10 People Living the American Dream – TheStreet

Famous people who have achieved the american dream

boston (thestreet): times may be tough, but the “american dream” is alive and well.

The idea that hard work and perseverance can pay off is ingrained in the American psyche and is cause for celebration.

The following are 10 people whose impoverished, worldly, or troubled pasts didn’t stop them from becoming true American success stories, starting with:

juan d. rockefeller

One of six children, he was raised almost single-handedly by his devoted Baptist mother while his father, a traveling salesman of questionable character, was away on a trip. it later became known that his father had a secret second wife.

Rockefeller is America’s first corporate superstar, and the fact that his rise to legendary status came after a poor childhood makes his story all the more legendary.

At age 16, after helping support his family by doing odd jobs and even lending his meager savings (with interest) to neighbors, Rockefeller was hired as a bookkeeper by a produce company. His analytical skills and number-crunching prowess landed him in a variety of other companies.

The skills honed during these days served Rockefeller well when he and a brother entered the oil business. the company they founded would later become standard oil, perhaps the most successful in the us. company in history for its monopoly in the refining and distribution of oil in the country. At the time of his death, Rockefeller’s personal net worth represented nearly 10% of the nation’s GDP, a metric that ranks him as one of the richest men in history.

andrew carnegie

the titan of the industrial age made billions in the railroad and steel industries and has a place in history as one of the nation’s greatest philanthropists (carnegie hall is only a small part of his legacy) and the second richest man of all time (behind john d. rockefeller).

He rose to that wealth and stature after enduring a poor childhood that forced his unemployed father to relocate his family to the United States amid difficult times in his native Scotland.

As a young man, Carnegie worked to make ends meet as a messenger for a telegraph company and in a factory that made bobbins for sewing machines.

It was in 1853 that Carnegie was hired by Thomas Scott of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. as secretary and telegraph operator, beginning his gradual rise to historical wealth. Earning just $4 a week, he rose, step by step, through the company ranks; he eventually took a lucrative, high-profile position overseeing military transportation efforts during the civil war.

Scott, serving as a mentor to the young man, helped introduce him to investment opportunities, the first of which was hatched when Carnegie’s mother put up her family’s home as collateral. Other modest investments in railway companies followed. Success led to reinvestment of profits, and over time, Carnegie’s holdings became substantial.

Oil speculation made Carnegie a millionaire with an initial investment of $40,000 in an oil-rich property. flush with cash, he turned his attention to the steel industry which, amid post-war reconstruction efforts and the increasing pace of industrialization, greatly multiplied his wealth.

later it was a key player in the merger of several steel companies to create united states steel, the first corporation to have a market capitalization of more than a billion dollars.

By the time of his death in 1919, Carnegie had donated more than $4 billion of his fortune to charity.

oprah winfrey

The queen of daytime television, who resigned from her position this year to pursue opportunities with her own cable network, was born out of wedlock. her teenage parents separated after her birth, leaving oprah in the care of her grandmother. A rebellious teenager, prone to running away and stealing, she would later spend time with both parents, bouncing between Wisconsin and Tennessee.

beyond poverty, winfrey faced other difficulties. she claims to have been repeatedly sexually abused by members of her family since she was 9 years old. When she was 14 years old, she became pregnant and gave birth to a son who died shortly after.

Broadcasting and media training in high school set her on the path to success. her at the age of 19 she was a co-anchor for a local newscast. Other television jobs followed her, which led to her hosting a daytime talk show in Chicago. That popular show eventually went into syndication, with the help and encouragement of Chicago-area film critic Roger Ebert, laying the groundwork for phenomenal success.

Adding actor, author, magazine editor, theater producer and philanthropist to his extensive resume, Winfrey’s has amassed a personal wealth of nearly $3 billion.

Ursula burns

The CEO of xerox (xrx) faced numerous difficulties to reach the top of that company.

Raised by a single mother, a Panamanian immigrant, in a New York City housing project, she attended parochial school and discovered an aptitude for math and numeracy. As teachers pointed her to a traditional career for women like nursing, she did another calculation: what good-paying job was available to her with the degree she knew she could get in math or science? She attended New York Polytechnic Institute and Columbia University with that in mind.

Her career at Xerox began with a summer internship in 1980. A decade later, her hard work caught the eye of a senior executive who offered her the position of assistant. Moving up the ladder, he would later take on the same role for then-CEO Paul Allaire.

In 1999, she was named Vice President of Global Manufacturing and, in 2000, Senior Vice President of Strategic Corporate Services, leading manufacturing and supply chain operations. She then took on a broader role heading xerox’s global research and product development, marketing and delivery.

In April 2007, Burns was named President of Xerox and elected to the company’s Board of Directors. She was named CEO in July 2009 and took over as president of the company last year.

john paul dejoria

Dejoria sold newspapers as a child to support his struggling family, headed by a single mother, but poverty forced him to take care of a foster home in East Los Angeles anyway.

Things didn’t seem to be going in the right direction: he joined a street gang during school and joined the us. uu. marina after graduation did not seem to put him on the path to success. when dental school didn’t work out because he didn’t have money for tuition, he went into sales, trying out encyclopedias, photocopiers, insurance, medical apparel, and advertising space. finally: hair care products at redken labs in 1971 and two other beauty companies, earning well but hampered in terms of career advancement.

In 1980, dejoria brazenly decided to start a competitor to redken. With just $700 in borrowed money, he teamed up with long-time hairstylist Paul Mitchell and founded the hair care company John Paul Mitchell Systems. The business, for which he serves as CEO, generates roughly $900 million in revenue a year.

dejora has also branched out into other avenues, including the giant sponsor of tequila, and is a founding partner of the house of blues nightclub chain.


