At a campaign event on July 13 in Roanoke, VA President Barack Obama, proclaimed that “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” This bit of inspirational leadership will undoubtedly come as a shock to the millions of business owners who have long taken pride in building their businesses.
In my never-ending pursuit to post unbiased, independent blogs, I give you the context of President Obama’s comments:
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.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.
Interestingly, I found myself nodding in agreement to the first 4 sentences before the abrupt end to my consonance with President Obama’s campaign speech. I disagree strongly that business owners “didn’t build” their businesses and I’m positive that “somebody else” was not the one that took the risk, invested significant time, energy, and capital to build that business. Perhaps there were teachers, mentors, and others along the way that helped…but from my experience, the dogged determination of entrepreneurs “made that happen.”
In my good-faithed attempt to disrupt my dissonance, I can only hope that President Obama views business less as a hand-out driven model of enterprise and more as a system that allows individuals to create their own destiny rather than rely on someone else to make it happen for them. By focusing on a small fragment of this speech, “we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together” I’m able to keep my dissonance at bay…if only temporarily.
Thankfully, in my darkest moments of reflection on this topic, I’m encouraged by the thought that I too could one day own a business that somebody else built.