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Cal Thomas: The secret to success Republicans should embrace

This week the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans (www.horatioalger.org) will celebrate its 65th anniversary. The association’s focus recalls an era that preceded our entitlement, envy and greed generation. One of the goals stated in its “Success Factors Study” is to “identify and assist scholars who exemplify resilience in the face of adversity — a hallmark characteristic of association members, themselves leaders who have journeyed from humble beginnings to achieve unprecedented success.”

Scholarship money goes to young people in need who have demonstrated the character qualities the society embodies and promotes.

The adults who are honored by the association are people who when young dug ditches, painted houses and worked at other menial jobs. Some came from what we once called “broken homes.” Others had alcoholic fathers, or absent mothers. Many escaped poverty.

They tell their stories of a teacher who inspired them, or a mentor who encouraged them. The one common denominator in each of their backgrounds is the individual’s embrace of this simple formula: inspiration followed by perspiration equals success.

While the Horatio Alger Association is nonpartisan, the Republican Party is missing a great opportunity to resurrect Horatio Alger. Republicans should feature people on the campaign trail who tell their stories of achievement, encouraging others not to settle or become mired in difficult circumstances.

One of the honorees at last year’s Horatio Alger Awards dinner, Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, said: “People who believe they’re victims will become victims. People who believe they can win eventually will win.”

Instead of focusing on failure and poverty, why aren’t Republicans telling stories of success and prosperity, or at least self-sufficiency and what it takes to improve a life?

Success is not a secret. It is as old as civilization itself. The late radio broadcaster Paul Harvey made a career out of telling stories about people who overcame hardship through perseverance and tenacity and by embracing virtues that have helped those who live by them to experience a better life.

Also appearing at the 2011 Alger dinner was actor Tom Selleck, who said, “There are no magic formulas, no single book or even educational degrees that can generate the spirit of achievement through perseverance. Nothing creates and inspires resolve more than knowing achievement is possible for someone who came from circumstances like your own. When the hardships of life threaten to sever hope from you, there is no prosthetic for an amputated spirit, no therapy for the atrophy of a dream, no medication for the sickness that breaks the heart and withers the soul. There is the American Dream.”

“You can do it!” parents cry as they take the training wheels off their kids’ bikes and give them that last guiding push down the sidewalk.

Take the “training wheels” of government off those Americans who rely on government far too much. Convince these Americans that they can make something of themselves, if they would only try.

Horatio Alger got it. So can Republicans.

Email Cal Thomas at tmseditors@tribune.com.


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