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The Entrepreneurial Experience of US Presidents

Posted by: Mark Marich on February 17, 2010 Source: Policy Dialogue on Entrepreneurship

On Presidents day (Feb. 15), several articles pointed out that many of America’s presidents had an entrepreneurial background.

USA Today’s Steve Strauss offered the following examples, among others:

•    Abraham Lincoln: In 1833, Lincoln and William Berry opened a general store (with Lincoln going into debt to finance his share of the business.) The business failed a year later and Lincoln's possessions were seized by the sheriff. In addition, Lincoln co-owned a law practice. He also created an invention and received a patent.
•    Warren G. Harding (1921-1923) bought a newspaper that was going out of business when he was only 19 (although he had to borrow his share of the $300 total paid.) Not long after, the paper, the Marion Star, became so successful that it earned income for Harding for the next several decades while he was off running for office.
•    In 1921, Franklin Roosevelt contracted polio and lost the use of his legs. After hearing about a boy who regained the use of his legs using a hydrotherapy treatment program in Warm Springs, Georgia, FDR raised funds and turned the spa into a healing center for polio victims. The effort culminated in the creation of the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation.
•    Harry Truman (1945-1953): After serving in World War I, Truman opened a clothing store in Kansas City, which eventually went bankrupt.
•    Jimmy Carter took over the family peanut farm and grew that small farm into a multi-million dollar business that included warehouses, a peanut-shelling plant, and farm equipment supplies. Once he left the White House, he founded the Carter Center.
•    George Bush started the Bush-Overby Oil Development company in 1951 and soon thereafter co-founded the Zapata Petroleum Corporation; a venture that later made him a millionaire.

For more examples and ways in which Presidents advocated entrepreneurship, read Strauss’ article, here.

Category:  General 

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