Words of Wisdon By Harvey Najim
Originally I went to interview Harvey about his dear friend Gordon Hartman. About two hours later I left with one of the most introspective, common sense views regarding America today. I have always believed in getting back to basics- but didn’t really know how to go about it. I am angry at America- I want to see us get our courage back and concentrate on honor, morality, God and family. I have always believed there was an answer, but I did not expect to receive that answer from a gentleman I had never met before- an answer from an extremely successful business man who has been blessed with a rare gift: the power of humility. Ladies and gentlemen- come with me and experience some real “sage” wisdom from the heart of Harvey Najim: one of San Antonio’s rare gifts.
H: “In 2006, I put $75 million into my foundation. Last year, I added another $7 million and I pledged another $125 million, which I hope to pay in the next two to three years. Hopefully I will have it when I retire from Sirius, but secondly- I don’t need the money- I can’t spend it all and I don’t believe in entitlement. I gave each of my daughters a small trust and said, “That’s all you’re getting. You will not be getting any more.” That’s the way Bill Gates is, the way Warren Buffet is, that is the way I am. I simply wasn’t going to leave my entire estate to my daughters- I just flat wasn’t going to do it.”
H: “Because I don’t believe in entitlement. Entitlement is giving something to someone.
F: “So do you feel that the entitlement mentality in America has weakened our social structure?”
H: “Well, Bill Greehey said something to me that was kind of interesting… I had helped him with Haven for Hope. I gave $1.9 million to Haven for Hope to fund The Head Start Center, which is the children’s building and the playground. Bill and I were meeting with a potential donor and didn’t get the answer we wanted out of the meeting, which was some dollars for Haven for Hope. Bill and I walked out together and he said something interesting that I will never forget. He asked, “Why is it that when it
comes to doing good and giving money to help solve many of the problems we have in San Antonio, that it’s the new rich that does it and not the old rich?”
F: “Interesting, so the old money doesn’t?”
H: “No, and since I’m on your tape recorder, I’m not going to say any other comment, but you know who the old money is.”
F: “Yes, and I was just having a conversation a couple of days ago with one of my associates about a particular area of the blue bloods that are not giving anywhere close to what they are capable of: That there’s just no humanity- giving is just a token.”
H: “Like for example, I gave Haven for Hope 1.9 million. I’m a millionaire, but a billionaire… and I’m not giving you a name… gave them a $100,000. Come on! The difference between a business leader and a servant leader… a business leader focuses… and that’s what I do when I run Sirius… I focus on driving revenues, growing EBIDTA Earnings, before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization- and getting a return for the shareholders. That’s what you do as a business leader. As a servant leader- when I put my servant leader cap on- I focus on making a difference in the lives of others who are less fortunate.”
F: “That’s what we are trying to do. It’s very innovative. At TTW, our focus is to unite the media. I truly believe the media can empower this nation. I mean, how much do we hear about the girl who murdered her daughter? How much can we want to hear about that?! If we could do some sort of paradigm shift in the media’s focus- to put human back into humanity- the power would come back to empower people to have productive and happy lives again. This entitlement thing is so true- our kids have no clue what it is to work. That is not what America was about- but it is now.”
H: “When Warren Buffet and Bill Gates got together, they got a bunch of billionaires to commit to giving half of their estates to charity. That’s great but the world doesn’t have a lot of billionaires in it. However, there are a lot of millionaires. So I think it would be great to get a group of millionaires together and get everybody to commit to doing that. I mean I’ve given over two thirds of my estate to my foundation.”
F: “Why don’t we do that together? Why don’t we do an article and go in front of the press?”
H: “I think it needs to be done. I saw a great movie called, The Bucket List. We all have a bucket list. I’m through with mine. I’m done with it. I don’t need anything else. I’ve built a new home. I have a plane and have been blessed with a wonderful family and many friends. I have every thing I want in life. I don’t need anything else, so if you are at that point in your life- and then you have enough to live on- which I do then, you ought to take the rest and give it to making a difference in the lives of others. I don’t want to pay estate taxes to the government! I would rather give it to Haven for Hope, SAMMinistries, Respite Care, and 119 other organizations we’ve supported over the last four years. Some people that have money really think that they can take it with them!”
F: “What is that phenomenon? The ones that don’t have the money generally give everything they have away and the ones with the money… well, about 90% of them keep it for their own use.”
H: “Well, some people that have a lot of money do really believe… and I’m quoting Nelson Wolff because when Nelson introduced me one time… he said: “Some people that have a lot of money think they can take it with them, and other people that have a lot of money care about helping others who are less fortunate and want to give it to organizations that help others who are less fortunate.” When your state is ranked 49th out of 50 when it comes to education… and when your city, which is the 7th largest city in the country, is ranked 63rd or 64th out of 69 major cities in education, I think it is a shame that we don’t fix the problems that we are having.”
F: “And why aren’t we fixing the problems?”
