Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg just turned thirty. Not a landmark event by any measure, but his story and more importantly, his abundant success are a perfect example of how America is still the land of opportunity. There are still many dark reaches on this planet where creativity is stifled by oppression, speech muted by aggression and dreams laid to waste by violence. Zuckerberg’s rise from college drop out to billionaire in his twenties is an inspiring reminder of all the magnificent things that can still be made in America.
Son to a dentist and a psychiatrist, Mark Zuckerberg was considered a computer prodigy from a young age. His talent encouraged and cultivated with tutoring, he developed his craft and excelled academically. Finding himself at Harvard, Zuckerberg began developing what would later become Facebook. Taking the non-traditional route, he dropped out of college his sophomore year to pursue his dream, and what a ride it has been.
The talent and hard work that went into making his dream a reality were a good foundation for success. However, in countries like North Korea children at very young ages are designated to career paths rather than, as it is in America, given the opportunity to find and follow their passion as Zuckerberg did. For North Korean children their entire existence becomes the single-minded pursuit of mastering their selected craft. Because of this policy, throngs of highly talented, driven and hardworking people are lost in the folds of history.
In recent times as economies have slumped, fortunes have been lost and for many, the future has become less sure, people have taken shots at the United States. Meanwhile, vast territories across the globe still writhe with poverty, democide and fear. Countless artists, musicians and writers absorbed by the countries they happen to be born in, never even get a chance to share their visions with the world.
Many people have lost sight of the freedom and opportunity America still offers to those willing to dream big. Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook from his college dorm room because he understood that the country he lived in not only provided an arena for entrepreneurs, but also richly rewarded the bold. The history of the United States is replete with people from all across the globe who were able to exercise their gifts and cultivate their ideas into pursuits that changed the world.
Mark Zuckerberg turning thirty should be a celebration not only of his bright contribution to the world, but also a celebration of the country that made it possible. There are no success stories like his rising from the ashes of war-torn areas like Bosnia or Iran. The remarkable abilities forced to lie dormant across the globe do not push through from areas of vast, suffocating poverty like Nigeria or Somalia.
Rob Haggart, the former director of photography for Men’s Journal said: “Nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.” Talent, and people’s need to satisfy the abilities they have, require the nutrients of opportunity and freedom to blossom. The American Dream may not be what it used to be, but dreaming is still very American. Mark Zuckerberg represents the epitome of that dream realized, and with his walk into the next decade of life he is a reminder of all this country enables its dreamers to believe in and to achieve.
Opinion by J. Benjamin