Peter Buffett Ignites New Thinking on Social Issues

United Way of Pierce County rallied community members to work together in a new way to spark dialogue on complex social issues, by hosting A Concert and Conversation with Peter Buffett, son of investor Warren Buffett, at the Schneebeck Concert Hall at the University of Puget Sound on Tuesday.

United Way Worldwide is partnering with Peter Buffett, a musician, social change agent; bestselling author of Life is What You Make It and philanthropist, as part of a cross-country event to ignite new thinking and energy around community issues. Through the performance series and year-round, United Way is ensuring individuals are engaged, lending their voices and perspective to strengthen communities.

While United Way has years of experience galvanizing people and organizations to find solutions to the toughest problems, the event offered the potential to engage more individuals – of all ages, races, genders, political affiliations and backgrounds.

“We have seen great energy around collaborations that are united to fight poverty in our community around specific barriers like affordable housing, child care, and transportation. Non-profits, government, businesses and people who are struggling with poverty are all coming together to create solutions and address systems changes. We are thrilled to have Peter Buffett demonstrate how a commitment to social activism and philanthropic investments work in tandem,” said Dona Ponepinto, President and CEO, United Way of Pierce County.

The performance featured clips from his film, television and philanthropic work as it traced the evolution of his life to an eager audience comprised of students, business leaders, philanthropists and community leaders. The ingredients for an inspiring night were best summed up by Buffett’s mantra, “We are all connected and one person's action is going to influence somebody else's somewhere. So we better start thinking about how our actions affect people we'll never meet.”

Students were encouraged by Buffett to ask questions during the performance on a number of topics including missing indigenous women, oppressive structures and systems that are in place and growing up with privilege. Buffett’s responses were thoughtful and he admitted he didn’t have answers to all the questions, which revealed an honest, unexpected vulnerability.   

Girls’ and women’s rights, community-led change, equity and justice are especially important to Buffett, which makes this an ideal partnership and opportune time to spark new ideas and momentum for community transformation.  

"It’s clear that United Way of Pierce County is transforming lives in meaningful ways. It was so inspiring to hear stories from multiple partners and learn more about the deep and long term commitments made to those in need,” noted Buffett.

Earlier in the day, Buffett participated in a Community Impact Tour to explore the work we are doing to reduce the barriers to economic self-sufficiency. United Way’s work in fighting poverty resonated with Buffet when he learned that in Pierce County alone, one in three households with children struggle with poverty. One in six people don’t know where their next meal is coming from and more than half of local students receive free or reduced cost meals.

United Way’s goal to lift 15,000 Pierce County households out of poverty and into self-sufficiency, one family at a time, by 2028, is intended as a marker to track key outcomes. Ponepinto explains, “Reducing poverty and increasing financial stability are sound social investments for Pierce County because doing so generates returns to society over time in the form of higher real spending power, reduced expenditures and improved quality of life.”

Ponepinto adds, “Our strength lies in the fact that we act as catalysts for change because we bring people together to convene around public problem-solving that focuses on the continuum of moving families out of poverty. Getting people out of poverty is not a linear path. We are ensuring that basic needs such as food, clothing, transportation, health and shelter are met so families can move out of crisis and into stability. Supportive services like affordable childcare, technology, legal assistance and safety needs provide greater family stability-- and employment placement, financial coaching, education and workplace skills are moving families from being stable to thriving.”

The concert is part of the organization’s ongoing efforts to work with community partners to engage more people even deeper on key barriers blocking families from succeeding. United Way’s annual From Poverty to Possibilities is one of the organizations core community conversations that continues to draw hundreds of local leaders together to focus on specific barriers. The 2019 event on November 12 will have a sharp focus on housing since it represents one of the biggest obstacles for families to overcome since it represents the biggest household budget expense.  

To learn more about the event or United Way’s community impact work, visit or contact


About United Way of Pierce County: Our goal is to lift 15,000 local households out of poverty and into financial stability by 2028, one family at a time. We do this with a three-pronged approach that incorporates prevention, intervention and empowerment. United Way creates a solid foundation for Basic Needs like food, clothing and shelter so people can move out of crisis; breaks down barriers via South Sound 211 to connect families to critical resources and navigation services including behavioral health, housing, transportation and employment; and Builds Strong Families by helping people face financial challenges with free, one-on-one financial and career coaching and resources that help families thrive and break the cycle of poverty. By mobilizing local businesses, community organizations, governmental agencies and individuals who are committed to making a long-term measurable difference in our community, we are tackling poverty in Pierce County. To learn more visit