Like many rappers, Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Corey Carter, found success through a difficult upbringing.

Raised in a Brooklyn housing project, his local notoriety as a freestyle rapper gained him such a following that he decided to try his hand at professional recording. Turned down by major labels, however, he and two partners founded the independent label Roc-a-Fella Records in 1995.

In 2004, Jay-Z was named President of Def Jam Records, and after disputes led his initial partners to sell their stake, he took sole control of Roc-A-Fella Records. a multi-million dollar deal with live nation (lyv) led him to walk away from def jam in 2009.

Other business endeavors, including a clothing line, a chain of sports bars, a brand position with budweiser (bud), and partial ownership of new networks nba jersey, have solidified his success in business and in hip-hop. The ventures have largely paid off over the years, and Forbes has estimated the rapper to be worth $450 million, with another $50 million in the pipeline due to his wise decision to retain possession and rights. exclusive to the master tapes in their catalogue.

arnold schwarzenegger

bodybuilder. action hero. governor. adulterer.

say what you will about schwarzenegger and his many incarnations, there’s no denying that he rose to worldwide fame from very humble beginnings, that he went from rich to rich.

Born in a small Austrian town, the future Terminator star had a difficult childhood, including allegations of physical abuse by his father. He had made it his goal to move to the United States and, as a competitive bodybuilder, he had the opportunity to make that move in 1968.

His success as a muscular poser led to endorsement deals, a book for aspiring bodybuilders, and his appearance in an influential documentary about the sport, powerlifting. Smaller movie parts followed, with a big break in the title role of 1982’s Conan the Barbarian. An even bigger hit came with the release of The Terminator in 1994. A steady list of action-comedy films followed, many of them big ones. successes.

in 2003, schwarzenegger was elected in a recall election as governor of california and was then re-elected for a final term that expired in January.

estimates of his net worth are all over the place, from $100 million (the san francisco chronicle) to $300 million ( to $3 billion (dubious biographer hans janitschek in equally dubious reporting in the new York Post and Newsmax .com), but whatever money you have, expect it to be cut in half when you divorce Maria Shriver after fathering a child with a house cleaner.

miguel other

An offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, his early life was chronicled in Sandra Bullock’s hit film The Blindside, based on Michael Lewis’s best-selling book of the same name.

born in memphis into a family of 12, another’s mother was a crack addict and his father was in and out of prison. The first years of his life alternated between homelessness and foster homes.

In 2004, while studying at Briarcrest Christian School in Mephis, he was invited to the home of Leigh and Sean Tuohy, parents of two of Others’ classmates, and was later legally adopted. His support helped the young man take advantage of his soccer skills to get a scholarship to the University of Mississippi.

A standout player in college, he was drafted by the Ravens in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft.

chris gardner

His life story was dramatically retold in Will Smith’s film The Pursuit of Happyness, Gardner was raised by a single mother but was forced to leave home at a young age as a result of his bad relationship with an abusive boyfriend. at one point he was placed in foster care after his mother was arrested and convicted of trying to kill her boyfriend by setting her house on fire.

Gardner later joined the Navy and, working as a medical supply salesman, married and had a son.

after seeing a well-dressed man in a sporty ferrari, gardner asked how he made a living. The man, Bob Bridges, responded that he was a stockbroker and offered to help Gardner with interviews for training programs at some of New York’s largest brokerage houses.

was accepted into a training program at e.f. Hutton, but his wave of bad luck returned quickly. the man who hired him was fired and the program was no longer open to him. Shortly thereafter, he was arrested and served a brief stint in jail for racking up $1,200 in parking tickets. he returned home to discover that his wife had left him.

gardner was able to obtain a position in dean witter reynolds training program, pass the licensing exam, and was offered a position in san francisco by bear stearns. but he was still destitute and homeless, forced to work day and night, after taking his child out of daycare, looking for a hot meal and a safe place to sleep. He was later admitted to a homeless shelter and, throughout the ordeal, he never told his co-workers that his personal life was in such dire straits.

the hard work finally paid off. Gardner was eventually able to support himself and his son, and growing success led to the formation of his own firm, Gardner Rich & company, in chicago. (started with only $10,000 in start-up capital, ran out of his apartment). The company grew, then was sold in a multimillion-dollar deal, and Gardner became CEO of a new company, Christopher Gardner International Holdings.

Speaking about the man he learned to portray in the pursuit of happiness, Smith said: “Chris represents the American dream.”

tyler perry

With the regularity of an alarm clock, writer, actor and director Tyler Perry has produced movies and television shows with his name above the title.

Among the most successful African-American filmmakers of all time, Perry’s path to becoming a media mogul was far from easy.

born in new orleans, perry has described being beaten by an abusive father and sexually abused at the hands of several men and a friend of his mother.

Out of high school (he earned a GED), Perry credits a motivational segment on The Oprah Winfrey Show for inspiring him to start writing. the result, a diary that was adapted into a stage musical, I know I’ve changed. Perry funded a live production at a church community center with his life savings. her success led him to tour an urban theater circuit with her and other works. over the course of 15 years, ticket and merchandise sales brought in nearly $150 million.

Stage success led to film, and the $5.5 million budget that supported Diary of a Mad Black Woman, the film debut of her popular character Madea, generated a domestic gross of over $50 million. of dollars. Subsequent films have, for the most part, met with similar success and two sitcoms named after her are in constant rotation on the TBS cable network. Perry’s success and hands-on approach led him to build his own studio and sound studio in Atlanta.

Critics may not speak highly of the work he produces, but no one can begrudge Perry his success.

– written by joe mont in boston.

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