Welcoming Remarks at the 2013 Winter Dinner in New
Welcome to the First Annual FTA “A Winter
Evening in New Delhi 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, Hong Kong and now as well at
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 announce the 2013
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
the 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
disasters and floods around the world.
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 USD$2.00 a day; and 20% is living
on USD$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 took Refuge on 12 August 1995 at the
Karma Triyana Dharmachakra (Tibetan Buddhist)
Monastery at Woodstock, New York, USA on top of
Overlook Mountain; and I became a resident from
January of 1996 until June of 1997, intensifying
my practice to prepare to re-enter society as an
example for others of compassion and loving
I gave-away all my personal possessions,
except the necessary business items I needed to
continue my consulting business, so as not to
become a burden to anyone.
I draw no salary from my consulting business: I
have converted my business into a social
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 seven
annual $2,500.00 scholarships in the names of
those we honor in equal partnership with the
schools benefitting, resulting in most cases in
$5,000.00 scholarships, as the schools match our
donation; and a total of $1,000.00 or more per
FTA dinner to charity from a portion of each
dinner’s proceeds; with $1,500.00 being donated
at both our New Delhi and Mumbai dinners, adding
the Pema Ts’al Monastic Schools.
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”.
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 the Pema Ts’al Monastic
Schools at Mundgod and Nepal, 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.
you very much.
one final note:
most recent humanitarian mission has been to
rescue a very poor Cambodian Mother, Lee Hong
and her 2,6 and 12 year old children from the
Prekporkrom Village, Kampong Cham Province,
Cambodia, near the Thai border.
She no longer has a husband and her only
relative, her dear mother, passed away from a
prolonged illness just one month ago.
I found them on 7 January on the street
in Bangkok, begging.
They were living under an outdoor
staircase on a cement slab with their few
articles of tattered clothing and their family
record papers in small plastic grocery store
They were dirty, their hair was a mess;
very poorly clothed and shoeless, except for the
mother, who was wearing a much worn set of very
old, cheap, plastic sandals.
I asked the mother through a student
standing nearby if I could take them into the
nearby McDonald’s for a much needed warm meal.
The mother smiled broadly, though I could
see, somewhat concerned (most likely she was
concerned as to my intentions); but she nodded
The children eagerly downed their French
fries, Sprite, Coke and hamburgers as though
they had not eaten well in quite some time; and
no doubt, this was easily the case.
The mother was also able to bathe the 2
year old boy in a large wash sink in the
restaurant; and as well for them all to clean-up
with hot water and liquid soap.
We all bonded immediately: They were
desperate and I was full of compassion: A match
made in Heaven.
now, if anyone asks you what are the FTA dinners
about, you can truthfully and with conviction
answer: Recognizing Hospitality Excellence;
Scholarships for worthy, needy students; and
Charity for UNICEF, Habitat for Humanity and for
direct humanitarian assistance for families in
say “You can’t save everyone”; but each of us
can save one person or even one family.
I urge each of you to open your hearts
now and forevermore, so that when that one
person or one family in desperate need YOU were
meant to save crosses your path, that you will
stop, extend your hand with loving compassion
and do whatever is necessary to make them whole;
and allow them to have a new life that is safe,
secure, healthy and joyous.
you very much.