- Creighton Smith
Ross Perot still starts every third sentence with "Now let me tell you a story." At 74, he has the energy of three men. The crew-cut wearing, billionaire computer tycoon ran for president of the United States twice, uttering such folksy logic as "Failures are like skinned knees, painful but superficial" and "If you see a snake, just kill it -- don't appoint a committee on snakes."
He was in Pueblo last week, but not to trumpet his opinions about the upcoming bitterly contested election. "I don't want to get into politics," Perot said. Instead, he appeared to trumpet a gathering of Congressional Medal of Honor recipients.
"I could tell you stories by the hour of these men," he said. Unfortunately he was constrained to a 15-minute press conference to unveil Beyond the Medal of Honor, a new PBS documentary about medal recipients that will air this fall. Perot plans to personally pony up the cash to airlift a copy of the two-hour show to every high school in America. "The things [children] see on television aren't going to turn them into men of steel," he said of today's popular culture.
If the man ranked No. 40 among Forbes' richest Americans is pulling any political levers this year, he's doing it behind the scenes. But he's happy to talk about his support for U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
One recent weekend, went one of Perot's stories, a telephone operator patched through a call to his unlisted home telephone number in Dallas. The woman on the phone said her husband was dying in a Bahrain hospital and asked if Perot could help. Perot made some calls, and soon the woman's husband was recovering in the caring hands of three of the military's best physicians. "Don't worry Ross," a person at the Pentagon told Perot. "We'll take care of it."
-- Dan Wilcock
photo by Creighton Smith