Richard Branson is a British entrepreneur known for his philanthropic projects and his taste for adventure. He is the founder and chairman of Virgin Group Ltd., a conglomerate of separately run companies which include radio stations, airlines, and mobile phones. The Virgin Group now owns around 200 companies in over 30 countries. Virgin also plans to launch commercial space flights over the next few years in a venture called Virgin Galactic.
Branson was born in 1950 in Surrey, England, and was educated at Stowe School, where he established a national magazine, Student, at the age of 16. He is married with two children and lives in London and Oxfordshire.
Richard Branson: I think it’s just that; looking out for the sheer goodness of people. I think that people are fundamentally good and they are let down by leaders, generally.
When I was young, I watched people marching against wars, and I thought they must be extreme left-wingers and completely unrealistic, etc.
As I got older, I’ve actually realized that there are alternatives to wars, and wars are completely unnecessary in this day and age. And all of us must campaign to make sure that there are no future wars.
Robert McNamara did this brilliant film, "Fog of War," when he was maybe 87 years old. And to say that he made a dreadful mistake taking America into the Vietnamese War; the whole premise was a mistake. But because the war had started, he couldn’t actually back out.
The submarine that he thought had fired at the American fleet hadn’t been a submarine at all. It had been a ripple, a wave rippling through the sea. But they started carpet-bombing North Vietnam. By then it was too late.
And he told that story in order to say to the [George W.] Bush administration, “For God’s sake, don’t invade Iraq, and don’t make the same mistake again. Don’t make the same mistake that I made.”
And actually that inspired me to see if there was any way that we could actually stop the invasion of Iraq. And I felt, at the time, that the only person in the world who could actually sit down with Saddam Hussein and maybe persuade him to go and live elsewhere and avoid a war was Nelson Mandela. Mandela agreed to go to see Saddam Hussein and we got Kofi Annan’s blessing and Thabo Mbeki's blessing from South Africa.
But very sadly the day he was due to leave, the bombing started. So he never actually got to see Saddam Hussein.
Now whether he would have averted the war or not, history will never know. But what people should be trying to do is find alternatives to war.
Another good example, Idi Amin was the scourge of Uganda. Somebody went to see him and said, “Look. You’re either going to be invaded or something terrible is going to happen to you. Or you can go and live your life in Saudi Arabia.”
And he chose to go to Saudi Arabia. Uganda became a free country, a happy country. It’s another good example, I think.
Wars are not necessary anymore, and we’ve got to all make sure that we find alternative ways to war.
Recorded on: July 5, 2007.