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I want to tell you about a man that should be an inspiration to everyone in the entire world. He is truly a Great American. His name is Jon M. Huntsman Sr. and most of us Americans do not even know who he is. He grew up poor and at one time lived in a house held up by cardboard walls. After high school, he earned a scholarship to Wharton School of Business. He went on to become a billionaire. He married a girl he met in junior high school and has been married for almost fifty years. He has nine children and seventy grand children two of which are adopted by his son Jon Huntsman Jr. one from China and one from India.

In 2005 he has wrote a book titled Winners Never Cheat. “Everyday values we learned as children (but may have forgotten.)” This book explains his personal philosophy about life, and shows that you can succeed in business while maintaining your values, ethics, and integrity. If you like to read, it may be uplifting.

Talk about a person starting a business from scratch. Here is a real life inspiration for all of us, especially those of you that are planning to start your first business. He grew up poor, earned a scholarship in 1955, and he got married in 1959. After college, he went to work for an egg producing company as a salesman (a humble beginning selling eggs.) In 1961the egg, company asked him to help develop a new egg carton and he did. He dreamed up the idea of polystyrene cartons for eggs like those that we all see in the stores today. Up until that time, all egg cartons were made of cardboard.  

In 1964 (keeping his egg company job) he started a business on the side, of selling repackaged music recordings “Greatest Hits of Rock-N-Roll” through TV advertising. In the meantime, he worked his way up the corporate ladder at the egg company and in 1967 became president of Dolco Packaging, a joint venture between the egg business and Dow Chemical. 

In 1970, he left the egg packaging business and forms Huntsman Container Corporation with his brother. Here was the key idea; in 1974, Huntsman Container Corp. creates the polystyrene “clam shell” container for McDonalds Big Mac. Later he sold the Huntsman Container Corp. for eight million dollars in a stock swap deal. Huntsman agreed to be chief executive officer for four more years. In 1982, he formed Huntsman Chemical Corporation and their business gets too fast and furious for me to list here all that happened. Then he gets big in the polystyrene business and has manufacturing plants all around the USA. In the 1990’s he is a billionaire and buys thirty-four companies all around the world. 

In 1993 five years after the devastating earthquake in the country of Armenia (where he owns a company), the Huntsman family provided food relief for over 50,000 Armenian people still homeless from the earth quake.

In 1995, Jon M. Huntsman announces the contribution of $100 million to the Huntsman Cancer Institute, the largest financial contribution ever to medical research in America. 

In 2000, Jon M. Huntsman gives another $125 million to the Huntsman Cancer Institute to fund ongoing cancer research and to help construct a clinical research hospital.

In 2001 / 2002 there was a business slump in the industry he was in and he almost went broke. His attorneys and some friends recommended he declare bankruptcy to still be able to hang on to at least part of his personal wealth but he refused. That was not his style, give up, and let others take the financial losses on the chin. Instead, he arranged for some emergency financing and took his long time private company public. Later he said something like this. “Big breaks often come from a difficult time period, being forced to deal with things that come up.” “I have always viewed hurdles and challenges as opportunities to move ahead.” Today his company has about 14,000 employees and $13 billion in annual sales.

Jon Huntsman is now seventy years old. He says I have a plaque on the wall behind my desk that says, “The greatest exercise for the human heart is to reach down and lift another up.” That is what we are trying to do in cancer. He lost both his mother and his father to cancer and he has survived mouth, prostate and skin cancer himself. His passion is finding a cure for cancer and helping others. He has already given $225 million to the Huntsman Cancer Institute and plans to double that amount in the coming years. The Huntsman family estimates they have given away $1.2 billion over the past decade including $700 million to the Huntsman Foundation last year. That does not include the 10% of his income he gives to his church each year. 

Although he has tons of money, he is not giving just because he has a lot he is giving because that is who he is. He once gave a family $50 a month to help them make ends meet while he was making just over $300 a month. On that financial level how many of us would give one sixth of our monthly income to help another? Later on in life after seeing a very wealthy acquaintance who did not donate much money to anything die, Jon had another thought occur to him. There was not one dollar in that casket he could take with him. From that moment on, he vowed to die broke and give away every penny of his fortune before he passes on. 

He set up a ($200 million) trust to take care of his nine children and seventy grand children (over $2 million each.) However, that is only ten percent of his net worth. The big amount about $2 billion, he is leaving all to charity and he plans to give it all away in the next eighteen months. Is that a Great American or what? This is truly a man with a generous heart. We all could learn a lot about life and giving to others from this man. He is truly a GREAT AMERICAN.

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