Catching up with Richard Blum

Richard Blum has many titles: financier, anti-poverty crusader, chair of the UC Board of Regents, founder of the American Himalayan Foundation and husband of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

After three decades of opening clinics, schools and restoring Tibetan monasteries in the Himalayas, the 74-year-old recipient of the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business Lifetime Achievement Award is now leading an effort to combat sex trafficking in Nepal, where thousands of desperately poor girls as young as 10 are lured to brothels in Kathmandu and India by traffickers promising jobs and marriage.

Q: What made you want to expand the American Himalayan Foundation’s scope to include anti-trafficking work?

A: We have over 175 projects in Nepal now, and the fastest-growing part of what we are funding is the trafficking program. Each year we’re spending a million to educate 6,500 girls and convince their families not to sell their daughters. … There will be 400 girls graduating this year, and we haven’t lost one yet.

Q: Are you making this your next cause?

A: I’ve talked to two women who are both heads of state and my wife, and I asked if they are ready to take this to the next level, and they said of course. One of our directors, Sharon Stone, is really interested in doing this. Hollywood is more than happy to create PR for it. Hillary Clinton is interested. I’ve talked to Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, and Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand, and they are all willing to help.

Q: How did you get interested in the Himalayan area?

A: In 1968, I spent a month going up the mountains in western Nepal and stayed in Tibetan refugee camps. Little kids would sit on my lap, speak in English, and I was just gone. I picked up on the Buddhist nature, which is to make sure you get through and enjoy the long, hard narrow trails without asking for anything in return. My desire to give back was automatic.

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: I was born in San Francisco and grew up in Ingleside.

Q: What did you want to be?

A: I had no idea. My father passed away when I was 10, and I worked in his clothing business after school. I knew I didn’t want to do that. Halfway through graduate school, I decided to go into investment banking.

Q: Neighborhood hangout?

A: Quince Restaurant. They make great fresh pastas every day.

Q: What kind of car do you drive?

A: BMW.

Q: Book on your nightstand?

A: “Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World.”

Q: If your house was on fire and you could grab one thing, what would it be?

A: My wife.

Q: Newest addition to your iPod?

A: I don’t download music. I have a daughter and granddaughter who are violinists and a grandson who plays cello. I like to listen to them.

Q: Never without?

A: Probably my running shoes. I used to run 50 miles a week for 25 years. I had to cut back a bit because of a back problem.

Q: Last vacation?

A: Dianne and I spent a lot of time this summer in Tahoe and Aspen, kayaking, swimming and hiking.

Q: Regrets?

A: Not really. You’re never going to cure global poverty, but you can help. We just got an order at the Blum Center for Developing Economies at UC Berkeley for 500,000 of our Darfur stoves for Ethiopia. A million Indians may soon be using our UV water filter. Working with the geniuses who invent this stuff gives me plenty of reasons to get up in the morning.

Q: Lesson learned in love?

A: What it’s all about is caring for others, whether it’s your wife or children or people in a distant land. If you made some little kid smile because she gets to go to school, that’s all about love – even if you never meet her.

source: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/11/12/DDGK1A0H71.DTL#ixzz0WeFC1sOk

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Published in: on November 12, 2009 at 8:39 am  Leave a Comment  
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