April 22, 2013

Herman Cain: ‘Success Is Not a Straight Line’

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Visiting Cornell on Monday, Herman Cain — a business executive, Tea Party activist and former candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination — encouraged Cornellians to keep believing in the American Dream.

During the talk, which was hosted by the Cornell Republicans, Cain asked the audience to consider why they decided to attend Cornell and what they think achieving success means.

“The tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goals,” Cain said. “The tragedy lies in having no dreams to reach for.”

Throughout his speech, Cain said that while “it is harder to achieve [the American Dream] today than it was for me or my parents,” the American Dream remains alive.

“People who want to tell you that the American Dream is dead, they are lying,” Cain said.

Cain described success as being “a journey, not a destination.”

“Every single job gives you something that you can use for the rest of your life,” Cain said.  “Never look down on a job. I worked nine jobs. Every time I made a change, it was upwards.”

Drawing from his own experiences, Cain shared how, throughout his life, he has served as the vice president of information technology at the Pillsbury Company, business executive at Burger King, and president and chief executive officer of Godfather’s Pizza, a pizza chain.

“Success is not a straight line,” Cain said. “I was willing to go through the trenches in order to learn something new [and] in order to find my dream. The hardest assignments are your biggest opportunities.”

Cain called goals “stepping stones to your dreams,” emphasizing how small steps can lead to big results.

“I didn’t know that I would become president of something,” Cain said. “I just knew that I performed well, I would be able to do something.”

Cain said his entry into politics was prompted by what he saw as the government “becoming an impediment to business [and] an impediment to achieving your dreams.”

“In 2003, I got bothered by stuff; I didn’t like the direction of this country,” Cain said.  “I ran for Senate for the state of Georgia, and I didn’t win, but came in an impressive second.”

After running for the Senate, Cain hosted his own radio program, but turned to politics again in 2012, when he ran for the Republican presidential nomination.

“In 2003 and 2013, we have the same problems,” Cain said. “[The government] doesn’t fix stuff. You will be trying to start a business [or] trying to start a family, and government will be looking you in the face with new regulations.”

During his run in the 2012 presidential campaign, Cain said that people’s success or failure depends not on Wall Street, but on themselves.

He touched on this subject during his speech, saying “with the advent of the Internet, there is no excuse for you not to be anything you want to be.”

Cain said he thinks the U.S’s current economic standstill can be resolved by overhauling the country’s tax code and Social Security, which he said is “a mess.”

“[Social Security] will go bankrupt unless we restructure it. I didn’t say reform — that’s political speak for going to Washington and keep on doing whatever you used to do — nothing,” he said.

Cain concluded his speech by quoting one of his professors from his alma mater, Morehouse College.

“He said, ‘You’re not going to live forever,’” Cain said. “No matter how many years you’re here, your life is but a speck on a timeline.  No matter what, you’re going to be asked what you did with this life. It’s up to you to use it.’”

In response to an audience question about Cain’s musical talent, Cain sang a version of “Amazing Grace.”

“Music has always been a hobby, a passion of mine,” Cain said. “Singing is something that I do to relax.”

Michael Alter ’16, who attended Cain’s lecture, said although he didn’t support Cain during his run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, he thought Cain was a great speaker.

“[Cain’s] story is inspiring … how he rose through the ranks,” Alter said. “I liked what he had to say about dreams ─ life throws curveballs at you all the time, and if you deal with that, you’ll succeed.”

Original Author: Emma Jesch