Imagine movie stars, business magnates, decorated military leaders, bankers, media moguls, recording artists and members of the judiciary in one room—a very big room. What kind of event would draw such a diverse group?
The only thing these people share is that they’ve overcome early financial hardships through their own diligence and hard work, and created their own success stories. They’re members and supporters of the Horatio Alger Association and, while their career paths are varied, their experiences offer proof that the American dream is attainable.
SUCCESS magazine has profiled many of them, most recently Leonardo DiCaprio, who was among the new members inducted in a ceremony in April. Others we have profiled include astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Famous Amos’ Wally Amos, Starbucks’ Howard Schultz, energy titan T. Boone Pickens, music producer Quincy Jones, boxer and businessman George Foreman, and PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi.
Two years ago, I wrote to Horatio Alger Association officials to ask about media credentials. There are no media credentials, I was told; this is not a media event. I wrote back to explain that like the association, SUCCESS magazine aims to shine a light on individuals who triumph over great challenges to fulfill their goals and dreams.
Named for the 19th century author whose popular novels depicted the lives of boys who overcame poverty through hard work, courage and honesty, the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans honors the achievements of outstanding individuals who have succeeded in spite of adversity. The association also encourages young people to pursue their dreams through higher education, and awarded almost $7.5 million in scholarships this year alone. Founded in 1947, the association will have awarded scholarships totaling more than $87 million through 2012.
Ultimately, the association granted our request to attend its events last year. I sent our managing editor Amy Anderson. The next morning, she called, exhilarated. She tried to describe what it was like being amid so many people who had achieved so much in their lifetimes. She was also inspired by the young people who received Horatio Alger scholarships. Already these students had overcome hardships that might have easily crushed their spirits. But, instead, they persevered. And, in the events Amy attended, Horatio Alger members assured them that in addition to scholarships, they would be there for them as mentors, providing advice and support to ensure their success. Pretty heady stuff.