At the top of my summer reading list is The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T.J. Stiles , which won the 2010 Pulitzer Price for autobiography.  I am amazed at the disparaging treatment the typical history book gives our founding industrial fathers.  Often derided “robber barrons,” men like Vanderbilt – and his later co-horts Carniege, Mellon, and Rockefeller – took this country from a colonial backwater and turned it into an industrial power.  Their rise to power was not achieved through birthright or class, but rather through risk, merit, and hardwork.  Moreover, they built their fortunes with a simple can do spirit that embodied the age in which they lived and which, unfortunately, is all too lacking in our current era. 

Raise a glass:  Tonight I ask you to raise a glass to the risk takers.  They built this country. 

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