Washington’s point is well taken, especially considering that, as former slave, he had many obstacles to overcome and yet achieved a great deal.
Generally speaking, I agree with Washington’s statement. After all, the world is rife with people who have accomplished much — after a great head start, namely a family fortune. The Rockefeller brothers come to mind at once. They were talented, true. But many people are talented. Were the Rockefellers so especially talented that the rose to governorships and the head of a great bank by dint of their great skills? Of course not.
Does that mean that (say) Nelson Rockefeller’s rise to the head of a great American state and to the vice-presidency mean that he was just a mediocre person, and that his success was solely due to family connections and money?
No, it doesn’t mean that. He WAS talented. (Of course, his family could afford to nurture his talent to its fullest.) His success is not to be sneered at.
But we are talking about a measurement here. You’re asking me about a ‘measure of success’. So measurement it must be, and I find Rockefeller and many others of his background to be lacking in compariion to others who started life with far fewer resources and overcame far greater obstacles. I don’t mean to denigrate the many people who started with much and achieved much. But you have asked for a comparison.
Nelson Rockefeller (again, taking him as just an example) was talented. But Booker T. Washington was much more than that. He was a genius. His genius was in not just his mind, but in his his soul. He came from being a chattel slave in dirt poverty and roared out of that like an express train. His drive, his concentration, his vision, his compassion — all these towered about normal men. Even talented normal men, like Rockefeller.
Booker T. Washington did not rise to nearly the heights that Nelson Rockefeller did. Washington was the head of a college, and a small one at that. Rockefeller was the head of the State of New York. Still, Washington’s was the greater achievement, in my view.
Ask yourself — if you could, as a thought experiment, place Rockefeller and Washington on a equal footing, who would ‘win’ by becoming the more successful person? The question answers itself, I think.
I don’t mean to concentrate on just these two men. But look around you. This same story is repeated over and over again.
And always will be, I think.
This essay scored 5.
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