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May 16.2000

Charles Krauthammer wrote Time magazine. "Reeve believes restoration is just around the corner. Fine. If he needs that to get through his day, who am I to disabuse him of his fantasies?"  

"As we mature, fantasies fade with time and our true visions grow into reality. With glaring genius, Reeve inserted a vision into our group psyches." -J Michael Kanouff

Investing in a Vision
by J. Michael Kanouff

It used to bother me. Minding my own business at a public gathering, I would constantly be asked to sign a petition to end world hunger. I would refuse, sensing that it was a gimmick . It was being done by a special interest group, all the more reason to be suspicious. "No gimmicks, sir. Your signature acknowledges the possibility of ending world hunger in your lifetime," said the skinny young man in the white short sleeve shirt, With a lifeless grin, my head shook no.  

I was living the early '80s in San Francisco and eventually began dating a woman who worked with the inner circles of the EST organization, the sponsors of the Hunger Project. After a mutual encounter with a petitioner to end world hunger, she told the story behind the endeavor.

There wasn't any specific fund-raising to end world hunger, too huge a project . What they could do with their limited resources was plant the idea in people's minds that it was possible- only that. To make this happen physically the world needs to have a vision, to have the impossible made real in our minds. The rest would follow.  

I signed that petition and have forever after been aware of news items dealing with Third World economics and hunger. Last night on television I heard a stumping politician promising to end children living in poverty and hunger within ten years. "Hooray" I yelled to my house mates. "The rich country would do it first." I rattled on about how the earth produces enough to end poverty and hunger. "We have the means, it's the will we're missing". Again that signature's effect ripples through the 20 years of time with continuing impact on me.

I sat speechless on a bus when I read that Jimmy Carter's Seed Bank program had single handedly turned a desperately poor, food importing country in Africa into a food exporting country within a few years! (Carter is very underestimated) By gathering up Western capitol, he loaned individual landowners appropriate seeds, fertilizers, plows and trained them in mulching techniques. This was not a hand out but a loan. The first year the family fed themselves. Their excess crop on the second year bought more equipment and fertilizer. And the third year the loans were paid back. A few years more and the country had to export its excess.  

Now who is the real hero? Jimmy Carter used his grassroots organizing skills to begin this momentum of change, but who whispered into his ear the idea. Who had Jimmy Carter's full attention long enough to describe a vision that made it real enough to act upon? (Probably Roslyn, but that's another story).

  I live on the island of Maui and we're having another boom cycle in real estate. Ten years ago, the incredibly wealthy Japanese were buying up anything that did not run away. Then times changed. We're now having another up-cycle in real estate. The buyers also speak in exotic tongue of .com, .net, and binary language. Mainland America is getting so wealthy, Maui is being flooded by baby boomers buying their second and third houses -- for investment!  

Where to invest is the party topic of Maui residents because of the trickle-down wealth. From Realtors to massage therapists, people on Maui now have extra income plus the nagging worry of nothing set aside for retirement. Huge segments of the baby boomers, once used to living living hand to mouth, now have money and are desperately asking each other "Where are you investing?" at parties. (In their innocence, some are even investing in offshore banks who offer 80% to 120% return. Every Year!)

  Eventually their research will convince them what area of the world economy to support with the new excess money in their lives. A few hundred thousand of them probably had a unique idea during a recent party. With their full attention glued to yet another stunning Super Bowl commercial, they realized in addition to financially supporting razor blades, petroleum and electronic everything, they could invest in medical research. Thirty seconds of swirling images, sounds and emotion probably changed the life direction of thousands of people.  

The Christopher Reeve commercial forever burned an image into our group psyche of him walking. In one fell swoop, hundreds of thousands of people know that this is a reality worth investing their money.  Also, Biomedical investment supports the health of humanity and does not strip mine the wealth of the planet.

  The night after the Super Bowl, Larry Flynn was a guest on Politically Incorrect. He rocked in his chair and scoffed "It will never happen in my lifetime". Charles Krauthammer  writing in Time magazine fears the harm this vision will have on the newly injured and young. "Spending hours on end preparing their bodies to be ready to walk the day the miracle cure comes."

  The young and newly injured have to believe in walking again. This is the survival skill of a healthy personality thrust to the horrific edge of mind numbing darkness, where they are told to skirt along the edge for the rest of their lives. Belief in the cure keeps them facing away from that black hole toward the living. Their positive attitude of hopeful expectation over flows into the rest of society. 

  The young and newly injured will try everything on their own to keep in shape and try any experimental therapy. This "protective denial " usually takes one to two years until boredom sets in. Then they are naturally drawn to what Mr. Krauthammer suggests "... spending those hours reading, studying and preparing themselves for the opportunities in the new world that high technology has for the first time in history made possible for the disabled."

  For those that do spend their first years preparing for the cure, like Mr. Reeve, they tend to maintain their physical fitness while re-tooling to live in a brave new high-technology world. By the way, these other high-technology interfaces for the disabled, exists only because someone had a vision and drew investors by their sides.

  Both Christopher and his wife Dana are briefed on the advances leading-edge technologies. They know the value of investment capital flowing into these research organizations at this critical time. They can not raise all money by themselves but they can plant a vision of what is possible in our lifetime, the lifetime of humanity. If Mr's Flynn and Krauthammer slip to the outside of the curve for effective treatment, that is the luck of the draw. Why disparage anyone's efforts to draw financial capital into the biomedical field?

  It used to take having your own spinal cord injury, to become a believer in the miraculous image of the broken, walking again. Mr. Reeve was shown in the commercial walking above the ashes of one of the most fearsome afflictions of humanity. The Technology and the Will for this is un-stoppable.

  Capitalizing the research and development requires investors with a vision of humanity rising above the ashes of paralysis, Parkinson's, dementia, MS, stroke and  all nervous disorders. This can be done in our lifetime. "Would you sign here please", said the thin investment counselor wearing a white shirt.

  My personal interest is my six-year membership in the club quadriplegia. I am actively keeping the vision of a cure of nervous disorders alive amongst my friends and family because of the tens of thousands yet to be initiated into these brutal clubs.  

J. Michael Kanouff can be reached at:

Reproduced in Paralinks with the expressed consent and approval of  the author.

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