Welcoming Remarks at the 2012 NYC Fall
Welcome to the Twenty-First Annual FTA “A Fall
Evening in New York 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, Saigon and New
Delhi 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.
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
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.
evening we come together to present the 2012 FTA
Hospitality Awards for Excellence and the
scholarships in the names of those whom we
recognize; 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
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 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
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.
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
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.
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 50,000 refugees in camps in
South Sudan, some of whom are without water; and
soon 700,000 refugees from Syria.
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
disaster here in NYC and the floods around the
On a recent Clinton Global Initiative
panel carried on the BBC & CNN International,
Deepak Chopra said 50% of the Earth’s population
is living on $2.00 a day; and 20% is living on
$1.00 a day.
So, 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.
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 in Albany.
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
I was sent to ballroom dancing classes; I
attended all the area society cotillions both
charity and debutant; I was sent off to one of
the best prep schools in New England beginning
with the 8th grade, where I found
myself academically and I awakened to my skills
as a writer.
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 as many conspicuous possessions as possible
to grow the family reputation.
It was all about hoarding wealth, power
and our social standing at the expense of all
Our charity was to appear generous; and
to seem to have an altruistic, social
consciousness; not to mention the annual tax
benefits for our charitable contributions.
The ego of the family and my own ego were
to be constantly massaged.
when I realized that I needed to move to NYC to
achieve the kinds of success my family expected
after my prep school, university and graduate
school education, in October of 1974 I found
myself in the Bronx at Hunts Point, the token
gentile at a very successful, but aggressive
Jewish food distribution business.
And it was this experience that changed
my understanding of discrimination forever: For
instead of discriminating against the Jewish in
Albany, the Jewish in the Bronx were
discriminating against me.
I learned for the first time in my life
what it felt like to be the object of
discrimination with few options of avoiding it
on a daily basis.
I must say it was one of the most
important lessons I have ever been privileged to
today, I do the reverse.
I draw no salary from my consulting
business: I have converted my business into a
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, housing, tuition and daily
necessities; we help others monthly; and yet
others at year’s end, depending on what remains
And via our FTA dinners we now give six
(and beginning in 2013, seven) annual $2,500.00
scholarships in equal partnership with the
schools benefitting in the names of those whom
we honor, resulting in $5,000.00 scholarships;
and a total of $1,000.00 or more per FTA dinner
to charity from a portion of each dinner’s
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.
not be with you in years to come, for my time is
nearing its closure in this life in this
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 students of limited
means and charity for those less fortunate
through UNICEF, Habitat for Humanity
International and other worthy charities, 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 much.