Welcoming Remarks at the 2012 Spring Dinner at Kuala
Welcome to the Fifth Annual FTA “A Spring Evening in Kuala Lumpur with Very
Special Friends”. We gather in New York City spring and fall, and annually
at Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Bangkok, Mumbai, Shanghai, Hong Kong and
now as well at Shenzhen and Saigon to recognize hospitality excellence; in the
names of those whom we honor, provide scholarships at schools of higher
hospitality education; and to make charitable contributions.
An industry is only as strong as the wisdom, vision, compassion and actions of
its leaders; leaders who define excellence for the benefit of all those who look
to them to know the way to realize their dreams and ambitions and not be left
behind. In the end we are judged not by whom we include, but by whom we
exclude. Great leaders inspire and teach all those who seek to be
included, because serving the least of us is truly the highest calling and the
only measure of service from the heart.
This evening we come together to announce the 2012 FTA Hospitality Awards for
Excellence and to donate to charity. This is truly a very special evening
for us all and I thank you for joining us, because as I say at every FTA dinner,
YOU are the dinner.
But the deeper meaning of why we come together is really at the very heart of
why the hospitality industry is so special to those of us who have come to
consider it our calling.
Hospitality is about SERVICE and in particular, Service Excellence.
Service is truly the Highest Calling. It is not what we do for ourselves,
but what we do for others that are the measure of our worth to humanity: And
simply because it is the right thing to do: Not for personal recognition.
The truth is that we are free to dwell at any given moment in as beautiful a
place as our hearts are open to loving others and our willingness to serve them
without regard to our advantage.
Life is a series of micro steps from the time we arrive to the time we depart
and the quality of our life is but a reflection of the quality of our
contribution to the peace and happiness of others: It is not about pleasing
ourselves or collecting “things”: It is about serving others and after one’s
basic, personal needs are met, allowing what remains of what comes our way to
pass through our fingers for the benefit of those less fortunate. While I
have nothing against luxury goods, when it is your time to pass from this life,
do you want to be remembered for your collection of Rolex watches or your
charity for those less fortunate? I am confident if Mother Teresa or
Mahatma Gandhi was given a Rolex, they would have honored the gift for 24 hours
and then offered it to someone they thought would cherish it. So, why
should we be any different? I ask you to consider making charity your way
of life, rather than an annual after thought for a tax advantage.
I ask everyone to please remember those less fortunate, especially the estimated
500,000 refugees at the United Nations camps in Kenya, which is running out of
water and food; not to mention the now 40,000 refugees in camps in South Sudan
who are without water. And the poverty and suffering in Pakistan, India,
Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam and everywhere else; as
well as the massacres taking place in Africa and the Middle East. A recent
report by UNICEF and The World Health Organization says that annually at least
7.5 million children under the age of five die from preventable diseases. The
suffering of so many continues, as does their need for your compassion;
including the recent natural disasters in Japan. I ask you to consider
your comfortable lives and accordingly, open your hearts, just a little bit more
to those less fortunate and in need.
I was born into an upper-middle class, American family with both upper class
society standing as well as lots of money. My family had a very prosperous
food distribution business. I was sent to the finest schools; we belonged
to the “old money WASP country club”, which quietly discriminated against
everyone who was not exactly like us, because of their race, religion,
education, income and neighborhood. We had a live-in combination maid &
cook, plus a cleaning lady who came on Thursdays to help with the heavy
cleaning. We vacationed at fashionable resorts in Florida; my parents went
on luxury cruises around the Caribbean and from the west coast to Hawaii.
I was sent to ballroom dancing classes; I attended all the area society
cotillions both charity and debutant; I was sent off to prep school in
Connecticut beginning with the 8th grade. I was taught that all of these
advantages and all of my energies should be spent towards retaining and
carrying-on the family name and standing; and to selfishly hoard as much money
and possessions as possible to grow the family reputation. It was all
about hoarding wealth, power and our social standing at the expense of all
others. Charity was to appear generous and to seem to have a social
conscience; not to mention the tax benefits for our annual charitable
contributions. The ego of the family and my own ego were to be constantly
But today, I do the reverse. I do not draw a salary from my consulting
business: I have converted my business into a social entrepreneurship. We
give away to those less fortunate all our monthly and annual company profits,
leaving no reserves except just enough to keep our business checking account
open at the bank. We help some families and students weekly with funds for
food and necessities; we help others monthly; and others at year’s end,
depending on what remains upon audit. And via our FTA dinners we now give
six USD$5,000.00 scholarships annually in the names of those whom we honor; and
a total of USD$1,000.00 per FTA dinner to charity from each dinner’s proceeds.
I no longer worry about my social standing: I am simply a Soul temporarily
residing in a body vehicle; and just like everyone else, doing my best to get
by. I only replace clothing if it can no longer be sewn or repaired, for
appearances mean very little to me now. I would rather be judged by the
openness of my heart to all others; by my compassion for those less fortunate
than myself; and for my deeds, rather than my words.
I will not be with you in years to come, for my time is nearing its closure in
this life in this dimension. I already sense the call of what is to come
and I welcome it, for coming and going is what we all must accept, if we are to
remain grounded: The only question is “when we pass”; not “if we pass”.
But the Buddhists have a beautiful saying, “One never knows which comes first,
the next morning or the next life”. I pray that as a result of our coming
together this evening for higher purposes, namely recognizing human excellence,
providing much-needed scholarships for worthy students of limited means and
charity for those less fortunate through the United Nations agencies, UNICEF and
UN-HABITAT, that we will all be reminded that people are more important than
things and that we all wake-up in the morning in THIS life; but rededicated to
devoting our lives to serving others, simply because it is the right thing to
do; and not for others to praise us or to cater to our ego. For Service
with an Open Heart and Right Intention is the foundation of our hospitality
industry: So, from this moment forward, let “Service Unto Others” be your
mantra, until it is your time to wake-up in the NEXT life. Thank you very