Besides Facebook, what do the names Saverin, Moskovitz, and Zuckerberg have in common? Well, they’re all under 30 years old. For another thing, they’re all billionaires. And they’re among the ten most wealthy (we’re talking billionaires here) in the United States who did not inherit their wealth.
A news story from yesterday talks about the ten most wealthy in the United States. The remainder of the notables are young men who are in their 30s, and older, who have managed to get themselves listed on Forbes 400. What this story tells us in a very understated and subtle way is that the American dream of making something of yourself, even if you come from humble beginnings, by just working hard, working clever, and being innovative, is possible.
True enough, these young people probably have legal advisors helping them make the most prudent moves with their money, investments, and development. But before they reached the stage of needing and affording lawyers, there had to be some native intelligence and discipline that helped them reach these plateaus. I dare say these are the exceptions in the New Millennium.
Their college educations, their being raised in “dynasty” families where social issues and responsibilities were probably discussed at the breakfast table, the lack of a sense of entitlement without effort, is probably part of the subconscious decision-making process of each of these people. They are exceptions. We have to wonder how many of our youth who are their ages or younger appreciate these nuances of wealth.
If social responsibility has not been part of their development and growth, this type of emotional intelligence will come slowly and with many difficult lessons, if at all. What this then makes us wonder is whether these young people should aspire to such lofty attainments. Where are the mentors and counselors who will help them see things properly? Indeed, these spirits should be nurtured and taught that each act has a consequence. Their spirits should not be dampened by being discouraged from reaching for more than their present circumstances allow. Nor should they settle for the repressed life of the ghetto – the land of dashed hopes and dreams.
The other troubling thing about this list of billionaires is that there is only one woman on it. The reason she is there is because she’s the sister of one of the others who inherited the family fortunes. Therefore, the field of attainment, and accompanying responsibilities, has yet to be populated in an equal and representative way.
Back to the matter of the Gen Y members of this list. Only one of these people is a man of color. Many of them dropped out of school in order to continue the chase of their own personal balloons. However, dropping out of school was actually dropping out of the Master’s and Ph.D. programs of some of the nation’s most prestigious universities. Maybe this story isn’t really about the American dream but instead how some of the more privileged chose a different route to their own success story. Then again, that is part of the American promise.