Reasons why I voted for Ross Perot
October-December 1996 Issue
By Ted Sampley
U.S. Veteran Dispatch
To America's war veterans, H. Ross Perot is a superpatriot and a legendary figure, who unhesitatingly, in 1969, rallied the resources of his wealth and began a successful campaign to publicize the sufferings of American servicemen held prisoners of the Vietnamese communists.
Within financial circles, he is Perot, the idealist Texas billionaire who made it from "rags to riches." He is one of the richest men in the United States. A corporate loner with a guerrilla fighting image, he is "willing to slug it out and take all the turbulence that goes with it" until he secures his goal. In 1986, Britian's Prince Charles flew to Dallas to present Perot with the coveted Winston Churchill Foundation Leadership Award.
In his acceptance speech, Perot said that he once dreamed of being the pearl of an oyster, but that it eventually dawned on him that being a pearl was not his role in life. Instead, he was the grain of sand that irritates the oyster to produce the pearl.
Henry Ross Perot is a former Eagle Scout, who says that one of his favorite books was the Scout handbook--a clear, direct code for good citizenship, righteousness, and the seeds for an idealized American life.
At the age of seven, Perot, the son of a cotton broker and horse trader, began his trek into the business world when he began helping his father break horses.
By the age of twelve, he had developed a successful paper route in the black slums of New Town, Texarkana. Young Perot had talked the Texarkana Gazette into paying him more to deliver papers because no one else believed the shanty town route was worth developing. Rising before dawn and delivering papers on his pony, Ross proved them wrong.
It was that same go-getter drive that landed Perot an appointment to Annapolis. He was twice President of his class. Perot graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1953 and was immediately sent to sea as the fire control officer on board the aircraft carrier Leyte. The Navy proved to be too confining for Perot. He had a natural call to greatness and the Navy's system of lock-step promotions had hemmed him in. Perot left the Navy in 1957 and went to work as a salesman for IBM. Again he challenged his bosses to give him their toughest accounts so that he might make higher commissions. They did, and Perot made a fortune.
After five years at IBM, Perot was bored. His inner direction and wildcatting spirit took over, he left IBM, created his own business, Electronic Data Systems, and hired a small band of salesmen. By 1968 EDS's business had skyrocketed and Perot had made his first $350 million...he was on his way to becoming one of the richest men in the United States.
When the war in Indo-China was at its height. Millions of Americans were protesting in the streets, demanding that the war was wrong and should not be won. Some Hollywood figures such as Jane Fonda were making public statements supporting the communist Vietnamese.
Fonda and her ilk began making propaganda trips to Vietnam. During one trip the communist allowed her to interview a group of American prisoners of war after which she told the international press that American POWs were either "liars or hypocrites" if they said they were being tortured by the Vietnamese.
In contrast, Perot was travelling America campaigning on behalf of the American servicemen who were fighting in the jungles of Indo-China.
Perot said that he once dreamed of being the pearl of an oyster, but that it eventually dawned on him that being a pearl was not his role in life. Instead, he was the grain of sand that irritates the oyster to produce the pearl.
American prisoners of war were being brutalized and many were dying from neglect at the hands of their Vietnamese captors. The communists were refusing to release even the most basic information, such as a list of names of the Americans they were holding prisoners. Hundreds of POW/MIA families did not know if their loved ones had been killed, wounded, or captured. The communists were arguing that because the United States had not declared war, they were not obligated by the rules of the Geneva Convention pertaining to the treatment of prisoners of war. They labeled the Americans they had captured as "criminals of war" and treated them accordingly. For Perot, the plight of America's missing servicemen became close to an obsession, driven by moral outrage at the sufferings of the American prisoners and their families. Some of the missing servicemen were old friends from Annapolis.
Perot put together a small team of EDS executives and began an unsophisticated public awareness campaign directed at the international press and public His objective was to embarrass the North Vietnamese, who were successfully representing themselves to the world as innocent victims of a bully superpower, into improving the treatment of American prisoners of war.
