Is Donald Trump an example of living the American Dream?
Is Donald Trump a true American success story – the Horatio Alger’s hero of the 21st century?
Is this a rags to riches story, a manifestation of the American Dream, where anyone, no matter how humble, poor, or disadvantaged their beginnings, can be whatever they aspire to be, even President of the United States?
I have written, in the past, that success is defined by the individual. Each one of us gets to decide what success is for ourselves. It consists of the qualities and circumstances that satisfy our own personal needs and standards; this may change with life stage and age.
There are accepted societal standards of success.
It is certainly true that there exist accepted societal standards of success: wealth, status, big-ticket possessions, prestigious addresses, c-suite job titles and public acclaim; but I would suggest these generally accepted generic designations of success are not accessible, or applicable, to everyone.
Donald Trump, however, checks all the boxes.
Being a success does not mean you are a “good’ person.
These commercial standards do not deal with the quality of character. They are not linked to “goodness”, generosity, respect, honour, honesty, reliability, truthfulness, or some of the other character traits which earn or engender trust, credibility and other reflections of a “good” character.
The only quality most often linked to success, is smart. And, there are many different kinds of “smart” (perhaps a topic for another blog).
As defined by Donald Trump, Donald Trump is a success
Representing himself as a “self-made” man, responsible for his own success, Donald Trump’s plain speaking and home truths have attracted widespread attention and support from a highly visible representation of the American public.
He is a success because he believes he is; defined by his own criteria, he is successful.
He is powerful, wealthy and a celebrity who has enjoyed multiple 15-minutes occasions of fame.
Trump’s media star status was boosted by his own reality show where his “bigger than life” personality and caustic rejection of candidates made “ You’re fired.” synonomous with rejection.
He is currently a candidate for what is arguably the most powerful position in the world, President of the United States of America.
He is a success in that his every word, and deed, are monitored and reported by media to an increasingly polarized audience.
He has a flamboyant personality with an ego with a circumference bigger than the Trump Tower is high.
As difficult as it is for me to admit, I am amazed at the extent which Donald has embraced the social media phenomenon to a degree rarely seen in a man of his generation and position. He leverages his social media presence to reach a massive audience with his pronouncements and platform.
Does he have any substance? Are his positions on the healthcare or the economy clear?
He seems to be very talented at bringing the conversation back to being about him. This is an intriguing phenomenon also associate with and especially attributed to the social media generation, the “me”, the here, the now. This is a man who is definitely ahead of his time in that respect.
Love him or hate him, defined by both societal standards of success and self-definition, Donald Trump is a success.
There are people who are uncomfortable with Trump’s brash and broad declarations of opinion on what is wrong with America. There are people who do not appreciate his narrow acceptance of diversity and his sexist comments. There are many who are embarrassed by how he is perceived outside of the U.S. of A. and how this reflects on their country.
Trump Refugees, an implication for Canada
Another facet of “The Donald” phenomenon, which interests me greatly, is the reported potential of emigration to Canada of U.S. citizens.
Canada has history of welcoming citizens from United States who have not felt comfortable with the orientation or the politics of the day.
This started with the United Empire Loyalists who came north during the American War of Independence due to their support for the U.K. and their preference to remain true to their British roots.
During the Civil War, the terminus for the Underground Railway was in Canada, and it is estimated that the country refused to give up as many as 15,000 deserters and draft dodgers who crossed the border and away from the war.
Like refuges from the Korean and Vietnam War and subsequent drafts, Canada’s population has swelled with people seeking an alternative place to live.
American citizens who disagree with the ideology and opinions espoused by Trump, and moreover those of diverse ethnic origins who provide Trump with ammunition to garner validation and support, will be received with open arms and polite, but respectful curiosity.
Canada will welcome Trump refugees.
Lessons on Success
I certainly have no aspirations to be like Trump, but he does bring home several observations and important points to consider:
- One can have a chequered past and still be admired for subsequent achievements.
- One can have suffered serious financial setbacks and still be considered a success.
- One can have a questionable level of tolerance, a lack of openness and respect for others and still be considered a success.
- One doesn’t have to be a genius to be considered a success
Not a Horatio Alger’s story.
Horatio Alger was responsible for creating America’s reputation as a place of opportunity, where anyone could make their fortune, promoting the myth of the “self-made man” which helped attracted hopeful immigrants from all over the world to the U.S.
Horatio Alger’s typical hero, a poor but virtuous boy, through honesty, cheerful perseverance, and hard work – oh, and a little luck – would work his way from penury to an established, well-paying job and a respectable social status.
Another essential prerequisite to success was the possession of a good character. “He was above doing anything mean or dishonourable. He would not steal, or cheat, or impose upon younger boys, but was frank and straight-forward, manly and self-reliant. His nature was a noble one and had saved him from all mean faults (Ragged Dick, 43-44).”
Donald Trump may not entirely fit the profile of a Horatio Alger hero, after all.
Do I have an opinion on Trump?
My point here is not to discuss politics, but more to observe, reflect and share my opinion on a social phenomenon.
Do I have a personal opinion about Trump?
I do. The only thing that I’m willing to share is my reluctant, but deep admiration for his stellar ability for self-promotion.
The part of me that is a PR professional is seriously wowed, and a little afraid of what the Trump machine might just be able to accomplish.