforts. Christmas is forever.”
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