In December, 1969, at a risk to his life and EDS, Perot hired two Boeing 707's and flew to Southeast Asia in an attempt to deliver 26 tons of food and Christmas presents to American prisoners in Hanoi. When Hanoi rebuffed Perot's efforts to deliver the food, the Texan flew to Laos and stood outside the North Vietnamese Embassy with a bullhorn, demanding "Let us have our men." He bankrolled airline tickets so that families of American POW/MIAs could fly to Paris and confront the Vietnamese. During 1970, Perot stumped the country, giving speeches encouraging people to send protest letters to Hanoi. Americans sent so many that the Vietnamese postal system collapsed under the strain. Perot's effort to deliver Christmas food and packages was not successful, but his overall strategy of international awareness had worked.
Badgered and embarrassed by the negative attention, the Vietnamese communists improved the treatment of American POWs, allowed more mail, and released some names of POWs. Later, the F.B.I. warned Perot that the Vietcong had asked a group of Black Panthers to assassinate him. Perot was forced to hire a security force to protect himself and his family. Several weeks later, a small band of men climbed the fence which surrounded his seventeen acre Dallas home, but were chased away by teeth-snapping guard dogs.
In 1973, anti-Vietnam fervor was at its height in the United States and returning Vietnam veterans were being shunned by the American public. Perot, the idealistic corporate guerrilla, rallied in support of the American serviceman. He wrote a check for a parade through downtown San Francisco to honor former prisoners of war.
Six years later, the Texas superpatriot once more demonstrated his ability to achieve the un-do-able. He recruited the legendary Green Beret Colonel "Bull" Simons and organized a commando unit that snatched two of his executives from a Tehran political prison. They had been arrested by militant Iranians and were being held without charges. Perot flew to Tehran, entered the prison in disguise, and engineered the escape while the U.S. Government struggled awkwardly, unable to free its own citizens. Since 1975, Perot has financed over 20 private attempts to search for America prisoners of war who were left behind at the end of the Vietnam War. Today, Perot is widely regarded as one of the most persistent and knowledgeable Americans on the issue of American prisoners of war abandoned in Indo-China. He has the following of an army of Vietnam veteran groups, POW/MIA families, and concerned Americans.
A U.S. House resolution (HCR129) sponsored by Rep. Bill Hendon, R-N.C., sought in 1985 to establish an independent, bi-partisan "Perot Commission to determine if prisoners of war are being held in Indo-China and what action should be taken to get them out." The POW/MIA activist finally had someone they could trust to investigate the POW/MIA issue and they were thrilled. They rallied behind the "Perot" bill and lobbied in the halls of Congress. They gained 275 members of the House as co-sponsors of the POW/MIA investigative commission they wanted Perot to head.
In mid-October 1986, their hopes of a U.S. government sponsored Perot led investigation were dashed when Rep. Stephen Solarz, D-N.Y., managed with three proxy votes to wipe out the Perot legislation with a 4-to-4 committee vote before it could reach the floor of Congress and be voted on by the entire House of Representatives. Solarz, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, said he killed the bill because the Reagan Administration did not support it. Perot has said repeatedly that he is "absolutely certain there are American fighting men in Vietnam who were taken prisoner and are still being held alive." Yet, the effort to rescue those men has been the one "political brawl" that has frustrated Ross Perot. Up until the Reagan and Bush Administrations, Perot had been able to clearly identify his adversaries and wear them down until he got what he wanted.During the Vietnam War, the enemy was the communist Vietnamese. In 1979, Perot was up against militant Iranians who had kidnaped two of his employees. In both cases Perot had been able to find powerful allies inside the U.S. Government who helped him achieve his goals.
Ironically, what must be most devastating for the Texas "Lone Ranger" is the cold realization that it is not just the Vietnamese communist who have kept him from bringing our war veterans home and achieving one of the most important humanitarian goals in his life. It is his own political soulmates, people Perot thought believed in the basic moral principals of truth, justice, and loyalty, that have helped blocked his effort to rescue our men. Today this almost mythical man from Texas is igniting a renewal of faith among Americans who have long prayed for their country to be guided back on the righteous course it was set upon by our founding fathers. Many Americans feel that if any one American can accomplish this, that individual is H. Ross Perot.
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