English-only Activist Rreturns to Tech Roots
Mercury News
Dec. 04, 2005


Contact Mary Anne Ostrom at mostrom@ mercurynews.com or (415) 477-3794

Ron Unz, the multimillionaire software entrepreneur from Palo Alto, bankrolled anti-bilingual education measures that won voter approval in California, Arizona and Massachusetts between 1998 and 2002.

But the Harvard-trained theoretical physicist, who earlier tried an uphill grab at the 1994 GOP nomination for California governor and lost, has given up political activism. Working out of his Palo Alto home-office, Unz has returned to what made him a multimillionaire: developing software.

Now 44, he says social issues such as affirmative action and bilingual education have fallen off the nation's radar since Sept. 11, 2001, and the onset of the Iraq war. A fourth attempt to curtail bilingual education, in 2002 in Colorado, failed, and his dream that Congress might take up his cause fizzled. He said he was also a bit disappointed that former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, whose high-profile financial backing of Unz's Proposition 227 in 1998 was key, put reforming bilingual education on the back burner when he became Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's education secretary.

``I was hoping to get the attention of Congress and do something on the federal level, but it never happened. What can you do?'' he mused. Plus, Unz said, he feels he missed out on the dot-com bubble and now may be the time to make up. ``I missed the whole Internet revolution. I was busy running campaigns,'' he said last week.

He made his millions off a software program he designed to manage mortgage-backed securities. He's maintained his ``English for the Children'' Web site and kept its phone number. But his attention now is focused on a secret software development.

Unz said he hopes to go public with the new enterprise soon.

``Four years ago I said it would take seven to eight months'' to launch his new software enterprise. ``And I was saying `soon' back then,'' he said with a laugh.