The giant-sized American aspiration of entrepreneurship has always has been about the human journey.
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
It is not a natural thing for an 8th grade student in Bangladesh to memorize Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address from top to bottom. But like many in my class, I did.
Even though it didn’t have much of an impact on me then, it is that single speech that continues to deepen my feelings about this country that I now proudly call my own. To me, Lincoln’s address personifies the very soul of this nation — the right to pursue and define your own life as you wish.
A common definition of the American dream: anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success in a society through hard work, determination, and initiative.
A survey from the Aspen Ideas Festival says:
Seventy-five percent of those polled said the American Dream is suffering, 69% said the obstacles to achieving it are more difficult than ever, and 64% think the country is “on the wrong track.” Yet they are personally optimistic: 72% said they are living the American Dream or expect to in their lifetime, 85% are happy with their lives overall, 72% are happy with their jobs, 86% are optimistic about the future, and 67% feel financially secure.
This gap between national pessimism and personal optimism is not new for Americans. I have always believed that the giant-sized American aspiration and dreams has always has been about the individual human journey.
THE HUMAN JOURNEY
A while back I met a CNN political contributor who served as a counselor to one of the past American presidents. He was telling us a story about his Eastern European grandmother.
She made a living as a hotel maid most of her life. She ended up visiting the White House when her grandson became part of the President’s administration.
When she met the President in the Oval Office, the President apparently asked her if he could do or show her anything. She had only one question for the President, “How does the White House keep the brass on those fireplaces so shiny all the time!’ The President didn’t know.
On the way back from the White House she kept repeating “Only in America, only in America”. She meant that only in America could a maid’s grandson work for the President, giving the maid an opportunity to ask the President — in the Oval Office — about the cleaning process of a shiny brass fireplace!
It is here in America where, although we may not all be outliers, we can still be impactful and successful within the context of our lives. Here, in the same neighborhood, people from four continents can live peacefully. Family members represent the globe; bloodlines can represent multiple different ethnicities. It is here where people have historically come together despite their differences to solve problems and innovate solutions.
They say that to pursue your dream — you have to be willing to jump into the deep end. And that takes courage.
More than two decades ago, I had just finished my first summer semester at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale after arriving from Bangladesh in 1986. I was 17 and a student of the College of Engineering. After paying my tuition for the summer and fall, I had $700.00 left to survive, secure an education, and start my life in America. I didn’t quite realize how tight of a situation I was in. It was only after facing thermodynamics and advanced calculus that I realized those classes were a breeze compared to what I was about to face.
But like millions who calls this country their home, I have survived and grateful for my journey.
This nation’s flaws may run deep — yet (for the most part) it is here where anyone can dream, achieve, feel tall, change their lives, start fresh, love anyone. It is in America where, time and again, new leaders, authors, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, journalists rise up from nowhere to inspire millions and move us forward.
It is the entrepreneurial soul of this country that never stops me from being optimistic about our nation’s future.
Copyright © 2017 by Faisal Hoque. All rights reserved.
I am an entrepreneur and author. Founder of SHADOKA and other companies. Shadoka enables aspirations to lead, innovate, and transform. Shadoka’s accelerators and solutions bring together the management frameworks, digital platforms, and thought leadership to enable innovation, transformation, entrepreneurship, growth and social impact.
Author of “Everything Connects — How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability” (McGraw Hill) and “Survive to Thrive: 27 Practices of Resilient Entrepreneurs, Innovators, and Leaders” (Motivational Press). Follow me on Twitter Faisal Hoque. Use the Everything Connects leadership app and Suvvive to Thrive resiliancy app for free.