Walt Disney, Ben Carson, and Benny Goodman: The American Dream

Walt Disney, Ben Carson and Benny Goodman: The American Dream

By Cleo Lampos

Inspiration for the American Dream is embodied in the lives of Walt Disney, Ben Carson, and Benny Goodman. All of these men achieved success in their lives despite difficult beginnings. They are not the exception, but the rule that America has always been the Land of Opportunity.

Watching the movie, Saving Mr.Banks, with my friends, we sat stupefied as Walt Disney told a story of his childhood. Growing up in Missouri, Walt worked for his publishing father by delivering the newspaper twice a day. His account of walking in freezing conditions with tattered shoes broke our hearts. But our tears were not needed, because Walt did not feel sorry for himself. He spoke of the difficulties as a means for making him humane and positive toward life. Disneyland and his movies are proof that Walt survived the sting of his father’s belt buckle so he could present the triumph of good over evil.

Ben Carson should not be running for President of the United States. Or be head of a department in John Hopkins Medical Facility. Or be a neurosurgeon. Born to a young mother whose husband left her in Detroit to raise Ben and his brother, the Carson boys grew to be the non-achieving, angry teens in the Hood: just as society expects. With only a belt buckle between his knife and a friend’s innards, Ben decided to change. The habit of reading books that his mother instilled in him and her insistence that he learn his multiplication tables paid off in moving Ben from the bottom of the class to the top. Soon, with his anger under control, Ben entered Harvard, then became an internationally known brain surgeon. He is on the list of presidential hopefuls for 2016. This is possible in America.

Benny Goodman lived with eleven siblings in the Maxwell Street tenement in Chicago. His Jewish immigrant father worked hard as a tailor to feed the overflowing family with the $20 a week he earned. Down from Halsted Street, the Hull House sent out a call for musicians to play in a boy’s band. Benny and two of his brothers borrowed instruments from the local synagogue, the tuba going to the oldest brother, the trumpet to the next oldest and the mysterious clarinet going to Benny. Inside of a year, he was playing recitals at Hull House, leaving his instructors beaming with pride. Benny never forgot his humble beginnings when he became an international musician and “King of Swing”. He gave benefit concerts for Hull House to show his appreciation to a settlement house that reached into the slums and fostered the talent hidden there.

Only in America. Only in a country where people care for the potential hidden in unexpected places. That is the American Dream.

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