Friday, January 18, 2013

Secret Billionaire

We are rich not by what we possess, but rather how we live our lives -- it's better to live rich than to die rich.

Charles F. Feeney was born in 1931 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, into a blue-collar Irish-American family. He served as a radio operator in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and attended Cornell University on the G.I. Bill.

In the 1950s, Feeney began his career by selling duty-free liquor to U.S. Naval personnel in Mediterranean ports.

In 1960, he co-founded the "Duty Free Shoppers Group" (DFS Group) with Robert Warren Miller, headquartered in Hong Kong. Duty free shopping is a concept that offers travelers high-end products free of import fees.

DFS eventually became the world's largest travel retailer.

In 1982, Feeney founded "The Atlantic Philanthropies" which supports global social projects through endowments and grants. He created his charitable organization in Bermuda which would allow him to avoid U.S. financial disclosure requirements, but also meant he would be unable to claim tax deductions when he contributed to his various charitable causes. Basically, he wanted to remain anonymous in his giving and wasn't seeking any tax breaks for doing so.

Feeney then began giving sizeable charitable donations anonymously to causes in the USA, Australia, Ireland, Bermuda, South Africa, Vietnam and elsewhere.

"I set out to work hard, not to get rich," Charles Feeney proclaims. Known as a frugal person, he does not own a home or a car, and always flies coach class.

In 1996, Feeney sold his share of DFS to a French luxury item group and  became a very wealthy man.

The following year, Feeney disclosed his role in Atlantic Philanthropies, after 15 years of anonymous donations, yet continued to keep a low profile. He reluctantly disclosed his anonymity when he became involved in a legal matter involving his former DFS Group partner, fearing it would reveal his identity and the donations involved.

As of 2009, Atlantic Philanthropies had made charitable donations totaling more than $9 billion to various projects all over the world, with plans to contribute the remaining $4 billion by the end of 2017.

"I cannot think of a more personally rewarding and appropriate use of wealth than to give while one is living -- to personally devote oneself to meaningful efforts to improve the human condition." Charles Feeney

Feeney's biography was also made public, with his cooperation, in a book titled THE BILLIONAIRE WHO WASN'T: HOW CHUCK FEENEY MADE AND GAVE AWAY A FORTUNE WITHOUT ANYONE KNOWING by Conor O'Clery

There's nothing wrong with individuals possessing riches, the wrong occurs when the riches possess individuals.

Quote for the Day -- "He who is contented is rich." Lao Tzu

Bret Burquest is the author of 9 books, including THE REALITY OF THE ILLUSION OF REALITY and 11:11 EARTH TIME (available on Amazon). He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where $4 billion will go a very long way.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Titanic Coincidence

There exists a synchronicity between all things in the Universe and Beyond.

In 1898, a man named Morgan Robertson wrote a novel titled FUTILITY -- a story about a passenger ship, the largest and most grandiose luxury ocean liner ever produced. It sailed on its maiden voyage from Southampton on the south coast of England, destination the United States of America, loaded with wealthy passengers.

The ship was named the TITAN.

However, the TITAN never did reach the USA -- it struck an iceberg and sank, an enormously horrific disaster which included heavy loss of life.

In 1912, a passenger ship, the largest and most grandiose luxury ocean liner ever produced, sailed on its maiden voyage from Southampton on the south coast of England, destination the United States of America, loaded with wealthy passengers.

The ship was named the TITANIC.

The fictional TITAN and the doomed TITANIC were approximately the same size and speed, both carrying some 3,000 passengers. And both were declared to be unsinkable.

Four days into the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, the TITANIC was some 375 miles south of Newfoundland. At 40 minutes before midnight on April 14, 1912, the luxury liner hit an iceberg, buckling the hull on the starboard sink and soon sank.

The TITANIC had only enough lifeboat capacity for 1,178 people. When the ship went down, 1,513 people perished. The remains of the unsinkable ocean liner currently lay on the ocean floor, in two pieces, at a depth of 12,415 feet.

In 1935, a tramp steamer was bound from England to Canada. A seaman named William Reeves was on the bow, standing watch alone until his shift ended at midnight on April 14. Seaman Reeves had been born on April 14, 1912, the day the TITANIC hit an iceberg just before midnight and sank. It was his 23rd birthday.

The tramp steamer was named the TITANIAN.

The sea was calm and visibility poor. Seaman Reeves was dwelling on the sinking of the TITANIC years earlier on his date of birth, when he shouted out a danger warning. The helmsman rang the bell and engines went into full astern.

The TITANIAN came to rest a few yards from a huge iceberg. Other icebergs soon floated in, surrounding the steamer. It took nine days for ice breakers from Newfoundland to cut a path through the ice and rescue the ship.

