Response to Obama’s “You didn’t build that”

We welcome our father as a guest blogger once again at Of Sound Mind and Spirit to respond as a business owner to President Obama’s recent statement, “If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen”.

When my daughter called this afternoon to ask if I would put together a few comments about President Obama’s remarks at a campaign event in Roanoke, Virginia last Friday, I had to confess I knew nothing about them. Like many, if not most Americans, I pay little attention to current political rhetoric because of my busy schedule and the negative, if not depressing, tone of most of what is said. I can do without the constant banter of all the bad things the other guy has done.

However, as a dutiful father, I followed the provided Internet link and read the transcript of the President’s speech from Overall, I thought it was a fine political speech, which I’m sure the President delivered with his usual flair. In fact, I gave credit to the President and his speech writers for the manner in which many well crafted words were spoken. He says regardless of how petty and small politics seem, the stakes could not be higher given the two fundamentally different views offered about where we take the country. He says the central idea of this country is if you are willing to work hard and take responsibility, you can make it if you try; you can live out the American Dream! If the working people are doing well, the country does well! He says we should invest in infrastructure and education! He says we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people! He says we have God-given rights to a life in liberty and the pursuit of happiness! We are not guaranteed success, but we are guaranteed the right to work hard for success! How can any American argue against these kinds of statements? I felt great reading these points! He seemed a man of my own heart, especially with so much emphasis on opportunity driven by hard work!

But then, I started focusing on some of the details, especially as it related to his view of successful Americans. As someone from very humble beginnings who has realized the American Dream, I think of myself as a successful American. The President remarks that if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. He implies that it was not due to being smart or working hard; rather because someone along the line gave you some help. He mentions that “someone” helped to create this unbelievable American system that allowed you to thrive. Then he says that If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen”. Ok, he lost me there.

My Experience

I came from a blue collar family. I was the first on either side of my family to earn a college degree. I did so without parental funding, scholarship aid or government loans. I did it the old fashion way! I got a job and a wife! We sacrificed and worked very hard together to make sure I got the degree. Once that was accomplished, my wife and I started getting our real education by making our own way in the world and raising our family. I learned business by working my way up in business. My wife and I tried to make sure we never lost sight of our family and the values we held dear. Today, we have a “family” business that has grown from three employees and significant operating losses ten years ago, to a multimillion dollar business with over seventy employees. We provide excellent pay and benefits to our employees, even though some always want more. While we may not be the smartest people in business, I can assure you few have worked harder or risked more to achieve this success. 

Building a Business

When the President says we didn’t build this business and somebody else made it happen, I have to ask what in the world he is talking about. We built it from the ground up, risking what little wealth we were able to accumulate, making numerous mistakes and, in the process, creating numerous jobs and saving some of the floundering companies we happened to acquire. We bootstrapped the business by avoiding debt and reinvesting every available dollar to continue to grow the business. We rarely distribute cash beyond salaries, except to pay federal income taxes on the profits of the business. We collect and remit well over a hundred thousand dollars each month to the state on the services and products we sell to our customers. We pay significant fees to accountants and attorneys every month to make sure we comply with the mountain of regulations that confront all businesses our size. We collect and remit numerous local, state and federal fees and taxes that all add to the hidden costs of running a business.

Thankful for the Opportunities

I certainly do not want to give any impression that I am not grateful for the opportunities this great country has afforded me and my family. I thank God each day for my birth in this country during this period in time. As the President suggested, I am especially thankful to those who helped create this unbelievable American system that has allowed me, my wife and our family to thrive. Having come from a working family and worked hard my entire life, I cannot help but appreciate all working Americans. I know we are all willing to do our fair share to keep this unbelievable American system strong so that it may be preserved for our children and grandchildren and generations to come. I pray they all have the opportunity to live the American dream as my wife and I have.

Leadership Requires Action, not Rhetoric

When the President says this coming election is about deciding between two fundamentally different views about where we take this country right now, and the choice is up to us, I whole heartedly agree. I am on the side of all hard working Americans that strive for self sufficiency, contribute to the well being of the country and seek the American Dream! I want to make sure my children and their children learn the value of working hard for self sufficiency and passing that lesson on to help others truly appreciate our common American Dream. We must all work together to make sure this American generation does not fail those that come after us!

Please hold our elected officials to their actions rather than their rhetoric. Please make sure your voice is heard and your vote counts during this critical period of American history!