Political Hay

Trump and the American Dream

Freedom to dream makes Donald Trump, Newsmax, ION debate -- and USA -- possible.

By 12.13.11

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I have a dream.

The words are most often associated with Martin Luther King's famous 1963 speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Overlooked is why it was so natural for King to express himself in such a fashion. He didn't say he demanded. He didn't say he insisted or pleaded, and he certainly wasn't whining. What Martin Luther King expressed that day was in fact one of the most cherished and celebrated beliefs that was -- and is -- fundamental to generations of Americans.

The God-given right not just to dream, but to have the freedom to make one's dreams come true, is at the very heart of the success of America itself.

In all the silliness surrounding the idea that … gasp!… Donald Trump is moderating a presidential debate, something is being lost -- a big something. And as it happens, it is the very same something that is at the center of the 2012 election.

To wit: will America continue to be the kind of country that has made it a beacon of hope, the Reagan "shining city on a hill"? The country where millions have flocked from every corner of the planet over centuries in the belief that once here they can make their dreams come true?

Or will we instead make of this country a bleak outpost of class warfare, a nation of greedy takers with everybody frantically trying to climb in the proverbial wagon for a free ride? A wagon "paid" for with a Chinese credit card and headed to a dream-killing dead end of poverty-for-all "equality" presented as the politics of the "fair share"?

Let's, as they say, "unpack" a few things here and understand what we are really seeing -- and not seeing. Yes, Donald Trump has a new book out, Time to Get Tough: Making America # 1 Again. But there's infinitely more to Trump than this book… a very important something more.

On the surface, this tempest over Donald Trump is presented in huffy, laughably elitist "who is he to be running a presidential debate" terms. As if… what?… Anderson Cooper or Scott Pelley or George Stephanopoulos and Diane Sawyer were given a Commission from God to do the job?

But who is Donald Trump, really? What is Newsmax? What is ION television?

Let's start with Mr. Trump.

What is it you see when you look at, say, the Trump Tower in New York? Or maybe his Trump International Hotel and Tower? How about Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach? What about his private luxury jet? Or his helicopter?

If all you are seeing here are buildings and flying machines and the flashing images from the opening to a popular television show, you are making a mistake.

What you are really seeing in all of these things is the manifestation of one man's dreams. Actually, more than one man's dreams.

Donald Trump did not accumulate all of this at birth. Yes, his father was a success in real estate. But Trump took that success of his father -- his father's dream -- and used it to make his own dreams come true, famously turning a Queens, New York developer's small business into the famous billion dollar Trump organization of today. What you are seeing when you look at all these various parts of what might be called the Trump empire -- the glistening towers, the luxury clubs, the gleaming jet and helicopter, the Apprentice's umpteenth successful season -- are infinitely more than just steel, glass, concrete and show business. What you are seeing is a dream. Donald Trump's dream. A dream that he has worked his butt off to achieve -- making mistakes and having some failures along the way -- but endlessly persisting, working, achieving.

You may like Donald Trump's dream. You may hate it. You may not even pay attention to it as you move through your own life. That's OK. The point is that there is a country called America -- the city on a shining hill -- where you too can work your butt off to build your dream. Whatever that may be.

Let's stick with Trump for a moment. Let's go back and take a look at -- picking at random -- his helicopter. The helicopter is a Sikorsky S-76B, and is featured in opening shots of The Apprentice.

What is the Sikorsky S-76B?

That's right. It is the product of a dream. And at the very beginning of the trail that leads to Donald Trump's helicopter -- a part of Donald Trump's dream -- was the dream of a young native of Kiev in the Ukraine who dreamed of making flying machines. That man was Igor Sikorsky (1889-1972), and while it never gets mentioned, the quite specific reason Donald Trump gets his helicopter is that as Communism and the emerging Soviet Union began to enclose the Ukraine in its nightmare tentacles in 1919, Igor Sikorsky, already a very accomplished young man in the field of aviation, realized that if he were ever going to have a chance to live his dream he would have to be in a place where he had the freedom to make his dream come true.

Where would that be in 1919? America, of course.

So it was that in 1919, young Igor Sikorsky, already famous, found himself fleeing his homeland for America. Where he was promptly greeted by a reporter for the New York Times. In a story appearing in April of 1919 the paper noted that the young man did not leave in any voluntary sense. No, according to the delicate vocabulary of the Times Sikorsky felt "compelled" to leave his homeland. Otherwise… well, the world of Lenin and Stalin was on the rise… there was that class warfare thing going in Sikorksi's homeland and, well…. you get the picture. Sikorsky certainly did -- and he was outta there.

Thus today, the helicopter that is pictured in those opening shots of The Apprentice is a product of what began six years later in 1925 -- in America -- when Igor Sikorsky's dream began to come true with the creation of the Sikorsky Manufacturing Company. Today Sikorski is a global company headquartered in Connecticut and now a subsidiary of United Technologies. Igor Sikorski's dream provides jobs for some 18,000 people.

Among those people would be Donald Trump's helicopter flight crew. Who have a job -- presumably the job of their own dreams -- flying a helicopter that in turn is the direct result of the dreams of Donald Trump and Igor Sikorski. Dreams made possible for both men because America made their respective dreams possible to achieve.

Let's stay focused on the players in this debate.

The debate that Trump will host is sponsored by Newsmax and ION -- so what's up with them?

Once again, the ability not just to dream but the freedom to make a dream a reality is at work.

Newsmax was the dream of journalist Chris Ruddy, who smartly noticed in the wake of the Clinton impeachment drama that the future of journalism was on the Internet. Securing investors for his idea, Ruddy launched the conservative news service Newsmax, which in a matter of just over a decade has become one of the most influential -- and profitable -- Internet news services in the world.

One of those investors, Richard Mellon Scaife, is famously the big bad wolf of many a liberal imagination. But just as a matter of historical reference, how did Richard Mellon Scaife find the cash to invest in Chris Ruddy's dream?

Answer: Richard Mellon Scaife's mother was a member of the famously rich banking family, the niece of Andrew Mellon. And while Andrew Mellon is thought of today as a fabulously wealthy banker and Calvin Coolidge's Secretary of the Treasury, in fact Andrew Mellon began life as the son of an immigrant who came to America.

That immigrant was Thomas Mellon, who arrived in America as a five year old in October of 1818 with his parents, the parents having made the considerable decision to sell their meager possessions, leave their three room Irish cottage and seek their fortune across the ocean. Why? Because the parents of Thomas Mellon, their son would later say, had a dream. A dream of a country that would let them lift themselves out of the "poverty and indigence" of Ireland and provide instead "liberty and freedom of the people from taxation and rents" and "better opportunities to rise in the world." Son Thomas, deciding his immigrant father's farming ambitions in America were not his, had his own dream. Mesmerized by reading Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography and Franklin's account of steadily rising from "the poverty of obscurity… to a state of affluence and some degree of reputation in the world," the young Thomas Mellon determined to make his own dream come true. The dream? Becoming a banker. And with his success, passed to his son Andrew the beginning of what Andrew would make into the billions of the Mellon fortune, the latter's banking successes funding the aluminum, oil, and other dreams of other men.

Today some of that success, made possible by a decision in 1818 to follow the American dream from Ireland, has now powered Chris Ruddy's dream for Newsmax.

And ION television? What is that? ION began life with the dream of entrepreneur Lowell "Bud" Paxson when Paxson worked at a 500-watt radio station in upstate New York. Eventually Paxson owned his own radio station, and over time his dream of a media empire -- which included the creation of the Home Shopping Network -- expanded and created what is now ION. In fact, news accounts record that Paxson ran into difficulties in making this particular dream come true, and eventually he left what is now ION. Yet without question Paxson has made his dreams come true, and it is ION, the original dream of Bud Paxson, that has stepped forward to co-sponsor the debate with Newsmax.

And one last thing.

What is The Apprentice? It was originally not the dream of Donald Trump at all -- but the dream of Mark Burnett. Burnett, the child of British factory workers, is a British army veteran who came to America and began work as, yes, a nanny. Over time Burnett's dreams turned to creating and producing television shows, and while a Brit he made his base in America. Where he would eventually create and produce such popular shows as Survivor. Burnett says he has been criticized for being an example of "Peter Pan Syndrome" -- meaning a man who has never grown up. To which the man who has created one successful TV show after another replies: "But, really, what's so wrong with Peter Pan? Peter Pan flies. He is a metaphor for dreams and faith." 

Say again? What was that first word?  It was… and you don't have to be Mark Burnett to understand why he said it… dreams.

In other words, Mark Burnett -- like Donald Trump, Igor Sikorsky, Chris Ruddy, Bud Paxson, Thomas Mellon and his Scotch Irish immigrant parents -- understands exactly the power and importance of dreams. (Amazingly, candidate Jon Huntsman, not only declined to participate in what might be called the Dream Debate but caustically dismissed a debate so obviously focused on dreams as a "joke." Wow. There's a winning strategy in American politics.)

So.

What is really going on with the popularity of Burnett's television show starring Donald Trump?

Answer?

Anybody who has spent two seconds watching The Apprentice knows what the show is really all about. It's all about one word. One word only. That word? Dreams.

The dreams of the people who appear on this show? They are dying to work for Donald Trump. They are beside themselves at the thought of making their own quite individual dreams of business success come true.

All of which makes for a very, very easy reading of what seems, amazingly, to be difficult for some people to grasp. Why do millions of Americans pay attention to Donald Trump? Why do they watch his TV show and read his books? The real answer?

Because, as a dreamer himself, Donald Trump exhibits every waking moment of his now well publicized life that he understands in his bones the key to Ronald Reagan's city on a shining hill.

That key is the ability to dream -- and make dreams come true.

Everything in all of this Obama-driven economic mess has all manner of Americans -- poor people, middle class people and yes rich people -- good people one and all -- terrified that they are in danger of losing their dream: a house, a job, an education, a business, -- whatever that individual dream may be.

Political translation?

Barack Obama is really tanking in the polls because he is charged with the ultimate political sin in America. He has stolen the dreams of millions of Americans.

And they want those dreams back.

This debate -- in alphabetical order turned down by Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, and Mitt Romney and accepted by Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum -- is in fact a reality show about how to get those dreams back. Were it a weekly reality TV series of Burnett's it might be called Returning America's Dreams. As it is, though, it's a debate.

A debate about American Dreams, brought to you by the dreamers of Newsmax and ION.

And hosted by the man who might be called America's Dreamer-in-Chief.

Donald Trump.

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.