If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.*1
A divisive President making another divisive statement! Or is it? This article will discuss some principles which oppose this statement as well as principles which support what our President said. The goal is to demonstrate how much better it is when we work towards aligning our goals instead of opposing each other with regards to employers and the staff who they employ.
The very clear reality about the “you didn’t build it” line is that it was followed up with, “Someone else made that happen”. All the context which the President offered is lost in those two lines. America is far more than another nation on this planet because our roots whether one chooses to accept it or not is deeply entrenched in individuals pursuing and achieving happiness.
To expand, this is knowing that in America you only need opportunity to allow your passion, commitment, and drive determine your path towards happiness and in this case; a business. The ‘others’ that made it happen is a part of the infrastructure which is available to all citizens of our nation holistically. Roads, schooling, and utilities are part of the system.
To give credit to the system for creating the environment for success in general is fair and accurate. To credit the system for an individual’s success is foolish, inaccurate, and downright insulting. The system alone is nothing but a mechanism, the greatest teachers, mentors, and greatest roads or internet pipelines mean nothing without the individuals who are internally driven towards achieving goals in their life.
In this sense, President Obama has not only created another divide by slicing through employees and their employer, but used verbiage that drowns out what could be good discussions.
There is very real merit in the President’s statement, which was not captured well with his words, but within the broader context that we, as people do more together. His entire speech was hijacked by that one paragraph, obliterating the broader context, which was focused on the fairness and plight of the middle class, especially lower middle class. A poor choice of phrasing which divides wealthy and non-wealthy and pits groups against each other.
Intellectual honesty requires us to also acknowledge the opportunity gaps which are both real and perceived in America. One example offers both real and perceived gaps:
A child living in lower income neighborhoods must deal with distractions such as violence shift the focus from succeeding to survival. That is a real gap that individuals in better living situations do not deal with and have the opportunity to achieve success.
Yet the same example is where the gap in perception also exists. The truth is that children who are in high risk situations have bountiful programs and tax dollars allocated to help them out. Programs that individuals who are healthier financially do not have access too. However the high risk child finds themselves completely oblivious to the aid available to them and worse, some of these children have become so dependent on programs that they demand for aid that does not exist and feel robbed because they feel entitled to more.
America beyond the physical nation is also an idea. A system created by the Founders and a system which created the greatest wealth in the shortest period of time. Originally, any poor immigrant coming fresh off a ship could become among the wealthiest within his/ or her lifetime.
As America grew and matured, so has the inclusion of people to access to this infrastructure and opportunities to the point where we have a perception problem where individuals or groups are not aware of the opportunities ready for them to reach for.
Our opportunities did not just occur on their own, our predecessors worked diligently and many died so that others may gain freedoms, rights, and opportunities. The original immigrants of America had a small but held fierce conviction of independence and freedoms from the tyrannies*2 they endured. Throughout our own history, we have had to overcome the tyranny within ourselves.
One of the biggest and easiest to cite is the Civil Rights movement led by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While there were many others in that same time frame who were pushing for justice for the American minority, King executed a brilliant strategy of using the media to show the horrific acts brought upon the Black man and forced both the oppressors and the silent supporters of oppression to visibly experience the plight of a minority.
In doing so, Reverend King Jr. paved the way for more opportunities for generations which he would never meet.
Should you, the reader, choose to apply an honest approach to the “you didn’t build that” line. The best way it can be applied is in a way that celebrates the conditions which encourages individuals to strive to be more and achieve great things. However infrastructure and conditions alone do nothing, it acts as merely a tool. It becomes an inanimate object which is expensive to maintain.
And for those who celebrate the individual, recognize that there is an infrastructure which makes success infinitely easier to achieve in America or at least has been in the past. There are many nations which have an over-abundance of bureaucracy or a very poor infrastructure which stifle innovation and the individual has too many obstacles which is why so many of the world’s brightest seek immigration to nations such as America.
The more divisive aspect of the President’s speech boils down to yet another “versus” message. Rich versus poor, employer vs employee. This rhetoric is extremely toxic. Instead of feeding the fight, let’s take a moment to pause and find ways to make amends and how we can reason our way to mutual agreements.
What are your thoughts on this subject? Give us your praise or CRACK THE WHIP in the comments below!
*1 – https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/07/13/remarks-president-campaign-event-roanoke-virginia
*2 – tyrannies – King of England and other oppressive actions taken against the colonies and their predecessors in the century leading up to the pilgrimage to America.