Windows on the World of Raymond Plank
Founder, Apache Corp
Vol. 2013 No. 5

Life Time Learning – Books & Relationships 

Along with daily mail in a specific five day period came five separate books. Three of the five books noted are commented on, relationships with the authors of two going back over a decade

We turn first to a book sent me by a respected friend, Sam Gary, with whom similar values are both shared and practiced.  “How Will You Measure Your Life” by Clayton M. Christenson, a Harvard educated professor consulting with businesses and individuals in multiple countries. His book is well worth reading.  The Professor shares his theories; his beneficiaries discuss the theories and arrive at their own conclusions and values are added when they appear to fit in the eye of the beholder. 

As to how I measure my life, I don’t; that’s up to others who are part of the “legend” anyone leaves and is relevant to the degree that it may benefit others interested in making a small difference by encouraging use of a larger portion of the remarkable capacity available in all.

One’s “legend” is also in the eye of the beholder, as I will demonstrate with my Yale 1944 classmate, John Lindsay. John graduated from St. Paul’s outstanding prep school; served in the Navy, saw WWII combat, served in Congress and, on returning to New York City, became Mayor.  As Mayor, John, in a very difficult era of corruption and graft, did a good job, although he left the city in more debt than had his crooked predecessors.  He then went on to seek the Democratic nomination for president of the U.S., a competition he lost to South Dakotan former Air Force pilot and Senator George McGovern. An impressive life of accomplishment and public service. The “legend” he left with me however, was that of continuing to dump garbage into the Atlantic Ocean as though it were a gigantic toilet bowl for millions of New Yorkers.   Landfills and respect for environment had not yet gained the political momentum to affect appropriate change.  So, for me, John’s “legend” is that of New York City’s garbage. 

The second recommended book is entitled, “Extortion” by Peter Schweizer with whom I have had a productive personal relationship since Ronald Reagan’s first four-year term in the White House.  Peter is a research fellow at the California-based Hoover Institution. His new book painstakingly documents the corruption rampant among our elected representatives in Washington, and suggests that, rather than the conventional belief that big business is corrupting politics, politics is corrupting big business. He references in several places in the book conversations with me about the experience Apache had over the years with this corrupt system.

Peter is also the author of “Reagan’s War” and “Victory”, two books about Reagan’s struggle and triumph over Communism and the secret strategy that hastened the collapse of the Soviet Union. Caspar Weinberger, Reagan’s Secretary of Defense, revealed to Peter and subsequently to me in Singapore when, by chance, he and his wife were seated next to me in the same hotel at breakfast and again by chance at a superior restaurant across town at dinner, that Reagan brought down the USSR, the Evil Empire, by having the Saudis drop the price of oil to $10 a barrel from $30 a barrel and flooding the markets with Saudis excess delivery capacity.  This secret deal denied Russia its major source of hard currency; cutting it by nearly 2/3rds at a time when Russia was financially burdened by its unwanted presence in Afghanistan.  The outcome was that he clobbered Russia financially, and they couldn’t handle it. The unintended consequences of those actions drove half of the independent oil companies out of business and forced the independent major banks in the Southwest into the hands of the New York mega banks.

Apache managed to continue in business by utilizing our publicly traded shares as a second currency to continue growing through acquiring smaller companies.  That strategy worked well and as we exited the low oil price period, we reversed directions and sold some off, gaining approximately $250 million cash during the late seventies and early eighties.

We now approach the third book – “I Am Malala – the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.” That outstanding book was tremendously assisted by Christina Lamb, educated at Oxford and Harvard. Lamb was a foreign correspondent specializing in Pakistan (Malala’s home) and Afghanistan since 1987. Authoress Lamb for five consecutive years was named Britain’s Foreign Correspondent of the Year, while Malala herself was a runner up for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Malala’s country provides an interesting irony, for in Pakistan itself she won the National Youth Peace prize in 2011!  Way to go Malala and Pakistan!!  She’s still under twenty, alive to continue her work in behalf of education, women and peace through her family’s fervent belief in God!  If she had been martyred, the Taliban’s mission would have prevailed.

 She now has friendly reporters augmented by today’s communications technology to help deliver her message. Malala in the U.S. has called for youth education worldwide, appearing before the United Nations and on CSPAN, where both she and her father spoke as I watched and listened.  A question from the CSPAN audience, whether planted or spontaneous, was “what is your attitude toward those who sought to kill you: Resentment? Anger?”  She thought for a moment, “I bear no malice. My answer is part of my primary thesis; those who tried to kill me were young and uneducated.” 

 To the sender of “I am Malala,” who did not identify her or himself, a big thank you.  Having checked the U.S. tax status of her Foundation, the Malala Fund, it meets the criteria of a 501c3; my check of $1,000 has been sent.

 A number of you may know that in Egypt, my contribution toward the construction of 203 girls’ one-room schools was considerable at $1.25 million.  UNICEF and Suzanne Mubarak, with head of state, Hosni Mubarak, actively supported these girls’ schools, which could each serve thirty-five eager young girls, usually the first in their families to read and write, and together added up to over 7,000 children. Rod Eichler, one of two standing Apache presidents, initially called the schools to my attention, giving me their working papers with UNICEF before we accelerated the project.  A decade later, not a week passes that I don’t wonder whether those who deposed and succeeded the Mubaraks, with whom friendships and relationships preceded the schools, would continue to support the education of girls and women’s equality. 

The signage in the Egyptian schools identified the American family donors which read, “To Egypt’s girls, with love,” naming the family members who enabled that which was an initial outstanding success for youth. The Johansen family of Omaha, Nebraska donated funds for one of the schools in honor of Laura Bush, who visited several. She was impressed to the point of saying that our government might do well to directly support girls schools in Afghanistan.  One can pray for them, as did the family and doctors of Malala.  

Then Apache senior people including Kevin and Sandra Ikel, Rob Johnston and wife Kathy, used their vacation time and their funds to revisit Egypt and support education with their time and affection on site.  

Karen Kovach Webb, Executive Director of Fund for Teachers, sent doctors and medical interns to Egypt to deworm girls and their parents. As these worms enter through bare feet, Crocs sent 16,000 pairs of their fine footwear to assist this effort in Egypt. Fund for Teachers has now sent over 5,500 teachers K-12 to every continent and over one hundred countries.  It is my theory that teachers, finding their selfless efforts recognized, would leverage education opportunities in their classrooms and serve as better ambassadors of our country than elected officials with other agendas, some referenced in Schweizer’s latest book.

On December 14th from 4-6:30 p.m., Ucross Foundation will hold its first annual Holiday celebration in the Park with youth choral groups singing Christmas Carols, refreshments, fireworks, and the lighting of 23,000 Christmas tree lights throughout the park.  As we celebrate this Holiday Season, let us do so mindful of Malala’s spirit for education, peace on Earth and goodwill toward men.

Merry Christmas!