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WORLD FOCUS: The Rockefeller mystique

August 6, 2015
By FRANK SHATZ , Lake Placid News

The Adirondack Roundtable, a part of the Lake Placid Institute, serves as a forum for high-profile speakers.

It was chaired for many years by John Boggle, the founder and former President and CEO of the Vanguard Group, an investment management company that manages more than $3 trillion in assets. Thus, an invitation from him to be a Roundtable speaker, is hard to turn down.

The latest invited guest speaker was Eileen Rockefeller, the youngest daughter of David and Peggy Rockefeller. She is seen as a leading member of the family's fourth generation. She is devoted to the mission of creating effective philanthropy. The Rockefeller's family ties to Colonial Williamsburg are close and longstanding

What has propelled Eileen into the forefront in the public domain was the publication of her memoir, "Being Rockefeller, Becoming Myself." The book which took six years to write is an honest, down-to-earth description of "growing up as a Rockefeller."

I asked, what impact had on her the finishing of the book and seeing it in print?

"It was a process of healing my own past so that I could find a sense of belonging," she said in a recent interview with the News.

The introduction of her book notes that Eileen understood at an early age that her name was synonymous with American royalty:

"She learned in childhood that wealth and fame could open any door, but as the youngest of six children and one of 22 cousins, in one of the world's most famous families, she began to realize that they could not buy a sense of personal worth."

Her book has earned high praise from a number of well known writers such as Daniel Coleman, author of "Emotional Intelligence." He wrote, "Eileen Rockefeller shares a fascinating, moving and revealing tale of growing up in the midst of power and wealth, and moving on to find a True North star in life. Anyone of us, no matter our roots, will learn much about living with authenticity and compassion, and becoming the person we want to be."

James Autry, former President of Meredith Co., Magazine group, evaluated Eileen's book this way: "'Being a Rockefeller, becoming Myself' is everything a memoir should be; endowed with engaging characters, rich in detail, enlivened with episodes and stories, and above all, intensely personal. And add one other thing: courageous. Eileen Rockefeller has not held back in describing her family dynamics or her feelings, thus has shared with us fascinating and utterly honest insights into her sometimes perilous journey toward unconditional love and acceptance."

I asked Rockefeller, what would be her advice to novice writers working on their memoir.

"Write whatever you are passionate about," she said. "Keep a journal. Share your writing with others. And have fun!"

As a young girl, Rockefeller spent her formative years at North Country School and summers at Camp Treetops, a 200-acre working farm with barnyard animals, large organic gardens, a lake free of motorboats, and miles of trails in the woods, close of Lake Placid.

"It was an experience, that in great measure, influenced my choices how I wish to live my life," Eileen told me last year in an interview while visiting Williamsburg. She also added that "any excuse would be good enough for me to pay a visit to either Williamsburg or Lake Placid. I love those places."

Apparently, the love is mutual. Her talk at the Adirondack Roundtable, was a love fest. Beth Amorosi, a board member of the Lake Placid Institute, and the granddaughter of James B. Donovan, best known for negotiating the exchange of captured American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers for Russian spy Rudolf Abel and the exchange of prisoners after the failed Bay of Pig Invasion. After listening to Rockefeller's talk, she said, "Eileen talk's was so inspiring for so many reasons, but the main message was that real wealth comes from life enriched by family, friends, intellectual curiosity, culture, accomplishment and experiences. ... Eileen exemplifies grace, empathy, dedication, and authenticity. Her gift for storytelling and her ability to express herself with such raw emotion and giving spirit drew us all in."

Frank Shatz is living in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. This column was reprinted with permission from the Virginia Gazette. He is the author of "Reports from a Distant Place," the compilation of his selected columns.



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