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A character of extraordinary competence and integrity
on October 4, 2011
Until recently the conventional wisdom has been that businesspeople do not make good elected officials, perhaps because the temperaments between the two professions are so different. However, the professional politicians have made such an awful mess of our state, local, and federal governments that we are now turning to the tough-minded discipline of business leaders to restore fiscal responsibility.
In 2010 we elected many businesspersons as governors, congresspersons, and senators. They seem to be succeeding in reforming state governments to operate within their budgets. Now Herman Cain is running for President as a businessperson pledging to restore our national economy.
Of course, it isn't just the government that's broken. Big business has also tarnished its reputation by becoming greedy and predatory. Big business has destroyed its workers jobs, poisoned the housing market with toxic mortgage derivatives, turned Wall Street into a den of thieves, and encouraged CEO's to treat companies as their own personal piggy banks. Does Cain possess the extraordinary competence and integrity required to recover our economy that has been debilitated by both the failures of government AND business?
Cain begins to answer that question in the first paragraph:
I didn't grow up wanting to be president of the United States. I grew up po', which is even worse than being poor. My American dream entailed working hard and making $20,000 a year, but I surpassed that goal and became a corporate CEO, a regional chairman of the Federal Reserve, a president of the Restaurant Association, an author, and an Atlanta talk show host before retiring at sixty-five on cruise control. And then I became a presidential aspirant. But a strange thing happened on my way to cruise control: The country got off-track.
From that, I gather that Cain is running for the right reason --- a sincere calling to elevate the condition of the country and serve its people.
Then Cain explains how he developed his character. Most of it, he says, came from observing his father. He explains how his dad left impoverished rural Georgia at age 18, hitchhiking to Ohio to find work in a factory. His dad then returned to Atlanta, working three jobs as a barber, chauffer, and janitor; his mother worked as a maid. Cain says:
I relished those moments. While we were financially poor, we were emotionally rich, and our hard-working parents taught us lessons in dignity, ambition, and the value of formal education. Dad didn't have the opportunity to earn a college degree, but I always tell people that he had a Ph.D. in common sense.
And both of our parents taught us not to think that the government owed us something. They didn't teach us to be mad at this country. They would always say to us: "If you want something, just work hard enough, focus on it, and guess what? You can make it happen!" And Dad made things happen. One day in the summer before I started the eighth grade, he came home and said to us: "Get in the car; we're going for a ride." He drove us to a suburb west of Atlanta, pulled up in front of a six-room, all-brick house on Albert Street, and said, "This is our new home." He had fulfilled his dream of being able to buy a "whole house."
Cain explains that his dad was so well thought of that he became the private chauffer of the legendary Coca Cola CEO Robert Woodruff. Woodruff gifted him Coca Cola stock. Herman watched his dad prosper through integrity, work, and investment. He describes a man whose life was well balanced between work, love of family, religious values, and desire for success --- a man who started out as an impoverished, uneducated Black kid in rural Georgia at a time when society didn't do Blacks any favors.
Cain has taken this lesson through the rest of his life. He earned his master's in mathematics. He set his goal to become an executive in business by age 40 and succeeded when placed in many challenging positions of large companies. He succeeded as an entrepreneur. Now he has moved into the first tier of presidential contenders.
This book has answered the most important question I wanted to know about Herman Cain: "Does Cain have the character of extraordinary competence and integrity to lead us as President in recovering our debilitated economy?"
After reading the book, the answer is a resounding "Yes."
Like other Cain supporters I'm disappointed in the revelations about Mr. Cain's personal life that caused him to withdraw from the race in early December. I believe the allegations of sexual harassment made by the first two women who went public are non-credible. However, the story of the last woman who went public, and Mr. Cain's admission that he paid her money, are evidence that Mr. Cain was involved in an improper relationship. A candidate who bases his campaign on integrity and sound business judgment can't continue on when these allegations become credible.
I do believe that the campaign to take down Mr. Cain was very carefully orchestrated. Nevertheless, he put himself in the situation of having a relationship that he should have known had the potential to jeopardize his reputation in business and public life.