Category Archives: Opportunity

Too Many People Go To College

Issues & Views Editor Elizabeth D. Wright has graciously allowed us to reprise timeless articles from her Newsletter. This article suggests that it’s time to reconsider the benefits of a practical, entrepreneurial education.

by Leon Podles

Despite today’s worship of the college credential, most real wealth in our society is still gained not through education and the professions but through entrepreneurial activity. Higher education as it now exists in America simply doesn’t develop the qualities of initiative and aggressiveness necessary to succeed in business. Often it undermines them.

American education can be particularly inhospitable to males. Patricia Sexton in The Feminized Male shows how energetic and assertive boys are punished because they cannot function in classrooms taught by women wl assume that the quiet, non-physical behavior of a girl is the only type prop to school. Active boys consequently often do poorly in school. This is an especially massive problem in America inner cities, where the boys grow t with fewer civilizational restraints c their innate male natures.

Few of these overactive boys will ever become great successes in a world of conventional academic schooling They could excel and become productive citizens, however, if directed instead toward work, practical vocation and business. Consider that when teacher describes a student as aggressive or physically active, she is saying he is a problem. But if a businessman or trades employer describes a worker as aggressive, he is paying a compliment.
The most aggressive boys have always gone into business. Today, the poor ones often end up dealing drugs.

Boys who go the legitimate route, however, can end up being very productive indeed. In 1995, the U.S. Trust Company surveyed a sample of America’s biggest earners and found that less than half of them had completed college, while 29% never went at all. Instead of learning to conform to academic expectations, they were out adding value, making products, and earning money—in ways that are not taught in schools today.

(from: I & V summer ’95; orig: American Enterprise: Sep/Oct, ’95)

On Leadership

By Ronald Court

It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and I was about to share some thoughts on his leadership. But many have already said much. I may only repeat.

Instead, I want to share the gist of a recent article on leadership in Chief Executive magazine highlighting the Best Companies for Leaders.

For the last three years, Proctor & Gamble has been rated #1 or 2. Here is what P&G’s CEO A.G. Lafley, has to say:

“We focus on individual leadership… How can you personally become the best leader that you can be? … We talk about inspirational leadership because we want courageous and inspiring leaders. The days of command and control are over.”

“We are a pure meritocracy. We don’t care where you went to school, whether you have an MBA, or what your country of origin is.” Lafley continues. “All we care about is that with character and integrity, you deliver outstanding business results… Do that and you move ahead.”

On this day, let us remember that Booker T. Washington had a dream also. A dream that MLK Jr. embraced and honed and clarified with his own powerful rhetoric. Let us also remember that even as today’s politicos pontificate, there are hundreds, thousands of companies, big and small, who have already proven that the dreams of Booker T. Washington and Martin Luther King Jr. are already a reality to those who would pursue them.

We’ve Got Work To Do

By Ronald Court

A Boston Globe phone survey last summer, raises a disturbing thought:

Pretty much half of all Blacks polled felt that America is the land of opportunity and are personally achieving the American Dream.

Phone survey-American DreamYet, it looks like only about half of those seem to feel that by working and playing by the rules, they will get to live a comfortable life. Why so negative?

Note the way more positive outlook of Latinos. But all we’ve been hearing lately is how they take all the low-paying jobs “nobody wants.” How can that lead to a “comfortable life?” Oh, wait. They are choosing to work. Many more of them seem to have embraced the optimistic work ethic of Booker T. And it looks like more of them refuse to fall into the “I am a vicitm” trap still being touted by some old-school Black “leaders.” Any shrink will tell you real change come from the inside.

So, for those with “attitude” (negative or positive), what does this tell you? This inquiring mind wants to know. Comment below.

The First Female Millionaire

By Ronald Court

It’s fitting that my first entry in the “Opportunity” category would be about a first, the first female to become a self-made millionaire. She did it in the cosmetics business. I’m not talking about Mary Kay, though her story too is inspiring. This is about the first self-made female … black or white… to reach the millionaire milestone. She did it with integrity & character and against all odds.

Madam C. J. Walker
with thanks to author Brian Souza, for permission

“..I did not succeed by traversing a path strewn with roses. I made great sacrifices, met with rebuff after rebuff, and had to fight hard to put my ideas into effect.”


Born to freed slaves and sharecroppers in rural Louisiana in 1867, she was orphaned by age ten. Illiterate, she was forced to start working six days a week picking cotton, cooking, and cleaning in white households. Married by fourteen, a mother at sixteen, and a widow by age twenty, life for Madam C. J. didn’t start out in a promising way. But despite adversity most of us will never know, she went on to become the first self-made female millionaire-white or black-in the United States.How? By taking an introspective look to discover who she really was and by deciding that she could-and would-transcend her roots to achieve her dreams. In short, by tapping into the very same powers that lie dormant within you right now.

For starters, after she was widowed, she took her daughter to St. Louis, Missouri, in search of education and a better way of life. At first being a washerwoman was tough going, but then Walker had a moment of self-revelation. As she later described it to The New York Times, she was a thirty-five-year-old single mother who “was at my tubs one morning with a heavy wash before me. As I bent over the washboard and looked at my arms buried in soapsuds, I said to myself, ‘What are you going to do when you grow old and your back gets stiff? Who is going to take care of your little girl?’ This set me to thinking, but with all my thinking I couldn’t see how I, a poor washer-woman, was going to better my condition.”

But she was committed. There was no turning back. Like all successful people, she took a chance and bet on herself. In 1905, with only $1.50 in savings, she moved to Denver, where she started a business making and selling a hair-straightening and beautifying product for African-American women. She eventually built a nationwide sales force numbering in the thousands. It wasn’t until she took a chance at she discovered her gift wasn’t doing the wash but the ability to spire women to take pride in themselves and to refuse to live with- the stereotypical confines of the times.

A century ago, few women-let alone African American women-traveled by themselves. But Madam C. J. crisscrossed the country almost continuously to spread the word about her products.

She first sold them door-to-door, then through the mail, and eventually in pharmacies. She was relentless in her marketing efforts. She stuck steadfastly to her goal-and never quit working on ways to improve her business. She realized that if she was going to make something of herself, she would have to develop her gift into some- thing of value. She had no formal education, but that didn’t stop her from hiring tutors to improve her vocabulary, teach her proper grammar, and broaden her horizons.

Similarly, she created jobs for thousands of black saleswomen, not only paying them well, but also setting up philanthropies and foundations to help educate them. In short, she built and ran a national cosmetics empire based on the highest principles-a feat that would have seemed remote when she was a shoeless orphan chopping cotton in Louisiana.

Her journey from poverty to wealth, from obscurity to fame, and from having the most menial of jobs to being a leader for women’s rights and economic freedom was remarkable to say the least.

Perseverance is my motto,” she told one interviewer. “It laid the Atlantic cable, it gave us the telegraph, telephone, and wireless. It gave to the world an Abraham Lincoln and to the race, freedom.” In her determination to live her dream, she defied long odds. And by the time of her death in 1919, she had become, as her biographer Beverly Lowry noted, “an icon, a legend, and an exemplar.”