Self-Made Man Summary

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I found Pamela Laird's essay very interesting, and while I’ve never subscribed to the idea of a “self-made man”, I never considered how the notion could be harmful. The concept of the self-made man states that most people can get where they want to be with hard work and a good entrepreneurial spirit. This idea exemplifies the idea of the American Dream, and creates the illusion of an America where anyone, regardless of ethnicity, gender, or economic background could become the next Steve Jobs or Andrew Carnegie. Laird argues that “self made success” can, at least in part, be attributed to an economic, political or social advantage. She makes an excellent argument on how individualism can harm both the individual and the collective. The idea of the self-made man can first be seen during the Protestant Reformation, where people begin to drift away from the idea that they aren’t in control of their circumstances, which were instead dependent on God. Benjamin Franklin was a very popular model of self-made success which inspires entrepreneurs even today. Thomas Mellon, the founder of the Mellon Bank, looked up to Franklin for his ambition and aimed to amass wealth from Franklin’s ideas of self-improvement. However, Franklin spoke about self-improvement for the purpose of community and individual growth, and not for material gain. Franklin, along with United States Representative Alney McLean, used the idea of the self-made man to encourage people to better themselves, gain
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