Here are two sets of (relatively) young people who are already making the world a better place. The first are returning veterans of the Mideast wars, and the second are college entrepreneurs. These people are not waiting for someone to prepare the way; they are blazing their own trails. They are demonstrating that the seeds of individual initiative and creativity are still alive and well in America. We need to enhance the conditions that encourage, enable, and expand this type of behavior. Let’s take a look at these folks, what they are doing for themselves and for others, and why they are so important to America’s future.
I’ll start with the Veterans. From The New Greatest Generation, Joe Klein, Time, August 29, 2011, “…most of the news we seem to hear about the veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan is pretty bad…but there is another side to their story… Dr. Elaine Kamarck of the Kennedy School, ‘Two things set them apart: they’re very disciplined and they’re really, really serious about their work.” John Nagl former Army officer, ‘World War I was fought by battalions, WWII by companies, Vietnam by platoons. The current wars are all about small teams who have to interact with the local Iraqi and Afghan populations. That has required a different kind of soldier.’ The returning veterans are bringing back skills that seem to be on the wane in American society, qualities we really need right now: crisp decision making, rigor, optimism, entrepreneurial creativity, a larger sense of purpose and real patriotism (as opposed to self-righteous flag waving).” Some specific individuals and their endeavors:
- John Gallina (a double amputee) and Dale Beatty have formed Purple Heart Homes, an organization that creates handicapped-access for other veterans.
- Wes Moore has started a mentoring program for first-time offenders between the ages of 8 and 12.
- Jake Wood and William McNulty formed Team Rubicon which sends teams of former noncoms to organize logistics in places hit by natural disasters like Haiti (after the earthquake) and Joplin, MO (after the tornadoes).
The other group of even younger folks are already proving themselves to be successful entrepreneurs. Class Act, and All-Star Student Entrepreneurs by Susan Adams, Helen Coster, and Elizabeth Woyke in Forbes, August 22, 2011, describe nine college students (or recent grads) and the businesses that they are already running. They are not waiting to be handed a safe job with a big firm after acquiring a prestigious MBA. They are growing American businesses while getting their degrees. Some specific examples:
- Ernestien Fu, 20, Stanford, is an associate at San Francisco venture capital firm Alsop Louie Partners. She is presently balancing her job with a full course load + in civil and environmental engineering, and several volunteer commitments. At 15 she founded a nonprofit to bring the arts to homeless shelters, orphanages, and senior centers.
- Craig Dwyer, 23, Bucknell is a solar energy entrepreneur. His firm, Mainline Solar, installs photovoltaics and recently won a $4 million contract for transportation and logistics provider A. Duie Pyle. Dwyer passed on opportunity to take the MCAT, “I wanted to be a doctor, “ he says, “ but now I feel like I’m rebuilding the economy with sustainability and our future in mind.” Is that an example of he American Spirit or what!!
- Daniel Blake, 23, BYU, founded EcoScraps which collects 40 tons of food waste per day from grocers and wholesalers, then recycles it into high quality potting soil which is sold through some of those same stores. His business employs 8 full-time and 14 part-time folks. This business is good for the economy and the environment.
- Corinne Prevot, 20, Middlebury College started a ski fashion company, Skida, when she was 17. Her colorful hats and neckwear are now found in 47 stores across the U. S. Corinne has also started Skida Plus One, a project that donates hats to chemotherapy patients. See her blog site: SKIDA*love. This one really touches my heart as I lost my wife to cancer in 2010.
I encourage you to click the links and read the articles in their entirety. The American spirit is alive and well. There are seeds all across our nation; we just have to nurture them. We need a business environment that encourages business. We need a tax system that doesn’t smother business, especially small start-ups. We need regulations that protect the public from crooks without crippling legitimate business. We have to stop looking at the empty half of the glass and make the best use of the full half. These people are the Grandchildren creating better lives. Let’s help them thrive!