05/04/08 — The truly rich: Real wealth measured by hard work, determination

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The truly rich: Real wealth measured by hard work, determination

There is a new dirty word in America.


You hear it all the time, especially around election time.

Why does it come up?

It is about this time of year that politicians and others start talking about how the “wealthy” are not paying their share of taxes — and how the “wealthy” are living high on the hog while the rest of the nation struggles.

The sad thing about the word “wealthy” is that it used to have other words attached to it, especially back in the days when success was the measure of a man because he had worked hard to achieve it.

And it is sad that we have lost that understanding.

While there might be people — Paris Hilton pops to mind — who will inherit wealth they did not earn and who will forget the obligations that go along with it, there are plenty more who could tell you a different story about where they came up with their nest eggs.

Many of them started with nothing but the desire to make something out of themselves and the determination to get the education, training or opportunities they needed to start pursuing their dreams.

Some of the nation’s “wealthy” are people who worked 90-hour weeks trying to start and grow businesses. Many of them took risks with their own futures to make sure their businesses had the materials and personnel they needed to thrive. Others would forgo their own paychecks to get through the lean years and to keep their employees’ checks from bouncing.

They will say that their journey wasn’t easy — and that they had to fight for the training and experiences they needed to succeed. They will also say that no one handed them anything, and that they come from humble beginnings, too.

Many of these people still do not make a Hollywood-type living. They are “wealthy” and “comfortable” but not set. They could lose everything if a market turns or there is some kind of catastrophe. They struggle, too, during the lean months.

If you really want to be surprised, check out the income definitions for “wealthy.” You might be surprised to find out that you are included on the “wealthy” list, too, even though you are wondering how to make sure you stay in the black on your budget.

In the old days, success was the product of hard work and initiative, qualities that people admired.

“Wealthy” meant “accomplished.”

It is a shame that we have lost that spirit, that drive and that admiration for those who have built empires of their own — sometimes from nothing — and that we are not encouraging more people to set out in pursuit of their dreams.

If we are going to “share the wealth,” let’s also share the values, responsibility and drive that helped these people build successful lives. Let’s demand attention to education and training and refuse to support those who refuse to support themselves by pursuing skills that will get them jobs.

If we do, someday, there will be even more “wealthy.”

Published in Editorials on May 4, 2008 12:21 AM