During the eight years of the Obama administration, we witnessed the trashing of all things American. One of Obama’s first acts as president was to deny the existence of “American exceptionalism.” The cherished American icon of the “self-made man” was thrown to the dogs when Obama said, “If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Isn’t it strange that someone who hates this country as much as Obama could be elected twice to the office of POTUS? Under his influence, being an American has become something to apologize for. This negative animus has resulted in a feeling of pessimism in a country that was built on exceptional optimism.
In her book What the Bleep Just Happened? Fox News analyst Monica Crowley observed, “We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. We’re sick and tired of being depressed and full of despair and thinking that our country is gone for good. We’re going to say, ‘Hell no.’” It took a while, but the voters finally had enough of Obama’s negativity. The election of Donald Trump means we can once more be proud of our country.
Nothing epitomizes this shift more than the story of Trump’s nominee for director of the National Economic Council, Gary Cohn. As a child with dyslexia, Cohn overheard a teacher tell his parents that he would be lucky to grow up to be a truck driver. In spite of his handicap, he managed to finish college. Working as an aluminum siding salesman, Cohn visited the commodities exchange in New York City and decided on the spot that he wanted a job on Wall Street.
Cohn had no background in finance nor did he have any contacts in the financial world. What he did have was drive, courage, and the willingness to take risks. He went down to the floor of the commodities exchange and tried without success to gain entry. As he was outside looking in, Cohn did something that was completely extraordinary. He overheard a trader say to an assistant, “I’m going to La Guardia. I’ll call you when I get to the airport.” Cohn followed the man to the elevator where he said, “I heard you say you’re going to La Guardia. So am I. Want to share a cab?”
As it turned out, the man ran the options business for a Wall Street firm. Cohn did not even know what an option was but he didn’t let that stop him. During the ride between Wall Street and La Guardia Airport, Cohn convinced his taxi companion to give him a job interview. He began working for the man a week later. Cohn, a kid from Cleveland with dyslexia, eventually rose to the presidency of Goldman Sachs and now is going to hold down an important job in the Trump administration.
Now that is an American story. We need stories like Cohn’s. We need the myth of the self-made man. A country determines its direction by the myths it embraces. I expect we will have more stories like this one in the coming years of the Trump presidency. It’s about time.
Ed Brodow is a negotiation expert, political commentator, and author of In Lies We Trust: How Politicians and the Media Are Deceiving the American Public.
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