A Pebble in a Pond

I call it the ripple effect.

Think of throwing a pebble into a pond. Watch the ripples fanning out. Each circle a little larger than the one before. Ever growing. Keep the ripple effect in mind as I tell you the story of Richard Goldbach. It involves the most frightening moment in his life.

I'm having breakfast with Rich. I am an overnight guest in his home. It is one of the most beautifully furnished homes I've ever seen. It is like visiting a museum.

Rich was CEO and majority owner of Metro Machine. Under his leadership, the company grew into a large and very prosperous enterprise. General Dynamics had its eye on it for some time. It was finally purchased by them in 2011.

Rich is a very generous guy, a philanthropist of sorts. His company was located in Norfolk, Virginia. It was one of the largest contributors to the local United Way. And one of the largest contributors to the Boys & Girls Club of Norfolk.

He was also particularly interested in what he considered the most serious scourge in Norfolk's inner city. It became the largest beneficiary of his philanthropy. That is what this story is about.

Rich and his company were the sole contributors to a remarkable literacy program he initiated for grade school youngsters. The program was held in the worst-performing schools in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods of the inner city.

“I'm convinced,” Rich tells me, “that if these young people learn to read and love to read, it gives them a head start in life. ...

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