Saving Horatio Alger
On a warm spring evening in Washington, D.C., a fleet of limousines and town cars delivered hundreds of guests, bedecked in black tie and long gowns, to a gala celebration of the American Dream: the annual awards night for the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.
Twelve new members (11 men, one woman) were honored for having risen from childhood poverty to positions as captains of commerce or celebrated public servants. Colin Powell, a 1991 award recipient, was among those in the audience. The new members’ speeches were brief, striking a balance between pride and humility, and all hewing to the rags-to-riches theme: “Who would have thought that I, from a farm in Minnesota/small town in Kansas/Little Rock, raised in an orphanage/with no indoor plumbing/working multiple jobs at 16, would end up running a $6 billion firm/a U.S. ambassador/employing 10,000 people. Only in America!”