Billionaire Jon Huntsman Sr. says he is sometimes accused of being a "greedy, awful capitalist" who is "raping the earth." How does the 77-year-old self-made man respond to such accusations?
"Somebody the other day wrote me a letter and they said, 'Jon, you're in the petrochemical business and we're environmentalists and we can't understand, because we know the petrochemicals give cancer,'" Huntsman said on Glenn Beck's radio program. "And so the president of our Huntsman Cancer Institute said, 'How should I answer it?' And I said, 'Just make a list. Start with paint, toothpaste, shoes, clothing, cars, automobiles, medical supplies, pharmaceuticals...'"
"The capsules that you have to eat your medicine," Beck added. "That's petrochemicals."
Huntsman asked the aggrieved individual which petrochemical-dependent products they would like to live without.
"Just make a list and say, 'Could you live without these factors?' And they find we make 12,000 different products that go into 120,000 different end uses. Without the petrochemical industry, virtually everything we see, feel, wear, and touch [would be different] -- and particularly in medical supplies, particularly in automobiles. We now make composites for airplanes. Instead of metals, we have lightweight plastics so you can fly cheaply and get better gasoline mileage."
Beck said he visited an interactive museum demonstrating all the products that require petrochemicals, and he said they are in "everything."
"The whole system," Huntsman agreed. "So when the far left starts criticizing me, I say, 'Would you mind giving us back the bicycle? How about the tires, and how about that shirt you're wearing because we're one of the world's largest producers of dyes. Would you like it just plain gray? How about the bicycle helmet you're wearing? How about the glasses that you're wearing?"
Huntsman said some people think "if you're in the chemical business, that you're doing Agent Orange all over again," when they're actually producing products that improve the lives of millions.
Beck remarked: "I mean, honestly, after going through it, none of us would survive [without petrochemicals]."
Huntsman also appeared on Beck's television program, where the two discussed Huntsman's life and upbringing.
"I just read a book from the 1800s, it was called 'Poor Boys' I think," Beck began. "It was published about 1890, and it was all about the great industrial giants of the age that all grew up poor. And they just said, 'I'm just moving forward...' We don't tell those stories anymore. You are the poster boy. You grew up in a house that literally had cardboard walls. You didn't have shoes for a while. And then now, you are the guy who made the Styrofoam egg container..."
Huntsman said it wasn't easy for him to build his business, but he believes "necessity is always the mother of invention." When he couldn't get financing to get started in the petrochemical industry, he came up with the idea of putting the greatest music hits on a single record, and he said it ended up being the 13th largest advertiser in America, and he used that money to build his business.
"I knew ... thousands of products could be made if I could just diversify and move into these broader products with a wonderful team of people," he said. "And I learned very early, by the way, the key to success is to surround yourself with people who are a lot smarter than you are."
He continued: "It's hard for me to even talk about it, but I've always been strong in my faith, and I've had faith in other people. And if people know you have faith in them and you can put your arm around them and thank them for what they're doing, and then share your profits with them and share your profits with charity at the same time, it's a formula for great success."
Beck's television program was recorded with a studio audience, and one couple's life was profoundly impacted by Huntsman.
The two didn't even know Huntsman was scheduled to be the guest when they asked to be in the audience, but said they knew they were meant to be there.
Watch the extremely moving segment, below:
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This post has been updated.