As I was being escorted through the circuitous halls of Mar-a-Lago last weekend, I found myself questioning if I shouldn’t immediately turn around and leave. I had just arrived at the Trump NFT collection gala in West Palm Beach, Florida, with none other than Donald Trump himself in attendance.
It was both an honor and an embarrassment to be there, and I wasn’t sure how exactly I should react. Had my grandfather not been with me (I had brought him and a friend as my guests, both ardent Trump supporters), I probably would have left. But his excitement was palpable, so I continued the long walk to the final resting place of the evening, the famous gilded ballroom.
I’m no fan of Donald Trump. I’ve never loved his bombast, I disagreed with the majority of his decisions as US president, and, as a business owner, I don’t appreciate the ways he supposedly treats those he works with.
But despite these feelings, I spent almost $20,000 purchasing NFTs that directly supported him. It was a classic case of separating the art from the artist — only, in this situation, the “art” of the NFTs was less about aesthetic and more about opportunity to profit during a bear market.
I knew that if Donald Trump was involved in NFTs, they would probably be a great investment— as long as I timed things appropriately. In the long-run, his ventures don’t seem to do very well (Trump Steaks, Trump Shuttle and Trump University being notable failures). But, if one times the entry and exit well, his businesses in the past have done just fine.
I kept this in mind when purchasing the NFTs: Trump will probably pump the prices, so I will sell into the hype. Essentially, I’d use his marketing prowess to enrich myself. The art was unremarkable, the creator controversial, but the potential for profit was undeniable, so I made the decision to purchase.
It paid off.
Of the 200 NFTs I bought, I was able to recoup more than the costs by selling just one rare NFT. Besides that, I won a round of four of golf at Mar-a-Lago, several copies of his new book and sold many of the NFTs to other collectors during the boom following the release.
But throughout it all, I couldn’t shake the moral quandary going through my head.
While I was happy with the ROI, participating in the project prompted me to deeply reflect on the ethical dimensions of such decisions. When my conservative-leaning family asked me “what was your best investment of the year?” during the holidays, I had to sheepishly admit it was an NFT collection released by a man I had spent years trying to convince them to reconsider their love for.
Even so, attending the gala wasn’t just about political alignment; it was more about familial bonds and an attempt to step out of my “elite bubble.” I justified going to the gala by the fact that my grandfather (who is a staunch Trump supporter) would be able to meet one of his idols. It transformed the event into a generational bridge where our political divides were less central than our familial love.
Trump NFT gala dinner by Ogle
Sitting down for dinner in the palatial ballroom, I found myself impressed by the refined elegance that surrounded me. They served a three-course meal and seemed to spare no expense. I could imagine the impact the ballroom itself would have made in distinguished meetings of years past. Witnessing the joy of my grandfather in this setting, and especially when he was able to speak with and shake Trump’s hand, completely justified the decision to come.
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While seeing President Trump speak in person didn’t sway my stance on his international politics, the crowd’s excitement at his words was enjoyable to experience. I didn’t agree with the guy, but being around excited and happy people is infectious. However, when I posted a picture from the gala to Twitter, the impact it had on my followers was immediate: They decreased in real-time.
Clearly, my presence at the gala was perceived as a deliberate political statement by some, and once again I felt uncomfortable being there.
But I believe that Trump’s involvement in NFTs is a net positive for the industry. It signifies at least a soft endorsement of the space (which we rarely receive from politicians) and serves as a potential catalyst for growth, introducing a previously untapped demographic to the realm of digital assets.
My grandfather’s newfound curiosity about cryptocurrency and NFTs during and after the gala is testament to this notion. His questions were continuous and his curiosity obvious — and it ended in him deciding it may be wise to invest some of his own money into the space when he’s able.
What started as a simple purchase of NFTs led me to deep assessments of investment ethics, family bonds and political neutrality. It required me to consider a fundamental question: Can one participate in opportunities that conflict with personal beliefs without losing one’s moral compass, or is the act of participation itself an endorsement of those beliefs?
I’m not sure that I have an answer for these questions yet, but I have to thank Donald Trump for indirectly causing me to confront these complexities head-on. The experience stands as a reminder that life’s most profound lessons can stem from the simplest of actions, often leading us down paths we never anticipated.
One thing I am sure of though: The Trump steak was the best I’ve ever had.
Ogle has been an active investor in cryptocurrencies since 2012. He stays busy building different products to benefit the space, including his upcoming networking marketplace Shibuya. He is also building a new blockchain called Glue which focuses on addressing security risks and lack of good user experience in the crypto space. In the meantime, he chases down cybersecurity criminals via his cybersecurity company, Ogle Security Group.