H: “Well, observe the last 45 days in Washington, D.C. You’ve got 545 people in Washington, D.C. who have never met a payroll. Maybe one or two of them have. You have 435 in the House, you’ve got 100 in the Senate, you’ve got the President and you’ve got nine Supreme Court justices. Do the math- that’s 545. They’ve never met a payroll. They don’t understand that revenues have to exceed expenses and expenses cannot exceed the revenues. And so there is a lot of political gamesmanship going on between the Republicans and the Democrats and no one wants to take on a tough issue like education and say that’s going to be my make-it-or-break-it for my tenure in office. I can tell you that Julian Castro probably has higher ambitions and wants to do other things in the future than just being mayor of San Antonio, whether he becomes a senator or governor or whether he becomes the Vice-President or President. He’s a bright and capable young man. However, when he formed San Antonio 2020, he listed education as one of the group’s top priorities. So what does he do? He assigned a task force and asked for a report back, that is not due until next year – that would determine whether or not a 1/8 % sales tax increase would have a positive affect on Kindergarten Readiness, High School Dropout Reduction & College Matriculation.The problem with most politicians is they think strategically- but they don’t act tactically.”
F: “I’m originally from New York City. I love San Antonio, but I had this- I guess idealistic opinion- that I was going to help infuse some metropolitan flavor in SA- especially in the arts. We have a world-class ballet company, but they need help. The arts are so important to our community- for our children to learn and be inspired in a creative way.”
H: “Well first of all you have to understand what San Antonio is made up of. We have 1.7 million people here. But when you take out the military and take out those that are lower income, we are a medium sized city and to be frankly honest with you, they couldn’t care less about the ballet. My foundation supports children so I support children’s food, shelter, clothing, medical needs, education and kids with disabilities. I’ve stayed away from nature, arts and theatre. If I had to choose between bricks and mortar and feeding a child, I’ll feed the child… I will put my money towards faith-based education. The problem is unemployment is so high and the median income in San Antonio is so low.”
F: “TTW is the only faith-based magazine in America that is commercial. I talk about Jesus. I talk about faith. I talk about bringing God back into our lives.”
H: “We support an organization which was started by Archbishop Gomez… it’s called Hope for the Future. We supported it for over two years; we’ve given the organization three quarters of a million dollars. We’ve sent over 600 kids to a faith-based school… to a Catholic school… because, the attendance rate is high, the drop out rate is low, test scores are higher and I happen to believe that if you don’t reach a child by the 7th or 8th grade- you’ve lost that child. We are not going to solve these problems over night. I don’t believe that every person who graduates from high school should go to college. I believe that after you get a high school diploma, you should do one of five things. You should go to a community college, a four-year university, a vocational trade or technical school, join the military or get a job. Somebody has got to work at HEB and somebody has to work at the gas station and the restaurant. But the education problem is bigger than just San Antonio- The TexasLegislature and the governor of this state just cut 4 billion dollars out of education.”
F: “What is the reasoning behind that?”
H: “We had a $27 billion shortfall. The problem is this: for every dollar you cut out of education todaydown the road you are going to pay $7 for every dollar that you cut. So cutting the $4 billion will cost the state of Texas $28 billion down the road. You don’t have to have a MBA to know how to balance a budget. You just have to know that the revenues must exceed expenses. While I wouldn’t be excited about raising the tax rates, I think you have to. But you’ve got to do a combination of raising revenues and lowering your expenses. I went and spoke at a school and there was a girl sitting there that was seven months pregnant- 15 years old. When I gave my speech to the kids I told them: “Look, you should stay in school.” When I finished, I actually walked up to that young lady and I said, “Congratulations, I understand you are going to have a baby.” And she was proud as punch. But I said, “You know what? You’re going to have to drop out of school aren’t you? Because when that baby comes you’re not going to be able to go to school. You are going to have to stay at home and take care of that baby.” And I walked over to some kid that was sitting down the row from her and said, “If you got her pregnant- you are going to drop out of school to help support her and your baby. And then what happens? Mom and Dad are going to fight because Dad is not making enough money to support them because he only has two or three years of high school. Then he leaves and she has no idea where he is because he’s not paying child support. Then what happens is she winds up working two jobs and the child isn’t being parented. The child goes to kindergarten and is so far behind on the first day that they get further and further behind everyday of school. By the 7th or 8th grade they decide they don’t like school. They start drinking- doing drugs or get pregnant. And they drop out of school and the cycle starts all over again. I know a woman who is 52-years-old and she is a great-grandmother. Do the math.”
My God America! These words are the truth!! Learn from them…get some good ole’ common sense back into your lives!
Thank you Harvey for your sage advice and for speaking to the public. Your forthright opinions present common sense truth that few ever hear. And- to the few who do speak the truth- God bless you for having the nerve to let your words be printed! It is refreshing to hear words that have no hidden agenda or political desires. By speaking the truth- and standing in truth- we might… might just get America back!