The last 100 years have seen a few folks stand out to become some of the greatest influencers in the history of Mankind. I deem it pertinent to research and document extensive profiles of these super influencers and their remarkable feats as regards business, leadership, human rights, etc. First on the list is Donald Trump, the current president of the United States. We will take a detailed look at his early days, exploring how his family has always succeeded, how he built his empire and his travails in politics. This will be a 5-parts series.
The contest for who would take over the office of the President of the United States in 2017 was one of the hottest in the political history of the country. In the end, the choice narrowed down to two heavy-weights, veteran politician Hillary Clinton- who have been actively involved in the political scene as first lady, senator, and secretary of state- and the controversial billionaire and real estate magnate, Donald J. Trump. It was a hotly contested race with the winner emerging not by popular vote but rather the vote in the Electoral College. In the usual Trump-style, this victory was with a list of remarkable records, some perceived as positive and some negative. Donald Trump became the oldest and wealthiest person to win the white house seat and the first without a record of military or government service. He was also the second president since Ronald Reagan to have gone through a divorce. The race had its high points and low points for both candidates but in the end, Trump won.
Donald Trump was not a greenhorn in American politics, the fact that he won is a testament to his tenacity and a curious ability to weather the storms that accompany the process of achieving anything worthwhile. The skills that have served him at various times in his life- as a student, as a property developer on the Manhattan business landscape, as a media personality and as a public citizen- would also serve to propel him to the White House. There are those who wonder how Donald John Trump ever made it to the White House but then Trump has always been an ambitious fellow.
However there is more to success than ambition- there is the place of focus, determination, tenacity and following through by all means possible. Donald J. Trump is an embodiment of these traits and his story illustrates how well these traits have served him and as well when they failed him.
Birth and growing up
Donald J. Trump was born in 1946 in Queens, New York City. He was the fourth of five children birthed by Frederick C. and Mary M. Trump. The elderly Trump- a descendant of Lutheran Germans- was a builder and real estate developer who specialized in constructing and operating middle-income apartments. Frederick’s operation has a wide geographic cover as he was involved in various developments in the Staten Island and Brooklyn sections of New York. In the nick of time, Donald J. Trump would someday share an office with his father in the process of laying the foundations for his own real estate empire tower. The young Trump was an energetic and bright child and enrolled at the Kew Forest School for his kindergarten through seventh- grade studies. After Kew Forest, the New York Military Academy was the next stop on his academic journey. The signature defiance of convention and the streak of playing by his own rules began manifesting at this stage when his parents discovered that the young Trump was already making trips to Manhattan on his own and without their permission. Trump was admitted into Fordham University in 1964 and in 1966- in order to have a more robust knowledge of the real estate business- he transferred to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania which was one of a handful of institutions offering courses in real estate management. He graduated from Wharton in 1968.
In her more than 200 years of political existence, the United States of America has always had presidents with prior government or military service records- from George Washington down to Theodore Roosevelt down to Barack Obama- Donald Trump is the only exception. The Vietnam War was at its apogee when Trump was in college. He obtained four military service deferments during this period even though he was certified fit for service by a military examination board and the local draft board. Critics have tried to use this point to question Donald Trump’s patriotism whenever political issues crop up.
The first Trump to make a fortune in America did so during the gold rush, rather than exploiting gold he was contented with the provision of necessary services. His own son took a much more stable route, learning the building trade and starting a real estate development company. The second Fred C. Trump took advantage of the housing boom which resulted from the policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt during the New Deal Era through the ‘50s to expand his company and made a fortune in the process. Fred C. Trump’s decision to go into real estate development would have tremendous implications for history because it laid the foundation for the emergence of his son who would one day tower over the Manhattan property development landscape. Donald J. Trump took over the family business in 1971 and it was he who christened the company ‘The Trump Organization’. He soon went on a drive for expansion.
Trump’s goal of being a large scale developer translated into construction and renovation of skyscrapers, golf courses, casinos, and hotels. Prior to taking over the company in 1971, Donald Trump’s first main project was the revitalization of the Swifton Village complex in 1969. The complex was suffering from poor management and low occupancy rates with two of every five rooms unoccupied. Trump in partnership with his father turned the complex around and occupancy rates were increased from 66% to 100% in a few months. This simple accomplishment would go on to serve as a blueprint for future turn-around projects. This period also marked the beginning of a life of controversy and being in the limelight. In 1973, Donald Trump and his father Fred C. came under the radar of the justice department because of allegations that their company made use of discriminatory policies in renting out apartments to tenants.
The crux of the allegation was that the company discriminated against blacks and other minorities who wanted to rent apartments. Father and son countered this charge, stating that the company’s rent policy is dictated by factors such as income and legal records which unfortunately stood the African Americans of that era in no good stead. The issue was resolved through the adoption of the Urban League as an intermediary for African Americans seeking to rent an apartment. The episode was to have a lasting impact on junior Trump. A principal player in this episode was Trump’s attorney Roy Cohn who had a flair for responding forcefully to attacks on his interest and valued publicity- even negative, to Roy Cohn even bad publicity could be shaped to his own purposes. This thinking was to influence Donald Trump and its effects were seen in how he handles attacks and always seeks to be in the limelight albeit with methods that would have been considered disputatious. This particular perspective would also play to his advantage during the presidential campaigns that culminated in his election to the White House.
Part 2 will shed more light on Trump’s business and leadership successes and how we can benefit from his vast array of experiences. Stay tuned…