The Rockefeller Archive Center
“If we assist the highest forms of education – in whatever field – we secure the widest influence in enlarging the boundaries of human knowledge.”
—John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
In Their Own Words


The archives are filled with informative documents and artifacts, including letters, memos, and transcripts of speeches by Rockefeller family members and associates, many of which include advice and first-hand accounts of their experiences.

We've selected a few of these documents for our new "In Their Own Words" section, which include timeless advice on succeeding in business, spending wisely, and raising money, from John D. Rockefeller Sr. and his financial advisor, Frederick T. Gates, and guidance and inspiration on living a useful and happy life from John D. Rockefeller, Jr..

This section will be updated regularly to include a wider range of topics and contributors.

Nelson A. Rockefeller
Remarks on Art and Art Collecting, December 16, 1977

When he was presented with the 1977 Arts Award from the Council of the Arts in Westchester at SUNY Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller gave an illustrated lecture that described the sculpture collection on display on the grounds of his home in Pocantico Hills. His discussion and reminiscences ranged from his friendships with artists to his personal approach to art to the natural beauty of Westchester County. A decade earlier he had given a lecture on art as part of the "Collectors and Collecting" series at the New School for Social Research. An abridged version of that talk appeared in the April 1967 New York Times Magazine. See also his "Reflections on Art and Politics" in Famous Artists Magazine 16:1 (Autumn 1967), pp. 12-16.

The text and accompanying audio of his 1977 talk are presented here. The text has been amended to include the titles and dates of the works he discussed, although the images used to illustrate his talk are not included.

If you'd like to read along with the audio, we suggest opening both the transcript and audio. Please note that the audio running time is approximately 1 hour.

This printed version and accompanying audio are provided for private study and research purposes only. Reproduction, re-use, and distribution of the printed and audio versions are prohibited and are protected by U.S. and international copyright law.

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Nelson A. Rockefeller
Remarks on Extremism at the 1964 Republican National Convention

On July 14, 1964, while contesting conservative Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater for the party's presidential nomination, Nelson Rockefeller addressed the Republican National Convention at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. During his speech, Rockefeller was repeatedly interrupted and heckled by the delegates while proposing a platform amendment against extremism in the party.

Click on the image to view and read from the original press release or read the plain text transcript

John Dr. Rockefeller, Sr.
First Ledger of a Successful Man of Affairs
Mr. Rockefeller's Ledger: The First he Kept and What was in it Saving Money and Early Giving

Delivered at a social gathering of The Young Men's Bible Class of the Park Avenue Baptist Church Saturday evening, March 27th, 1897

By references to his first ledger, a small paper-covered memorandum book, Mr. Rockefeller explains how he managed to save money even on a small salary:

"Money is good if you know how to use it."

"I lived within my means, and my advice to you young men is to do just the same."

Click on the image to view and read from the original pamphlet or read the plain text transcript

John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
Early Experiences of a Young Business Man
A Plain Talk by a Plain Man
At the Club of The Young Men's Bible Class of the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church Saturday evening, May 7, 1904

John D. Rockefeller, Sr. associates his success with his early boyhood upbringing and experiences, including buying cordwood for his family and digging potatoes for a neighbor:

"It was a good thing to let the money be my servant and not make myself a slave to money. I tried to remember that ever since."

Click on the image to view and read from the original pamphlet or read the plain text transcript

Laura Spelman Rockefeller
"I can paddle my own canoe"
Cleveland High School graduation, July 16, 1855

Laura Celestia Spelman delivered the valedictory address to the Cleveland, Ohio, Central High School class of 1855. In her speech, titled "I Can Paddle My Own Canoe," the not-quite-fifteen-year-old daughter of one of Cleveland's most prosperous business men made a strong case for the right of women to the pursuit of culture and independent thought. Among the members' of the senior class present and listening attentively that day was her friend, John D. Rockefeller.

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John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
"I Believe"

On July 8, 1941, in a radio broadcast appeal on behalf of the United Service Organizations and the National War Fund, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. read this statement of principles that was widely reprinted under the title, "I Believe."

Click on the image to view and read from the original speech or read a transcript of the entire speech

I Believe

I believe in the supreme worth of the individual and in his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty.

I believe that the law was made for man and not man for the law; that government is the servant of the people and not their master.

I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with head or hand; that the world owes no man a living but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living.

I believe that thrift is essential to well ordered living and that economy is a prime requisite of a sound financial structure, whether in government, business or personal affairs.

I believe that truth and justice are fundamental to an enduring social order.

I believe in the sacredness of a promise, that a man's word should be as good as his bond; that character -- not wealth or power or position -- is of supreme worth.

I believe that the rendering of useful service is the common duty of mankind and that only in the purifying fire of sacrifice is the dross of selfishness consumed and the greatness of the human soul set free.

I believe in an all-wise and all-loving God, named by whatever name, and that the individual's highest fulfillment, greatest happiness, and widest usefulness are to be found in living in harmony with His will.

I believe that love is the greatest thing in the world; that it alone can overcome hate; that right can and will triumph over might.

In 1962 these words were included on a commemorative plaque that honors him at Rockefeller Center.

Frederick T. Gates
Letter to Brother Sunderland
Advice on How to Raise Money

While with the American Baptist Education Society, on April 20, 1891, the Rev. Gates wrote to a Brother Sunderland, who had asked for advice about how to raise money. His reply included twenty-two points of advice and continues to be quoted and cited by fundraising professionals.

Click on the image to view and read the letter

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