I retrieve and open a large envelope from today's pile of mail.
Inside is a press release announcing "Chick-fil-A Founder to Receive 2008 William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership."
I discover that Chick-fil-A founder is 87-year-old Atlanta businessman S. Truett Cathy. Reading about Cathy, amidst today's headlines, I am wondering if his story is what America is about, or was about.
Cathy built, and today is owner/operator, of the privately held Chick-fil-A fast food chain, with more than 1400 locations and sales of over $2.6 billion dollars. He's from humble roots in rural Georgia and opened the first Chick-fil-A store in Atlanta in 1967.
In contrast to stereotypes equating business, particularly big business, to greed, Cathy's life and work has been defined by service and Christian charity. The corporate mission statement of Chick-fil-A is "To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A."
Chick-fil-A stores are closed on Sunday to allow employees to devote the day to faith and family.
Cathy established a scholarship fund in 1973 for Chick-fil-A employees and to date around 23,000 have received more than $24 million in scholarship funds. In 1984 he established the WinShape Foundation which last year alone spent $18 million supporting a network of foster homes, camps, scholarships, and marriage counseling programs.
The Simon Prize, which Cathy has just received, is awarded by the William E. Simon Foundation, established by Simon, who was the 63rd Treasury Secretary of the United States.
Like Cathy, Simon believed in America, in freedom and free enterprise, and was a man of faith. The giving themes of his foundation, as noted on the foundation's website, are in the areas of "education, faith, and family."
Unlike Cathy, Simon built his wealth in the area which is now quintessentially associated with greed -- finance. Before becoming Treasury Secretary in 1974, he was a Wall Street bond trader at Salomon Brothers. After, he set up firms dealing in mergers and acquisitions, financial services, and banking.
As Wall Street executives are dragged to hearings, to be mocked, blamed, and threatened by Democratic Banking Chairman Chris Dodd, it's worth quoting Simon, who passed away in 2000, as his creed appears on his foundation's website: