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Donald Trump: America’s Entrepreneur

Pickens Entrepreneur Award to be presented tomorrow night.      

By 10.22.13

“America is too great for small dreams." -- Ronald Reagan

He is America’s iconic entrepreneur.

And tomorrow night, Donald Trump will be honored by The American Spectator with the T. Boone Pickens Entrepreneur Award.

Volumes have been written about Donald Trump. He is the premiere entrepreneur of the day, omnipresent not only in real estate, luxury hotels, and residential living but casinos, beauty pageants, a successful modeling agency, championship golf courses, some 16 bestselling books and, famously, television and more. 

Unlike computer wizard and fellow billionaire Bill Gates or billionaire investor Warren Buffett and others in America’s exclusive billionaire club, Trump is everywhere, talked about perpetually as a presidential candidate. 

Why this “Trump phenomenon”? Why the popularity with an American (and global) public that buys his books, made The Apprentice a must-watch experience, flocks to his hotels, casinos, golf courses and revels in his various adventures? Whether it’s successfully rebuilding a Central Park skating rink in a mere four months (the New York City government of then-Mayor Ed Koch had tried and failed to accomplish this in seven years) or successfully demanding of the President of the United States that he produce his birth certificate? 

We would venture here that in fact there is a direct connection between Trump and the American passion for individual liberty. One cannot become a billionaire in a society in which liberty does not exist -- unless, of course, you’re the dictator and you’re pilfering American foreign aid.

The Trump phenomenon follows the classic American tale of the up-by-the-bootstraps American boy whose head is filled with dreams and the energy and ambition to make those dreams come true. In his case, father Fred Trump was not raising his family in poverty. He was, in fact, a successful real estate developer who made a good living building rent-controlled and rent-stabilized housing in the precincts of New York’s Queens and Brooklyn. It was, says son Donald in his first bestseller Trump: The Art of the Deal,  “a very tough way to make a buck.” 

Young Donald had a different vision. “I wanted to try something grander, more glamorous, and more exciting. I also realized that if I ever wanted to be known as more than Fred Trump’s son, I was eventually going to have to go out and make my own mark.”

In those few words, Donald Trump sums up the dream that lies at the heart of America. Whatever their dream, Americans want exactly what Donald Trump wanted when he was a young man working with his father in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn -- longing to cross the East River and follow his dreams in the very different world of Manhattan real estate. That would be the opportunity “to go out and make my own mark.” To do it in their own way, in their own style, in their own time.

Not all that far from Donald Trump’s Trump Tower and various other Trump landmark buildings in Manhattan is the Time-Warner Center at Columbus Circle. Today seen as a media conglomerate, in fact Time-Warner, like the Trump Organization, is the vision of American dreamers, in this case Henry Luce (Time) and the Warner Brothers. The latter were originally the Wonskolaser brothers -- Hirz, Aaron, Szmul, and Itzhak -- from a part of Poland belonging to the empire of the Russian Czars. They too came to America, became respectively the brothers Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack, and going on to build their dream -- now one of the most famous movie studios in the world.

We’ve written in this space before about the story of Schmuel Gelbfisz. The 16-year-old Polish Jewish immigrant who, in 1895, began a walk of hundreds of miles across Europe from his crowded family flat in Warsaw, desperate to get a boat to America and the chance to live his dreams. Dreams that were made reality after he arrived by steerage in Canada and walked some more -- this time sixty miles through the snow of an Arctic cold snap to cross the U.S. border. Where, his biographer A. Scott Berg writes, “he literally got down on his hands and knees and kissed the ground. He did not know a soul for 4,000 miles.” His trek to the America of his dreams achieved, the young man would go on to re-invent himself as Samuel Goldwyn, the Hollywood movie mogul of MGM fame.

Every time Americans turn on a light, get in a car or pick up a cell phone they are benefiting from the dreams of Americans Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Alexander Graham Bell. Along with Henry Luce, the Warners, Sam Goldwyn -- and millions of men and women across the American centuries famous and unknown -- each name is another way of saying that America is the land of dreams.

Or, as President Reagan used to call it, borrowing from the early Pilgrim leader John Winthrop “the shining city on a hill.” In his farewell address to the nation, Reagan described the shining city on a hill as follows: 

I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still.

The reason Donald Trump captivates the American imagination is because he embodies the Reagan ideal -- the oldest of American ideals -- of an American whose dreams make the “shining city” hum with “commerce and creativity.” 

The Trump Organization projects -- the vision and the dreams of Donald Trump -- are seemingly endless and we’re going to include photo links and others here to illustrate. Here’s the Real Estate Portfolio, the Hotel Collection, the Real Estate Brokerage section (Residential here,  and Commercial here). Then there are the fifteen Trump Golf Clubs  scattered around America with another two outside the U.S., one each in Aberdeen, Scotland, and Dubai, The United Emirates. There is a Trump Entertainment Division,  that runs the gamut from television programs to television production, beauty pageants (Miss Universe, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA) to skating rinks. All this before you get to the Trump Publications (all those bestselling books) and the Trump Merchandise division  -- ties, chocolates, perfumes and more. (The perfume, by the way, titled “Success.”)

Thousands of jobs have been created by Donald Trump -- all over America and the world. Trump projects can be found in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Palm Beach, Las Vegas, Wakiki, Miami, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Virginia, New Jersey, Connecticut, and the countries of Turkey, Panama, South Korea, Georgia, the Philippines, India, Uruguay, and the United Arab Emirates. (And a lot of those American jobs came with health care -- good health care.)

What is on such vivid display in Donald Trump’s career is that quality that most distinguishes Americans from the rest of the world, and in America itself separates conservatives from the left.

Individual liberty. 

And as Margaret Thatcher said, “there can be no liberty unless there is economic liberty.”

Without the American founding principle of individual liberty -- without freedom -– Donald Trump could have created exactly none of this. Zero.

There was no Donald Trump equivalent in the old Soviet Union. 

Which is precisely why Mr. Trump will be receiving The American Spectator’s T. Boone Pickens Entrepreneur Award Wednesday evening. 

The American Spectator, we cannot fail to note here, is itself an entrepreneurial venture. The brainchild of our founder, R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr, who founded his dream as a college student. The award being given to Donald Trump is named for T. Boone Pickens. Like Trump and like Bob Tyrrell -- Boone Pickens is an American original, a man with a dream who took a $2,500 investment and turned it into America’s largest independent oil company. Like Donald Trump, Boone Pickens has made himself a billionaire the hard way -- he worked his dream. “I believe the greatest opportunity lies in a free marketplace,” Pickens has said.

As it happens, the celebration of Donald Trump’s work as an entrepreneur comes by chance at exactly the moment of the disastrous launch of Obamacare. Years before Obamacare, back when the government in question was the city government of New York and it finally if grudgingly admitted that it had failed in seven years -- say again, seven years -- to rebuild and restore the Wollman Skating Rink in Central Park, Trump stepped in to produce a first class rebuilding and restoration in four months at only 10% of the city’s $20 million cost. Said Trump at the time of the skating rink episode: 

It was a simple, accessible drama about the contrast between governmental incompetence and the power of effective private enterprise.

Indeed. One can only imagine how many Americans wish that President Obama would use that famous Trump line to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius: “You’re FIRED!” Notably, neither President Obama nor his White House staff will be signing up for Obamacare. Donald Trump, on the other hand, both works – and lives – in Trump Tower. 

With the approaching 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, The American Spectator is featuring on its October magazine the idea of the “JFK Conservative,” raising the question: “Was Jack Kennedy really such a liberal?” The article, by Ira Stoll, the author of the new book JFK, Conservativequotes the future president as saying that “I’d be very happy to tell them. I’m not a liberal at all.”

But there’s another JFK quote out there -- perhaps the most famous one of all -- that illustrates not only that Jack Kennedy was no liberal but why so many millions of Americans responded not just to JFK but now so positively to Donald Trump. The quote?

And so my fellow Americans. Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

Donald Trump has spent every single day of his career quite effectively answering JFK’s challenge not to ask what his country can do for him -- but what he can do for his country.

The Trump answer has been to help build the shining city on a hill that Ronald Reagan spoke about so passionately. To build towers and palaces and vineyards and golf clubs and casinos. To produce television shows, write books, make ties and chocolates and perfume and more.

In other words, Donald Trump creates wealth.

Wealth that in turn produces jobs, feeds families, provides health care, money for mortgages, college educations and so much more for thousands of Americans.

Which is perhaps another way of saying that Donald Trump has used his individual liberty -- his dreams and his vision -- wisely. Putting the “shine” into the shining city on a hill. Illustrating vividly Ronald Reagan’s wisdom that “America is too great for small dreams.”

And not coincidentally becoming America’s favorite entrepreneur along the way.

Photo: UPI

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director, an author, and a CNN commentator. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com and @Jeffjlpa1.