To Be An American

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America’s promise is about achieving individual dreams through pure grit, pure belief in oneself and one’s ability to make the dream a reality.

March 31, 2000

The literary critic and historian Leslie Fiedler once wrote: &quotTo be an American (unlike being English or French or whatever) is precisely to imagine a destiny rather than inherit one; since we have always been, insofar as we are Americans at all, inhabitants of myth rather than history."

America’s promise is about achieving individual dreams through pure grit, pure belief in oneself and one’s ability to make the dream a reality. You can be born into this nation or emigrate to it, and it is still the value of your work that will be the judgement of what you become and your value as a citizen.

It is this environment that launches and nourishes the drive of the entrepreneur: the businessperson whose vision and drive deliver them and their team to a higher level. To do great things, to create a history worth noting.

As builders, we are the cultivators of myth. We are the ones creating a destiny of pride, achievement, and community. I spoke with Dick Brown, founder of The Cambridge Companies in Chicago about being an entrepreneurial American.

Dick spent his first few years working for a large building products company. He traveled and met with multiple builders. He learned their business and envisioned his own future as a builder.

He took the plunge with $10,000 of borrowed money. Thirty-five years later his company is one of the largest builders in Illinois, a leader in the homebuilders association and responsible for establishing new communities and building more than 20,000 homes.

His drive to achieve required making his dream’s vast elements functioning realities. His dream fulfilled the dreams of those people who bought the homes he built, and he has created communities that will last generations.

This is not just a business. It is about entering into undeveloped frontiers and establishing new communities. For example, building 1600 homes in Libertyville, Ill. over a 10-year period. Cambridge has changed the image of the town for the good. Yes, they are still friendly with villages and government. All realize the benefit when they drive by and see the people, the lights on, and consider &quotwe did this, we made this happen."

Thomas Jefferson and the architects of this place we call America were true visionaries. They set our traditions based on individual ideals and opportunities and in doing so set our new nation apart from the rest of the world. Off of this foundation it is our responsibility as citizens to build the nation that continues to nourish those initial dreams.

While the phrase &quotAmerican Dream" has been turned into a cliché, it still reflects the pride our citizenry has in homeownership. It is the most concrete version of The Dream.

So don’t forget, when committees seem to be against you, when the local paper trashes your development, when lamentations of sprawl and the cutting down of trees abound, please remind yourself - and them - that the community was established by individuals like yourself. Those who had a vision of what this land could become and built the community in the first place. The vision of what America is and can be is held close by the American homebuilder, the true American entrepreneur.

Let them not forget that.

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