Robert A. Mullen produces for friends a periodic column he calls RAMblings. I agree with the sentiments he expresses, so with his permission I occasionally post one of his RAMblings. Here is his latest:
I had lunch the other day with an old friend who is also a former client. He’d probably laugh at me for saying so, but without exaggeration, he’s the kind of guy who makes this country so exceptional.
He’s the entrepreneur who, despite setbacks and shipwrecks and betrayals, keeps coming back with grit, fortitude and an unflinching desire to succeed. And in doing so he builds companies, creates jobs, meets payrolls and sets examples for anyone who yearns for success.
Burt Folsom [http://www.burtfolsom.com], the history professor at Hillsdale college I admire so much, wrote about his kind the other day. In commenting about one of education’s failings, Folsom wrote, “Students cannot advance beyond the teaching they receive. If they are taught in the textbooks that Rockefeller was a ‘robber baron’; if they see movies depicting businessmen unfavorably; and if they see adulation given and monuments erected not to entrepreneurs, but to politicians who spend the money the entrepreneurs earn, then this country is in trouble in future generations.
“We need to teach and honor those men and women whose ideas and inventions made America prosper. They took the risks that created the jobs that brought millions of immigrants to America, and they provide many of the job offers our students will consider after they graduate. Certainly our politicians and reform leaders deserve recognition, but if they completely crowd out our entrepreneurs, then we are telling students that the way to success is to spend other people’s money, not make some of your own.
“John D. Rockefeller was so innovative that his Standard Oil Company refined about two-thirds of all oil sold in the whole world in 1890. Yet in Cleveland, the place where he established American dominance, we have no highway or stellar monument to the man; what we have instead is the NASA Glenn Research Center, named after the senator and astronaut. In Kentucky, you can travel to Lake Barkley, named after the Vice-President, on the Wendell Ford West Kentucky Parkway, named after the long-time Senator, but you can’t find any public monument along the way to Colonel Harlan Sanders, who founded Kentucky Fried Chicken.”
Folsom concluded his little essay with this: “If, during the 21st century, Americans become too fat and lethargic to produce the energy, ideas, and inventions to keep our economy strong, we will probably blame not ourselves for ignoring business history, but McDonald’s.”
I suppose students today as well as their teachers would be astonished to learn that Henry Ford had a lot to do with our winning World War II. His early assembly line concept for automotive production made it possible for American industries to mass produce the guns, tanks, planes, ships, torpedoes and ammunition that overwhelmed Hitler and the Japanese.
American business is unique and the men and women who take the risk and work the hours it takes to grow a company are the backbone of our nation. Government may redistribute their wealth but it will never understand their worth. ■
RAMblings – January 2014 – Robert A. Mullen