Bozeman is a city most inhabitants of this earth had never heard of. It’s a city in southern Montana in the Rocky Mountains. Its population is less than 60,000 and it’s a holiday hideaway for politicians, celebrities and adventurers that enjoy fly fishing, hiking, rock climbing and skiing amongst other outdoor activities.
Interestingly, when I was invited to have a meeting there – I found that Bozeman is the city with the second highest number of billionaires in America. As I have given up on Zoom and believe strongly in face-to-face interaction; I flew to Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport – which is located in Belgrade, Montana, about 10 miles northwest of Bozeman.
Disembarking from the aircraft, there was snow everywhere and I was hit with a cold wind and -30 degrees temperature. A coat, scarf, hat, and gloves did nothing to save me from shuddering as I walked down the steps into the waiting bus. I started doubting my wisdom of coming here in December. As it was a one-day affair, I bit the bullet.
Leaving the airport at a good time for my schedule, I was contemplating my meeting with a gentleman who was, like me, working to support medical research in the field of cerebral palsy (CP) in children, a horrible disease.
I arrived on time to meet Roger Birchwood, a well-known venture capitalist and philanthropist. Roger was in jeans, sneakers and a long sleeve cable knit crewneck sweater. The meeting was at his home, and we sat in the living room near a beautiful fireplace with burning logs.
Roger, who must be in his early 50’s, had Anita, his personal assistant, at his side with a batch of documents and she was studiously taking notes of our conversation. Anita, of Asian origin, was wearing a fashionable ski outfit…less for skiing but more to go with the surroundings.
After we concluded the meeting and decided Roger would approach a number of global research institutions to investigate a more serious and effective path forward regarding CP, he invited me to lunch at what he called a “unique” restaurant. I accepted.
As we drove towards a mountain cliff, I noticed a protruded building sticking out with a huge glass dome surrounding it. Roger, driving a 4×4, went in a circular route and we arrived at the entrance. I literally shivered walking ten steps to the bright, warm, and beautiful view the restaurant afforded the clients.
The manager greeted Roger warmly and took him to apparently his usual table close to the glass window and dome which was breathtaking. I sat mesmerized by the view. I used my cell phone to take a picture as Roger sat down and immediately a waiter arrived to take our order for drinks. Roger, having British ancestry, recommended warm winter Pimm’s punch which I accepted although I would have rather had a hot tea with honey.
Looking across from our table I recognized the CEO of a major US tech company sitting with a very well-known retired marine who served in the White House some years ago and a lady whose face I knew but I could not determine who she was. Roger enlightened me – the lady was a well-known Congresswoman serving her sixth term in Congress. She was sitting closer to me, and I could observe her profile and sense a quite heated discussion between her and the ramrod retired marine, whilst the tech CEO was interestingly smiling.
We ordered our food. Roger asked for bison and fries. He must have noticed my eyebrows jump and he smiled. Roger suggested an elk burger, but I declined and asked for a huckleberry salad.
As we were finishing our meal and ordering coffee, I noticed the Congresswoman wiping away what I thought was tears and in an involuntary motion she pushed her handbag off the table causing her empty water glass to crash and split in many pieces.
I immediately got up to help and retrieve her handbag. Roger, who apparently knew everyone, jumped up to assist. The restaurant’s staff and manager, in a fire drill manner, cleaned up the mess in no time.
Moments later we were all introduced and shared Roger’s table with coffee all around. The marine whom I had recognized, but had never met, looked at me and said, “What is the reaction to Bibi Netanyahu’s election?” I responded that I had met Netanyahu several times in global forums and listened to his policies and frankly have little faith in his interest in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I confidently added that Bibi’s interest is in developing relations with all the Arab countries and bypassing five million Palestinians under occupation and that he already started the process with Jared Kushner’s help during the Trump administration which became known as the Abraham Accords.
I changed the subject, asking the CEO of the tech company “Is there a threat from the Biden administration to further regulate or break up some of the tech giants and how does he see the disruption of supply chains and deglobalization?”
His face became serious and as he took a long sip from his coffee, he said the Biden administration will try but not succeed. “Sadly”, he added, “politics is disrupting tech progress and supply chain problems are already complicating many industries and will cause economic and financial chaos. As for deglobalization with Russia, North Korea, and China as our enemies, the fact is human beings globally pay the price.” He picked up his cup again, but it was empty. He placed it down and said, “We must find a formula to live together on this earth for the better of humanity rather than thump on our chest that we can beat everyone up.”
I found that strange coming from the CEO but before I could comment the Congresswoman interjected saying, “It’s really a very sad state of affairs. Instead of dealing, “she added, “with homeless people, food deprived people, health issues, poverty and education we are fueling a war, supporting LGBTQ education in schools, having parliaments around the world passing gender bills to allow for sex change for children at 12 years old, legitimizing harmful drugs, failing to bring global cooperation to deal with pandemics…“She sighed and then said, “it is not enough that we pressure other countries to emulate our democracy which is not perfect and criticize them for their human rights whilst we had Abu Gharib, who destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan and sanctioned Cuba and Iran for decades, have Native Americans living on reservations and maintain the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp.”
Tears were streaming down the Congresswoman’s face… “I am a very strong woman and love my country for which I have devoted my life, but I care and worry about the path we are following for my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.”
I tried to slowly shift in my seat as Roger and the marine engaged with the Congresswoman, who was now smiling, as a birthday cake appeared in front of her, and she blew out the candles and thanked the CEO who was apparently hosting her and the marine.
I had a flight to catch. I thanked Roger and wished all a happy holiday and a great 2023 and took my car to the airport. Deep in thought I was once again pondering on the lack of global leadership and smiling to myself that visiting Bozeman may require a lot of booze consumption to stay sane.
About the author
M. Shafik Gabr is a renowned leader in international business, innovation, investment and one of the world’s premier collectors of Orientalist art, and an accomplished philanthropist.
During his career, Gabr established over 25 companies plus three investment holding companies including ARTOC Group for Investment and Development which, established in 1971, is a multi-disciplined investment holding company with businesses in infrastructure, automotive, engineering, construction and real estate, over the past three years focusing on investment in technology and artificial intelligence.
Gabr is the Chairman and a founding member of Egypt’s International Economic Forum, a member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum, a Board Member of Stanhope Capital, an International Chairman of the Sadat Congressional Gold Medal Committee, and a Member of the Parliamentary Intelligence Security Forum. Gabr is a Member of the Metropolitan Museum’s International Council and serves on the Advisory Board of the Center for Financial Stability, the Advisory Board of The Middle East Institute, and the Global Advisory Council of the Mayo Clinic.
Through the Shafik Gabr Social Development Foundation, Gabr is helping to improve elementary-school education in Egypt, introducing students to arts and culture and promoting sports and physical fitness for youth. The Foundation has its first Medical and Social Development Center in Mokattam, Cairo, offering free medical and health services. In 2012 Gabr established in the US the Shafik Gabr Foundation which supports educational and medical initiatives plus launched in November 2012 the ‘East-West: The Art of Dialogue initiative promoting exchanges between the US and Egypt with the purpose of cultural dialogue and bridge-building.
Gabr holds a BA in Economics and Management from the American University in Cairo and an MA in Economics from the University of London.