Hans Koepsell, Deseret News
Patrons walk to the Eccles Theater during its grand opening in Salt Lake City Friday, Oct. 21, 2016.

Turns out the country doesn't run on coffee or doughnuts — America runs on giving.

Philanthropy and charitable giving have been a part of the American experience since the country's humble roots. Benjamin Franklin, considered by many scholars to be the father of American philanthropy, saw a need to improve society through public-private partnerships. He used his newspaper, the Philadelphia Gazette, to promote philanthropic activity, gain support and fundraise for new ideas.

And philanthropy is still in vogue, especially in Utah, where the state has built some of its finest institutions and projects because of partnerships with private foundations. The George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, remains one of the most prominent donors.

It's hard to look around and find an industry that has not benefited from its generosity. Since 1958, Eccles Foundation contributions have averaged $25 million a year and have elevated education, community, arts and culture, health and wellness and preservation and conservation efforts across the state.

Recently, the new Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City used the hit Broadway musical "Hamilton" to educate Title I students about American history with the Hamilton Education Program. Previously, no other theater in Utah was sufficiently equipped to handle a production of that scale. Because of Utah philanthropists, students were able to have once-in-a-lifetime educational opportunity.

Behind the biggest art, health and conservation endeavors across the rest of the country lie similar displays of charity.

The generosity of Americans also is a major driver of the economy. The United States consistently ranks as one of the top giving nations in the world, if not the top. Charitable efforts have laid the foundation for museums, local libraries and scientific research, allowing for some of the nation's most cherished institutions and projects to be realized.

" Charitable efforts have laid the foundation for museums, local libraries and scientific research, allowing for some of the nation's most cherished institutions and projects to be realized. "

Utah today — a state full of culture and great institutions of medicine and learning — is a result of such goodness. It is a testament of the power realized in coming together to instigate real change.

6 comments on this story

Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller both shared the philosophy that the fortunes of wealth come with responsibility to aid the less fortunate, something worth remembering during what many refer to as "the giving season." America’s long tradition of combining public and private efforts to benefit the masses is not something to gloss over; it's a way of life.

One of the great freedoms Americans have is the freedom to choose where they give their money. As your family gathers to reflect on the events of the past year, don’t forget to thank those who choose to impart of their wealth and elevate life for everyone else.