Author, The Happiest Man in the World: Life Lessons from a Cultural Economist
(continued): Ukraine/Atlanta: January, 1997: As soon as Mark returned to the USA, he called me and we talked. Who could help us? How would we get everyone together? Where would the money come from to finance such a project? It was the holidays; would anyone be available to get together on such short notice?
Everything had to be finalized for presentation to the Ukrainian Parliament in about thirty days. Would it be feasible to bring a group of the top Ukrainian leaders to the US for a symposium? We would have to do a crash course for them in basic democratic, capitalistic, free-market economics and make sure they understood the concepts well enough to debate them on the floor of parliament. A majority of the members would have to understand and buy into a new paradigm of economic thinking. It is one thing to talk about freedom. It is quite another thing to allow the consequences of freedom to move in and upset cultural institutions that have been established for many years. No other republic of the old Soviet system has ever been so bold.
But even if the Ukrainians overcame the boldness factor, they were faced with the awesome reality of logistics and implementation.
As Mark and I talked, we began to get excited about the historic possibilities of such an undertaking. We both encouraged each other and caught ourselves saying, “Let’s go for it.” If we could help implement the free-market changes into Ukrainian medical law, perhaps we could use the model to influence other former Soviet republics.
I had personally met many of the ministers of health from other Eastern European and Central Asian countries. Maybe we could just roll an adopted Ukrainian medical-law package right over into the other republics. It suddenly became a challenge worthy of our focus and efforts. With God’s help we would “go for it.”
Mark got busy working with Edward Gluschenko in Kiev on choosing the appropriate Ukrainian leaders to bring to the US. A national board of directors meeting of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) was to be held in Atlanta, Georgia, January 11–13, 1997. The board offered to let us utilize some of their conference space at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel near the airport in Atlanta. They encouraged us in our efforts and pledged to assist in any way they could.
I got busy on the economists. We really needed at least one heavy hitter with the recognized economic credentials. Immediately a person came to my mind: Dr. Paul Ballantyne, head of the economics department at the University of Colorado (CU) in Colorado Springs. He was my economics professor for several graduate courses I had taken at CU in the early 1980s. I have found him to be a wonderfully devoted Christian gentleman, and we have developed a warm friendship over the years. He encouraged me to become part of the Colorado Council on Economic Education and furthermore had offered his advice and helped proof my original manuscript for my gold award winning book What’cha Gonna Do with What’cha Got?
Dr. Ballantyne is also a good friend with internationally famous Dr. Michael Novak, author of many economics books, including The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism. He had introduced me to Dr. Novak at an economic conference held in Vail, Colorado, in the mid‑1980s. If Dr. Ballantyne wasn’t available for our meeting with the Ukrainians, perhaps he could persuade Michael Novak to have mercy on us.
I had lost Dr. Ballantyne’s home phone number, and the university was on Christmas break, so I contacted the folks at the Colorado Council on Economic Education and finally weaseled the number out of them. When I reached Dr. Ballantyne, he and his wife were just on their way out the door to spend Christmas with their son and his family. I barely caught him.
In as short a time as possible, I tried to tell him about my involvement with the Ukraine and about Project C.U.R.E.’s humanitarian, spiritual, and economic mission. He quietly listened as I painted the picture of how I terribly and undeservedly needed his help, even though I knew there was really no reason for me to be optimistic about his assistance. I explained how I needed a real expert who could quickly and convincingly present the fundamentals of Adam Smith and free-market economics to a bunch of ex‑Marxists who are desiring to reform their health-care system.
When I shut up, he nearly knocked the phone out of my hand with his reply: “Jim, how very interesting that you would call. I have thought of you many times and wondered if you are still working with the Brazilian government on their debt repayments. Let me quickly bring you up to date on what I have been doing in addition to my work at the University of Colorado. I have been teaching free-market, democratic capitalism courses at Sumy State University in the Ukraine. In fact, my wife has been accompanying me and teaching English courses at the university using the Bible as her English textbook. We’ve had some absolutely wonderful opportunities to witness for Christ, and one family over there has adopted us and made us the godparents of their children.
“I would be pleased to help you in your efforts to aid the Ukraine, and I have the dates of January 9–12 open and available between my CU class schedule. Now I’d better run, or I’ll miss my plane to celebrate Christmas with my son and his family. Here’s my son’s phone number; let’s talk about the details.”
I hung up the phone and cried.
Continued Next Week: Historic Conference in Atlanta
© Dr. James W. Jackson
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Dr. James W. Jackson often describes himself as "The Happiest Man in the World." A successful businessman, award-winning author and humanitarian, Jackson is also a renowned Cultural Economist and international consultant, helping organizations and governments to apply sound economic principals to the transformation of culture so that everyone is "better off."
As the founder of Project C.U.R.E., Dr. Jackson traveled to more than one hundred fifty countries assessing healthcare facilities, meeting with government leaders and "delivering health and hope" in the form of medical supplies and equipment to the world's most needy people. Literally thousands of people are alive today as a direct result of the tireless efforts of Project C.U.R.E.'s staff, volunteers and Dr. Jackson.