Last week, President Barack Obama made a startling claim, saying, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” The president couldn’t be more wrong.
My father lost his job as an electrician in 1968 due to cutbacks and his lack of seniority. He then started his own electrical company out of the trunk of his car. No one helped him. His parents didn’t support him, and in fact, his own father told him he was stupid for even trying. My father built a business from the ground up. The president believes this is impossible.
“Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own,” Obama said in that same speech. “I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.”
Obama is right. There are a lot of smart people out there, and a lot of them weren’t as smart as my father, who created one of the most enduring electrical contracting companies in the state of South Carolina from scratch.
Obama is right. There are a lot of hardworking people out there, and many of them didn’t work as hard as my father did to become such a great success, against all the odds and with little help or outside support.
My dad is the smartest and most hardworking person I know. It is true that most people can’t become successful without at least some help. But my father would not have been a success if he wasn’t an individual with the unique talents, skills, and ambition that many others lack.
Technically, Obama is not incorrect. No man is an island unto himself. But the president’s comments drastically — and insultingly — understate the importance of individual achievement in any success story.
My best friend opened her pizza restaurant three years ago. Today, it is a very successful business, achieving 400 percent growth in its short existence. Did she achieve this success alone? Technically no, she had business partners, needed a delivery truck to bring her ingredients, needed quality employees, regular customers, etc. But I’m proud of her every day for what she has achieved with her business. She built that.
I would say the same thing about my friends who run the website development company that hosts my own personal site, southernavenger.com. When we first met, they were three young libertarians who I knew through mutual friends, and they were just getting started. I was one of their first clients. In just two years, their company has had 600 percent growth, and they’ve acquired many high-profile clients. They’ve even hired eight employees. Did they have any help? Technically, yes, in the same way a pizza shop owner needs someone else to help produce mozzarella and pepperoni. But did the fact that they often worked until 11 p.m. on a Saturday have anything to do with it? You bet it did. And their successful business is a testament to their hard work. They built that.
These are all examples of the American Dream. These are all individual achievements that were hard-fought and well earned.
This is not to say that hard work alone will guarantee success. Many businesses fail. In some fields, like the restaurant business, most do. The financial risk alone can be terrifying. As my dad once put it, “Most people operating a small business have everything to gain and everything to lose every day. It is a lifetime of standing on an economic fence … and it does take total dedication.”
No one can predict the economic future. The current recession has hurt most Americans, and even the most hardworking and ambitious individuals will encounter obstacles they might find cumbersome or perhaps insurmountable. Many people who’ve been in business for a long time are currently struggling to survive.
But when it comes to the Americans who will prevail, it will be because they did it themselves. Success will come precisely because of the special qualities they possess and the kind of determination they exhibit.
My dad is my hero. When President Obama made his comments, it enraged me first and foremost because I took it as a personal insult to my father. I’m still insulted.
Let this president say what he likes. He can mouth every liberal class-warfare cliché imaginable, but I remain proud of my father and his successful business.
He built that. On his own.
Jack Hunter assisted Sen. Jim DeMint with his latest book, Now or Never: Saving America From Economic Collapse. He is also the official campaign blogger for Ron Paul. You can hear Southern Avenger commentaries on The Morning Buzz on 1250 WTMA.