By Marisa Buchanan, NBC News Producer
In our "Making A Difference" series, we tell the stories of all kinds of people who are working tirelessly, selflessly, and often invisibly to make the world a better place in some way. The person we will profile tonight on the broadcast had no plans to be one of these people. A "suit" for most of his life, he was a salesman so good at his job that the Today Show profiled his efforts early on in his career. He managed to rise to the top ranks of American business in China at a time when that country had just opened its doors to Westerners. It's a country where people respond to a unique mixture of personal relationships and hierarchy that few outsiders really understand. John Kamm, however, learned how to work that system: who to talk to, who to toast, whose hand to shake, whose back to slap. And he gained a lot of clout in the process.
After years of financial success, Kamm could have continued to make money, but remarkably, instead he now saves lives. He is a human rights advocate and Executive Director of the Dui Hua Foundation. Just what he does and who he has saved you'll see tonight, in Mark Mullen's report. In the meantime, here's a "guest blog" John Kamm wrote for us:
I enjoy public speaking, and I usually speak at least once a month somewhere in the world. A few months ago, I was in Hong Kong preparing to go up to Beijing on one of Dui Hua's missions to ask the Chinese government about its political prisoners. My audience in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was the American Chamber of Commerce, an organization I headed in 1990 when I made my first intervention on behalf of a Chinese political prisoner.
My topic was China and the Olympics, and my main point was that China's poor international image could have a negative impact on the country's chances of staging a successful Olympics. For China's leaders, success is not measured solely by the number of medals won. It's important to be successful, but even more important to be seen as being successful. In this respect, Beijing needs to be worried. China's ratings are falling sharply throughout North America, Europe and even significant parts of Asia – the very places where foreign audiences will be biggest. An NBC/ Wall Street Journal poll taken in July reveals that two thirds of Americans have little or no interest in going to Beijing to watch the Games.
A couple of years ago I spoke to a business audience in Hong Kong and only 10 people and a couple of reporters showed up. This time was different. A good crowd, and almost as many journalists as the folks who paid for their rubber chicken lunches. In the big group of journalists, a camera team from NBC News was at work. Marisa Buchanan and her crew were beginning to film what would eventually be part of the "Making a Difference" story on my work.