Warren Buffett, Business '51, returns to Columbia to chat with students and Bill Gates

By Gabriela Hempfling

Published: November 13, 2009

On Thursday, the world’s two richest men visited Columbia.

Bill Gates, who founded Microsoft Corp., and Warren Buffett, investor-at-large, told students that the worst of the recession had passed. Speaking in Roone Arledge Auditorium, they shared their optimism with students in the Columbia Business School and Earth Institute. Buffett graduated from the Business School in 1951.

At the town-hall-style event, CNBC’s Becky Quick moderated a dialogue between the two billionaires and roughly 700 students. Before the discussion began, Quick noted the context of the event. “I do know that these are unsettling times in the economy and the markets and there is a lot of uncertainty in where we stand,” she said. The event was to be broadcast on CNBC as a segment titled “Warren Buffett and Bill Gates: Keeping America Great” on Thursday night. [CNBC Video below and alternate link here]

Neither Buffett nor Gates acknowledged any of this uncertainty. “The economy is sputtering, but we are still at the beginning,” Buffett said. With his recent purchase of the Burlington Railroad, the single largest acquisition in history, Buffett put firm support behind that idea. “The railroads are cost-effective and environmentally friendly; each one supplants 280 trucks,” he reasoned. “If America has a core future, railroads have a core future, and I am willing to bet a lot of money on it—about $34 billion.” . . .

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