Thomas Edward is a 12-year-old middle-schooler with top-notch dreams. His goal is becoming a corporate CEO.

Thomas Edward was one of a handful of convention-goers allowed to ask Sir Richard Branson a question. Photo by Ken Stone

So when Thomas, a leukemia survivor, was asked by the Make-A-Wish Foundation what he wanted to do, he was all business: Interview one of the biggest chief executives of them all — Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic (and other Virgin spinoffs) fame.

“Originally I was planning to meet him in England,” Thomas said Tuesday. “But it ended up here” at the BIO International Convention at the San Diego Convention Center.

So with his mom, dad and stepmother in tow, he came from his Tempe, Arizona, home. But the meeting wouldn’t be a quiet audience with a series of questions.

“Two days ago, I got the news that I had to say a question in front of a whole crowd,” Thomas told Times of San Diego after doing just that — before a luncheon audience of 2,020 as it turned out.

His single query?

Thomas asked Branson: “What do you value most in life — and why?”

Sir Richard Branson meets with Thomas Edward privately at the BIO International Convention. Image via Flickr and BIO.

Replied the multibillionaire: “Good health. … In the end, health is everything.” And Branson urged biotech execs and researchers in the mammoth second-floor ballroom to “work even harder” to find cures to disease.

Branson’s answer “meant a lot to me,” Thomas said, “because I’m a leukemia survivor. I’m in remission for 7-8 years. I really think health is a big thing — [more important than] reputation or friendship.”

Thomas has been enjoying a stay at the San Diego Hilton Resort and Spa, a cool respite from the Phoenix area, which baked at 106 degrees Tuesday, he said. His family also has a beach home in Oceanside, so he’s not new to the area. He has three younger brothers at home and two other siblings elsewhere.

What’s in the future for young Thomas?

“I like business. I want to be a CEO,” he said. “But biotech is pretty cool — all the eco-friendly fuels are cool stuff. Even cloning.”

Show comments