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Key to success: Vision Key to success: Passion Key to success: Perseverance Key to success: Preparation Key to success: Courage Key to success: Integrity Key to success: The American Dream Keys to success homepage More quotes on Passion More quotes on Vision More quotes on Courage More quotes on Integrity More quotes on Preparation More quotes on Perseverance More quotes on The American Dream


Alberto Gonzales

Former Attorney General of the United States

I travel a lot around the country, and when I was in Texas government I traveled a lot around the state, and there were many people, many people who have similar stories. I mean, it is the greatness of this great country. People that come -- because they come up to me after I speak -- and they say, "My story is just like yours. My parents, you know, they had nothing, and here I am. Everyone in our family has gone to college, and this is what I'm doing." I mean it's a wonderful story. So my story is not unique by any stretch. I mean there are many people in this great country who have come from similar beginnings, and because they've worked hard and applied themselves and have put themselves in a position to take advantage of an opportunity that comes along, they're able to do some wonderful things.
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Doris Kearns Goodwin

Pulitzer Prize for History

The one thing that John Kennedy did, above all else, was to energize young people to feel that they wanted to give something to their country. That's what the Peace Corps was all about, what VISTA was all about, what the civil rights movement was all about. That wasn't John Kennedy's doing, but the civil rights movement is a big part of what made his presidency work. And I know, being a young person in that era, it was wonderful to be alive at that time. I just hope, for young people of this generation, that they'll experience that feeling once again, that by working on large goals, they can do something more than their own individual ambition. I know from having been caught in the civil rights movement myself when I was young, it made those days much larger. And it was my experience of a war, in a certain sense, going down to Mississippi in the summer, going down to register people in the South. I value that more than almost anything else I've ever done.
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Doris Kearns Goodwin

Pulitzer Prize for History

My husband worked for President Kennedy, was involved actually in writing the Peace Corps speech, worked for Lyndon Johnson and did all the great voting rights speeches. So these kids know how much we believe in all this. It is hard to penetrate the modern feeling -- and I understand why they feel it -- that politics is about special interests, that it's corrupt, that it's not really after these large goals that it was when we were there. Issues that are debated -- the balanced budget -- are not quite the same dimension as civil rights or the Voting Rights Act. I keep thinking that history runs in cycles, and that some day these large issues will come before the country again. There will be leaders that inspire young people. I don't think it means that it's over forever, but I'm getting pretty impatient. I'm hoping it comes soon, so that my young people can know that experience that we knew in the '60s, and that the World War II generation knew during the '40s.
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Doris Kearns Goodwin

Pulitzer Prize for History

Doris Kearns Goodwin: I think what the American Dream means to me is the fact that -- what founded this country -- when I think about those posters that were put up in Europe which said, "Come to America and you'll have golden sidewalks. The land will be yours." There was something so inspirational about the fact that these immigrants from all over the world felt that here was a place of freedom, a place of opportunity. There is still something about Ellis Island, whenever I see it, that makes me realize that the root, in some ways, of this country was that people felt that this was a new land, without a class society, without an aristocratic background, where if you worked hard you could become what you want to become. It's only partly true. I mean, obviously there's racism in this society. There's economic benefits that go to people who are wealthy. There are some people who don't really have a chance. But on the other hand, there's always somebody who makes it through -- even from the worst ghetto -- that makes it through to the top of the society, and that's not true in a lot of other countries. I think that's still what the American Dream means: that with perseverance, with hard work, you can become something, that the classes won't prevent you from becoming, that there's a movement up that ladder with hard work.
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Stephen Jay Gould

Evolutionary Biologist and Paleontologist

It is after all a fairly standard sequence in American history, isn't it? My grandparents were Eastern European immigrants who went through Ellis Island like everybody else, and you have this three-generational sequence. My grandparents were in the clothing business, in the sweatshops in New York, and then the next generation, my parents, sort of scratch their way into the middle classes, but don't become professionals or get a college education. And then the next generation -- me -- goes on to professional life.
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Stephen Jay Gould

Evolutionary Biologist and Paleontologist

Paleontology seemed an oddity. It wasn't the usual path of that third generation that makes it into the professions. Law and medicine is probably more common, but they were totally supportive. I somehow always knew I was going to go to college and be a professional of some sort. I had no idea what college was. It was kind of scary. I thought you had to study all day, which in fact you do. But my grandparents, who were sort of old country, Hungarian and Yiddish speakers -- it was, if anything, more of a puzzle, but it sounded wonderful -- they were, again, supportive. I remember my grandfather telling me I really ought to go to MIT, because that's the one place he knew about that was a technical education. Nothing to do with paleontology, but they thought it was fine. They were very happy to see a grandchild who was obviously intellectually fascinated, and who was going to have the opportunities that they had never had.
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