Author, The Happiest Man in the World: Life Lessons from a Cultural Economist
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: April, 1998: The ride to and from the temple mountain gave me a rare opportunity to get better acquainted with Mr. Nguyen Van Vinh of the planning and investment department of the People’s Committee. I found that he is a walking source of names and contacts. I explained to him about our goals for Hanoi and also about Project C.U.R.E.’s relationship with North Korea. I asked if he could help me arrange meetings with the important people I needed to see. Mr. Vinh was flattered and eagerly agreed to help me. After all, if Project C.U.R.E. can be encouraged to participate in his regional capital, then Mr. Vinh will gain a tremendous amount of job security.
After our delegation returned to the hotel in Viet Tri at 5:00 p.m., I was informed that a meeting was scheduled with Mr. Vinh’s boss, Mr. Hong. He had been keeping close tabs on the possibility of Mr. Jackson coming to his region and helping with the hospital. At the meeting we talked of many things that are taking place in his region. Then he said something that really made me blink: “Mr. Jackson, in addition to the medical supplies that our seven-region area needs, we also desperately need help with our water-purification problems.”
I was listening very closely to Binh Rybacki’s translation of Mr. Hong’s request. His mention of a water project made me blink because of the timeliness of the subject. The day before I left Denver for Vietnam, I had a meeting on that very subject.
During an evening dinner party at Daniel Yohannes’s home in Denver, he introduced me to Mr. Dick Campbell, a prominent corporate attorney in the Denver area. Daniel is president of the large U.S. Bank conglomerate. Mr. Campbell and his wife were very taken with the work of Project C.U.R.E. Subsequently, Dick Campbell, Daniel Yohannes, my son Doug, and I had several lunch meetings regarding Project C.U.R.E. On one occasion Dick asked if I knew Mr. Sam Perry. I inquired if he was the same Sam Perry of the large real-estate company in Denver, Perry and Butler. Dick confirmed my guess. I told him that twenty-five years ago, when I was still very active in the real-estate industry, Sam Perry and I had put some deals together between our companies.
Dick informed me that he and Sam had grown up together, and both of them are devoted Catholics who had been on some spiritual retreats together. He also mentioned that Sam had gotten quite serious about spiritual matters and was looking to get involved in some humanitarian efforts. Dick gave me Sam’s personal phone numbers and almost insisted I call Sam.
When I reached Sam, he was very eager to get together and asked if I would mind if he brought with him to our meeting three of his close friends and business partners. He said he had been reading and hearing so much about the work of Project C.U.R.E. from Daniel and Dick and others that he was hoping he would get to meet me.
At our first lunch meeting, Sam and I were joined by John Peterson, whose brother is the head of the prestigious Blackstone investment group of New York City and whose sister sits on the board of directors of Johnson and Johnson medical group. Greg Bohannon also joined us. He is the president and CEO of a new venture called Aqua-Asia, a firm devoted to producing water-purification systems, especially in developing countries. They have created a new purification process that utilizes electronic collectors to remove harmful pollutants from the water. The system doesn’t require traditional electric sources of power or generators, because photocells are employed to power the facility.
A lot of the discussion at the lunch centered around what God had been doing in our lives and about values and priorities. I challenged them to consider joining Project C.U.R.E. and setting up some of their purification units on a donation basis in some of the most desperate areas of the world. By the time lunch was over, they had agreed to join efforts with Project C.U.R.E.
Our next meeting additionally included my son Doug, who is now president and CEO of Project C.U.R.E., as well as Mickey Fouts, who has large real-estate holdings in Denver. Mickey had just returned from Hanoi, Vietnam. Sam and Mickey told me about Tobin Lent, a young investment banker they had mentored. At the time he was in Vietnam establishing a base for Aqua-Asia. They told me how very keen a young man Tobin is and gave me his phone number in Hanoi. They said they would inform Tobin about me and the work of Project C.U.R.E. “Perhaps the two of you working together in Vietnam can locate a suitable project for us to do our first pro-bono venture,” they told me.
Around the office in Denver, the staff and volunteers continually say they can’t stand being away from the office because they are afraid they will miss out on one of the regularly occurring miracles. I, too, am continually amazed at how God proceeds ahead of all our domestic and foreign scrambling and prearranges the pieces of the mosaic to bring about a product that is pleasing and desirable to him.
With that in mind, you can only imagine the tingle that went up my spine today when Mr. Hong said, “In addition to the medical supplies our seven-region area needs, we desperately need help with our water-purification problems.” Could it be happening again?
My evening with Tobin was one of the highlights of the trip. The young man is sharp. He is focused. He is from Littleton, Colorado, and his parents now live in Beijing, China. He has been an investment banker and a mortgage broker. I sensed he has a tender heart beneath his driven surface. I think Tobin and Doug will hit it off very well. Tobin is not only fascinated with what has happened in my life, but just from the things the guys from Denver have told him, he is already in love with Project C.U.R.E.
He took me to a small restaurant located in an old French home. It was very classy, in addition to serving delicious Vietnamese food. While visiting with Tobin, I explained all the things that had taken place leading up to tonight. I also explained to him about the town called Phu-Tho (pronounced “Fu Ta”), which Project C.U.R.E. and the Denver guys are proposing as the target town for the first water-purification venture. It is a smaller town with a lot of residual French influence. It presently is home for a well-respected, smaller university. I expressed how I think the town is small enough to be able to collect accurate data on the before-and-after effects of the purification plant. Also, its setting in the mountains will make a perfect show-and-tell location for Aqua-Asia’s product. Tobin really got excited about the possibilities.
After thinking about all the apparent miracles that are taking place and about my meeting last night with Tobin Lent, I felt an urgency not to lose any momentum on the water project. At breakfast I asked Binh to contact Mr. Vinh and Mr. Minh in Viet Tri and have them bring their boss to Hanoi for a meeting with Tobin either this evening or early tomorrow morning. Our time is running out before I return to Colorado. I need to be at the Hanoi airport by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow. I know that we are pushing our luck on getting the bigwigs to come to Hanoi from Viet Tri on such short notice. But the next step in the deal is to get Tobin introduced to them personally so they can all move forward together on the project with the Needs Assessment Study and projections. Another miracle is taking place right before my eyes.
© Dr. James W. Jackson
Permissions granted by Winston-Crown Publishing House
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.