No one needs to be convinced of Carlos Slim's business acumen. But less known are his intellectual interests, ranging from the origins of our planet to contemporary literature. Sharing dinner with him, my wife Heidi and I have also found ourselves face to face with writers like Gabriel García Márquez and Carlos Fuentes. We might discuss our most recent book with him or ask about the future of the cell-phone industry or the role of remittances in the Mexican economy.
Once during a weekend visit to his beach house, Heidi woke up very early and went to the kitchen to get some coffee. Carlos was already sitting at the table, reading what looked like a school notebook. "I've been up for two hours writing," he said. "I like to stay in bed, think and write in my notebooks." He had sketched out detailed ideas for remodeling a slum neighborhood in Mexico City, which would involve building low-cost housing, schools and a community hospital. All but unknown are Carlos' contributions to infants in need of highly specialized surgery, to young people seeking higher education and to adults in Mexico's equivalent of what amounts to debtor's prison.
Although he has been harshly criticized for his wealth, Carlos, 68, belies simplistic characterization. Even a superbillionaire can love and honor his spouse, treat women with respect, pursue wide-ranging intellectual interests and, in his own quiet way, support social reform.
Toffler is the author of Future Shock. His most recent book is Revolutionary Wealth
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