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The American Dream

Updated: Feb 4, 2022

The American dream is not dead, but the American dream is not a home. The new American dream is a business. When Mitt Romney said that corporations are “people”, he was right, but we and the media focused on the wrong thing. What I heard was his redefining who we should strive to be. If corporations seemingly control the levers of government, should we not all want to be these “people”? The message was clear. The goal post on the American Dream had shifted.

My uncle Wilfrid’s dream for us, since he left the US to go back to Haiti, was for us to start a company. He decided to return, to Haiti, and contribute to the betterment of his homeland. My uncle went on to establish a professional services company with international clients; he took over the management of the family farm; he opened two gas stations (one with a mini-mall/rest-stop), and he established an elementary school. He set the benchmark for what success, in business, looks like for our family.  Prior to being a businessman, my uncle was a priest, in the Anglican church, after converting away from the Catholic faith. He would later quit the ministry because he had seen something that he felt was antithetical to what the church represented. He refuses to speak of it to this day.

My uncle was the first in the family to emigrate to the United States of America. He carved the path that my mother would follow. They both laid the tracks and later they built the caboose that made our journey, the journey of her children, much smoother. Now her grandchildren are barreling down a middle-class runway of opportunity that began with their emigration from Haiti (See Blog Post “Exile” for more on this - pending).

Educational excellence was expected in our family, as with most parents from the Caribbean. I attended private school, except for my second-grade year - the year that my brother and I returned to the States after living on our grandmother’s farm, in Haiti, for a few years. I’d competed to get the best grades with the same level of intensity as I did in sports. Season after season I would bring home championship trophies, but my mother would never see me play in any of my sports games. She would never see my game-saving diving catch to rob the third grader, with the mustache, of a homerun. She would not see me take a wide receiver reverse play, shuffle in the backfield, jump over a defender (from the bully team), square up and heave a 40-yard touchdown pass. By the time that I reached high school, I’d start bringing home honor-roll certificates with such a frequency that we had run out of wall space, just as we had run out of space on the mantel for my trophies. These presentations of awards, to my mother, were typically uneventful. I would show her the trophy and she’d say congratulations then shove us along to get ready for dinner. Her complements and her expression of pride came indirectly. Later that evening, she would get on the phone with the family and brag about our achievements, with academic achievements being most important. When my brother and I entered college, my mother began working nights and weekends as a nutritional consultant, for private clients to supplement her income, to pay for college. She would also find caregivers and nurses for the clients when needed. I worked with her to establish a staffing agency. We would later transition from a staffing agency to a licensed home care agency. I started the entire company on Google. The search engine is the true equalizer for social mobility. Any question I had about the process was answered using the application. When my grandmother was sick and in need of an aide, my mother did not tap into her network of caregivers. She would not allow herself to hire someone to care for her mother. She put the business on hold and after my grandmother passed, she used the business to distract her during the grieving period. At my grandmother’s funeral, her boss of fifty-years, quietly paid the bill for the reception. You have got to be a uniquely good person and have generated such a level a respect to compel your boss to act with such kindness. After graduating from Syracuse University, I had taken a job in Washington D.C. Shortly after my hire, the company was launching a New York City office. When a position opened, in that office, I decided to move back home. It had been several months following my grandmother’s funeral and we started to work on getting the business licensed. We received out license in January of 2009, in the heart of the Great Recession. Undeterred, my mother would invest a boat load of money and take out a line-of-credit to invest in the company. When I found out how much, I can recall thinking, “Where the heck did, she get that kind of money.” I had grown up thinking that we were poor and later realized that my mother was just a very shrewd businesswoman. We later found investors who believed in my mother’s son and we have grown the company to a point where we employ over 500 people.

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