Mike. I have a question about your SWEAT Pledge. Specifically, about the first tenet. Why do you disqualify those from applying for a scholarship who don’t feel grateful for living in America? There are many people out there who would like to better themselves by learning a useful skill, but who lack the privilege that you possess. Why insist that those people profess “gratitude” for living in a country that has treated them less fairly than others? A country, by the way, that was stolen from indigenous people, and built on the backs of slaves?
The short answer is because grateful people have a harder time feeling sorry for themselves. In my experience, people who don’t appreciate the miracle of their own birth, or their good fortune at being born in America, are more inclined to quit, complain, or blame others for their failures. These people are less likely to succeed, and therefore, less deserving of my foundations limited resources.
To say it another way, Janice, I believe all Americans are privileged. Sure, some are smarter than others. Some are better-looking. Some are more gifted and more talented. Some are raised by loving parents, some are adopted, some are abused, some are healthy, some are sickly, and some are just luckier all around. There are many reasons, including race, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity, to feel sorry for oneself, if one is inclined to do so. But we were all born, and that obliges us, in my opinion, to at the very least, feel grateful for the miracle that we exist. And today, even in these tumultuous times, those lucky enough to be born in this country have more to be grateful for than most humans who have ever called this planet home.
Obviously, you’re free to disagree, even on our national holiday of Thanksgiving. But, as I’ve said to many others over the years who object to the tenets of the SWEAT Pledge, “this particular pile of free money is probably not for you.” As for the past, I understand the many injustices that have accompanied the American experiment, and I’ll make no excuses for the unfairness of the world, or for the decisions and actions of others. But neither will I accept the blame for those decisions and actions that weren’t my own. I believe we should do all we can to create and encourage a truly color-blind society, and I’m personally grateful for the opportunity to do my part. That’s why my foundation, and my work ethic-scholarship program, focus only on those traits within the control of the individual. There are many, but chief among them, is an attitude of gratitude.