James Patterson, the world’s best-selling author, spoke to 110 major donors of the Palm Beach Civic Association during a Jan. 11 luncheon at Club Colette in the Town of Palm Beach.
A Civic Association Director, Mr. Patterson spoke about The Art of Philanthropy: To Give or Not – That is the Question.
Civic Association Chairman and CEO Bob Wright welcomed everyone to the luncheon during the Civic Association’s 75th anniversary year. Mr. Wright thanked Hector Alzate, manager of First Republic Bank in Palm Beach, for sponsoring the event.
Mr. Wright introduced Mr. Patterson, who made the Guinness Book of World Records in 2009 for having the most books make it onto the New York Times Best Seller List. He has given more than three million books to schoolchildren and members of the military, and more than 70 million dollars to support education. He has endowed more than five thousand scholarships to teachers. Mr. Patterson is the recipient of an Edgar Award and six Emmy Awards.
A vivid memory that Mr. Patterson has of his childhood is going with his grandfather on frozen food and ice cream deliveries during the summers in Newburgh, New York. He remembers his grandfather driving the truck over a mountain towards West Point and singing loudly – and badly. One piece of advice that his grandfather offered: whatever he ends up doing for a living when he grows up, he should always be singing on his way there.
“I do,” Mr. Patterson said. “I tell stories. It’s a cool job. It’s a dream job. You have to have a dream and you have to have a passion, but in terms of your kids and grandkids, you should suggest that they also have a backup dream …. When I was in high school, my dream was that I would play in the NBA. That was a very bad dream. My backup dream turned out to be that I could tell stories and that was a very good dream.”
More important to him than being the number one best selling author in the world is his role as “Sue’s husband and Jack’s father,” he said.
Mr. Patterson explained his and Sue’s target of charitable giving.
“Our focus couldn’t be clearer,” he said. “It’s to try to get kids reading, to try to get kids learning; to try to get kids thinking … As individuals, we can get kids reading and save lives … If kids can’t read well, they probably won’t be able to learn in school … They’ll have difficulty getting a job and won’t become good citizens – and we need good citizens … It’s essential that kids can read.
“We have a $3 million a year fund for grade school classroom libraries,” he said. “We had 82,000 requests in four days from teachers who are paying for their own classroom libraries.”
Mr. Patterson has been involved in helping a test program – in conjunction with the University of Florida – designed to help bring up the percentage of children in Florida who are reading at grade level. The current percentage statewide is 43 percent, he said. The test numbers over a five-year period are in the mid-80’s, he said.
“If we pull this off, Florida will have the best numbers in the country and it will save lives,” he said.
Guests were served Asian salad with vegetable spring roll, snapper en papillotte with saffron and peas risotto, and pecan praline tartufo.
Dan Ponton, owner of Club Colette in the Town of Palm Beach and a Civic Association Director, gave a brief history of the private club.
The first owner was Colette Henry, a freedom fighter in World War II, who owned a beauty salon in the Town of Palm Beach. Ponton took over the restaurant in 1982.
“Yes, I was 22 years old,” he said. “My experience with people in this room spans more than three decades … This little room has had a lot of history along the way.”
Every attendee received a complimentary copy of Patterson’s book Target Alex Cross and Patterson stayed for a book signing after the luncheon.
For more information about the Civic Association, visit PalmBeachCivic.org or call (561) 655-0820.