A View From Outside the Box

Here’s a confession: the person who most captured my imagination during the 2004 American presidential campaign was Teresa Heinz Kerry. She was attractive, out-spoken, and very, very rich. And her job was to distribute the assets of the Heinz Family Foundation in ways most calculated to benefit humanity. How cool was that? Wow, I thought, I wish I could be a billionaire--I wish being a philanthropist was my job! It didn’t seem like a reasonable goal at the time, but it was heartfelt.

That wish came true.

To be completely honest, I’m a billionaire in terms of Vietnamese currency (at an exchange rate of 16,000 Vietnamese dong to one US dollar), and I don’t draw a salary in my new role as “professional philanthropist”—but I do run a US-registered non-profit organization from my new home in Vietnam. I am certainly rich by Vietnamese standards and my family lives quite comfortably here, while I am free to do the work of my new organization: Steady Footsteps. How cool is that?

What would you do if you realized that, compared to most of the world’s population, you were very rich indeed? What would you do if you decided that the things that you were clinging to –job security, rising home equity, readily available health care, and a democratic government—were illusory? Would you hold fast to your present lifestyle—or would you consider doing something “radical”?