The TITAN went down on the pages of fiction -- 14 years later, the TITANIC went down on April 14, killing more than 1,500 people -- 23 years later, the TITANIAN almost went down on April 14, but was spared by fate.

We reside in a Great Mystery, dismayed by coincidence, awakened by serendipity.

Quote for the Day -- "Coincidences may seem strange, but they are never a result of caprice. They are orderly laws in the spiritual life of man." Norman Vincent Peale

Bret Burquest is the author of 9 books, including THE REALITY OF THE ILLUSION OF REALITY and 11:11 EARTH TIME (available on Amazon). He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where every single moment is serendipity.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf

Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. was born on August 22, 1934, in Trenton, New Jersey. Because his father grew to dislike the name "Herbert" the birth certificate was amended in 1952 to alter the name to H. Norman Schwarzkopf whereby "Norman" became the familiar first name.

Norman's father had served in the U.S. Army and later became the superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. As such, he was the lead investigator in the 1932 Lindbergh baby kidnapping case, two years before Norman was born. He later re-joined the U.S. Army and rose to the rank of Major General.

In 1946, at age 12, Norman and the rest of the family joined their father stationed in Iran. As a military dependent, Norman attended school in Tehran, Iran, Frankfurt, Germany, and graduated from Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania.

After Valley Forge Military Academy, Norman attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, graduating 43rd in his class in 1956 with a B.S. degree. He later attended the University of Southern California, receiving a M.S. degree in mechanical engineering, having specialized in guided missile engineering. He was also a member of Mensa, a fellowship of individuals with high IQs.

After West Point, in 1956, he became a 2nd lieutenant and received Airborne training at Ft. Benning in Georgia. Next, he became a platoon leader in an Airborne unit at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. In 1960, he was an aide to the Commanding General in Berlin, Germany. In 1965, upon receiving his masters degree from USC, Schwarzkopf became an instructor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at West Point.

In 1965, while teaching at West Point, Schwarzkopf volunteered for duty in Vietnam, where he became a Task Force Advisor to the South Vietnamese Airborne Division, reaching the rank of Major. After his tour of duty overseas, he returned for two more years of teaching at West Point. In 1968, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and also married his wife Brenda.

After West Point, Schwarzkopf returned to Vietnam. In March of 1970, several soldiers under his command had been trapped in a minefield. He scrambled to the scene in his helicopter where he advised the men to slowly retrace their steps. One of the soldiers tripped a mine explosion and was severely wounded. The other soldiers in the minefield remained frozen, fearing they would trigger another explosion.

Schwarzkopf, also wounded in the blast, crawled into the minefield, reached the wounded soldier, and secured him while another soldier applied a splint to the shattered leg. Another soldier then tripped an explosive mine, killing himself and two other nearby soldiers, and blowing off a leg and an arm of Schwarzkopf's artillery liaison officer. Eventually, Schwarzkopf led the surviving soldiers to safety.

During the 1970s, Schwarzkopf served in the Pentagon, was Deputy Commander of U.S. Forces in Alaska, an Infantry Brigade Commander at Ft. Lewis, Washington, promoted to Brigadier General, became a Plans and Policy Officer at U.S. Pacific Command, served as a Division Commander in West Germany, promoted to Major General, commanded a Mechanized Infantry Division at Ft. Stewart, Georgia, was heavily involved in the skirmish in Grenada. By 1985, he had been assigned to duty again at the Pentagon, was promoted to Lieutenant General, returned to Ft. Lewis, Washington, as Commanding General of I Corps, then back to the Pentagon as Deputy Chief of Staff, promoted to General in 1988, appointed Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.

One of his duties as Commander-in-Chief was to formulate plans to defend the oil fields in the Persian Gulf region. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1988, Schwarzkopf's plans became the blueprint for Operation Desert Storm. The "left hook" strategy called for U.S. Forces to enter Iraq behind the Iraqi Forces occupying Kuwait -- the ground war lasted only four days.

Schwarzkopf, affable and witty, received a lot of favorable press coverage during Desert Storm, where we was dubbed "Stormin' Norman" by members of the press corp.

"Going to war without the French is like going deer hunting without an accordion." Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf

After the war, he was offered the position of Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army but he turned it down, choosing to retire in 1991.

Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf passed on to the Great Beyond on December 27, 2012 -- your nation is grateful for your gallant, spirited service.

Rest in Peace.

Quote for the Day -- "As you get older it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary." Ernest Hemmingway

Bret Burquest is the author of 9 books, including THE REALITY OF THE ILLUSION OF REALITY and 11:11 EARTH TIME (available on Amazon). He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and served in the U.S. Army in 1966-68 during the Vietnam Conflict.