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What I Told the Students at Harvard About Capitalism

By May 4, 2012No Comments
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Wayne Root’s latest commentary from

What I Told the Students at Harvard About Capitalism

As a lifelong capitalist evangelist, serial entrepreneur, and Reagan Libertarian, I was asked to deliver a lecture about the virtues of capitalism, entrepreneurship and fiscal conservatism at Harvard University. I was unsure if my message and personal story would be welcomed, or even understood. I am thrilled to report that even at the world’s greatest institution of learning (and liberalism), capitalism and entrepreneurship are alive, well, and still celebrated. Students actually reported my speech has changed the direction of their lives- they now want to be entrepreneurs.

The lesson is that if capitalism and entrepreneurship are presented with enthusiasm, passion, energy, and honest personal stories, they will be accepted and celebrated everywhere in the world- even the intellectual, liberal halls of Harvard.

The key is to counter Obama’s message, who speaking at a university in Florida only days ago, described capitalism as “a broken down theory,” blaming it for the current economic problems. Free market Libertarians and fiscal conservatives need to courageously enter the lion’s den and speak at universities with the polar opposite message. We need to be evangelists. We need to recruit and sell our vision to students. We need to explain how only capitalism gives young people the opportunity to change their lives and live their dreams. Only capitalism lifts people from poverty, or the middle class, to the life of their dreams. Only capitalism creates true hope and opportunity. Only capitalism motivates the creators and producers of this world to make the impossible, possible.

Capitalism created the cure for polio, and capitalism will someday cure cancer and AIDS. Capitalism created desktop computers, the Internet, smartphones, I-Tunes, I-Pads, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, texting, and DirecTV. The things that shape our world were not created in Cuba, the Soviet Union, or the old People’s Republic of China. And they weren’t created by government either. They were created by entrepreneurs hoping to change the world, and get rich doing it!

The key is to tell our personal stories. Obama and those who hate capitalism don’t have those stories. They have never created anything with their own smarts, work ethic, creativity, while risking their own money. They’ve never created jobs, donated millions to charity, or dramatically changed lives with their innovations, products, or payrolls. All the Obama’s of the world know about is taking tax dollars from the job creators and financial risk-takers,and redistributing it as bribes to their voters.

Obama’s failed policies have proven he has the same level of knowledge about economics, capitalism, and entrepreneurship as I have of ballet – which is zero.

I spoke to hundreds of students in Professor Michael Parzen’s class (one of the largest at Harvard) about the exciting ups and downs of my career. I spoke about the relentless battles to build my businesses. I spoke about the failures and lows I’ve experienced, as well as the lessons I learned that enabled me to turn lemons into lemonade.

I told them about the remarkable results, against the longest odds, I’ve achieved as an entrepreneur and dreamer. I taught them it was all made possible by capitalism. As Don King would say, “Only in America.”

I told them about the leap of faith required of entrepreneurs- to believe in and pursue your dreams against the negativity of critics, cynics, and naysayers. I told them about the mental, physical and spiritual strength required to survive the rejections, disappointments, and challenges. I told them about the amazing rewards achieved when you turn your dreams into reality. I told them how entrepreneurs don’t need alcohol or drugs- we get high on life!

I taught them that success requires you be relentless. You must never stop believing in you, your dreams, and your talents. You must never stop fighting like a cornered wolverine. You must never lose faith in God, country, or yourself.

I told them to find their passion, because passion unleashes purpose and enthusiasm. I told them to attack each day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. I told them to say “YES” to every single request made of them in the business world. That’s how you make yourself irreplaceable- even during the worst economy of our lifetimes.

Then I asked the Harvard students to raise their hands if they agreed I had energy, enthusiasm and passion. All of them raised their hands with big smiles and loud laughs. Yes they all agreed ENTHUSIASTICALLY that I had enthusiasm.

Then I asked them to compare my energy and enthusiasm with an employee of the Department of Motor Vehicles. The auditorium went wild! Pandemonium. Smiles. Laughing. Sparkles in their eyes. Everyone got it. With this example even college students at Harvard clearly understood the difference between entrepreneurs and government employees.

Everyone instantly gets “it.” That is the reason government fails at everything it does. That is the reason our economy is in shambles and there are no new jobs. The wrong people are in charge of the economy. The solution is simple- Only the private sector can truly create jobs. Only the heroic “fly boys” of the business world, the guys and gals with the massive levels of energy, enthusiasm and confidence can turnaround the U.S. economy. Entrepreneurs and their small businesses create 75% of new jobs. Those are America’s heroes. They must be appreciated, motivated, and rewarded- not punished.

Those with enthusiasm, energy, and can-do spirit go into business. Those without those talents, skills, or attributes often go into government. I have no problem with either kind of person. There are heroes in both groups. But you can’t let those without energy, enthusiasm, or can-do spirit make the rules for the economy. Just as you shouldn’t ask me to run the ballet.

Government can’t save us. Government can only make things worse. We are currently letting the wrong people run the economy, create the rules, tax the motivation and inspiration out of our entrepreneurial heroes. They are strangling hope, ruining ambition, dampening enthusiasm, and killing the American Dream. Obama is killing so many jobs, he should be at the top of the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

Even at Harvard I hope they now understand this.

God Bless capitalism. God Bless America.