Retiree Introducing Capitalism to Socialists : Training: Holmes Brown hopes to eventually bring 500 Soviets to U.S. It’s not his first big challenge.
At an age when many folks are settling comfortably into retirement, Holmes M. Brown is settling into a big project--an effort to teach American capitalism to Soviets and East Europeans.
Through the New York-based Institute for Applied Economics, the 76-year-old Brown--a career public relations executive and a champion of civil rights who helped launch the Head Start program--plans to bring around eight Soviet executives to the United States by summer’s end.
About 100 more executives are expected in the first year, and 500 within five years.
Visitors will receive several months of training from a host company. Forty U.S. corporations already have agreed to accept a Soviet or Eastern European trainee, including Mobil Oil Corp., Proctor & Gamble Co. and Johnson & Johnson.
“When they’re in the financial department (of a company), I hope they actually work with the guy in accounts receivable. In the product planning department, they will learn how a product is planned,” Brown said.
“Profit and loss don’t mean a single solitary thing” in the Soviet Union, he said. “They don’t understand competition. . . . There’s one tractor company, one company that makes locomotives. When that company goes on strike, breaks down, that whole industry stops.”
The foreign executives should return home, Brown said, with some of the expertise needed to help their countries move closer to a market economy. American companies, meanwhile, will gain some Soviet business contacts while promoting capitalism, he said.
Promotion has always come easily to Brown. As a public relations executive, he has had years of experience promoting the interests of corporate America. He has worked for Martin Marietta Corp., Ford Motor Co., General Electric Co., American Locomotive and American Airlines.
At Ford, Brown helped start a safety program for the 1956 model year. The auto maker padded dashboards and steering wheels and better anchored seat belts. The result was higher-than-expected sales.
Brown also worked in public relations at Colonial Williamsburg, Va., from 1950 to 1952, where he helped integrate the Williamsburg Inn. He secretly brought in a black couple one weekend. The next weekend, an outcry began when another couple registered openly--but those protesting the change were told it had already happened, he said.
Brown also helped integrate the tennis courts at the nearby College of William and Mary.
White-haired and slightly built, Brown is an avid tennis player who prefers to take on younger opponents, because he says they play harder.
In 1964, Sargent Shriver, director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, tapped Brown, a Republican, to become director of public affairs. It was there that he helped launch Head Start, an educational program that helps disadvantaged schoolchildren.
Brown and his staff mailed 100,000 letters, individually addressed, to teachers, principals and other educators seeking local support needed for the program. The Head Start name was Brown’s idea.
Brown said Shriver brought the Head Start group to President Johnson’s cabinet meeting once. “Sarge stood up and said, ‘We’re a bipartisan group. This is Holmes Brown. He’s our little Republican. Stand up Holmes. Sit down Holmes.’ ”
Although he is a Republican, Brown said he managed to make the Nixon White House’s enemies list. He said he had supported Democrat George McGovern in the 1972 presidential race and backed a businessman’s march on Washington to protest the Vietnam War.
Brown established the Institute for Applied Economics in 1974 to help explain economics to teachers. The institute has since expanded to include preachers, reporters and government officials.
Brown doesn’t get paid for his work at the institute.