Welcoming Remarks at the 2012 FTA NYC Spring Dinner

Welcome to the First Annual FTA “A Spring Evening in New York City with Very Special Friends”.  We gather in New York City spring and fall, and annually at Saigon, Singapore, Shenzhen, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Bangkok,  Mumbai, Shanghai and Hong Kong 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 means for a tax advantage.

I ask everyone to please remember those less fortunate, especially the estimated 350,000 refugees at the United Nations camp in Kenya, which is running out of water and food.  And the floods in Pakistan, India, the U.S., Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, Vietnam and everywhere else; as well as the massacres taking place in Africa and the Middle East.  The suffering of the survivors continues, as does their need for your compassion, including the recent natural disasters in Japan and the U.S.  I ask you to consider your comfortable lives and accordingly, open your hearts, just a little more to those less fortunate and in need.

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, 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 it be your mantra, until it is your time to wake-up in the NEXT life.  Thank you very much.