I dare you to read—without shedding a tear of joy—Jeff Bezos’s July 29 statement before a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on antitrust. Even given a few paeans to “climate change,” “income inequality,” “much-needed race reckoning,” and an apparent confusion about the nature of democracy, his statement is one of the most beautiful defenses of the entrepreneurial American spirit that I’ve ever heard from a CEO. He tells the story of his hardworking parents, his youthful exploits as “a garage inventor,” his decision to leave a steady job and take on massive risk to start an online book retailer, Amazon’s many trying years, and what it’s doing today to fulfill “its long-term mission of making it Earth’s most customer-centric company.” This memory of his brought a smile to my face:
Unlike many other countries around the world, this great nation we live in supports and does not stigmatize entrepreneurial risk-taking. I walked away from a steady job into a Seattle garage to found my startup, fully understanding that it might not work. It feels like just yesterday I was driving the packages to the post office myself, dreaming that one day we might be able to afford a forklift.
Bezos also defends big corporations, saying, “I love garage entrepreneurs—I was one. But, just like the world needs small companies, it also needs large ones. There are things small companies simply can’t do. I don’t care how good an entrepreneur you are, you’re not going to build an all-fiber Boeing 787 in your garage.” These are the kind of ambitious projects we should be encouraging, not discouraging with ever-looming threats of antitrust investigations. “It’s not a coincidence,” Bezos says,
that Amazon was born in this country. More than any other place on Earth, new companies can start, grow, and thrive here in the U.S. Our country embraces resourcefulness and self-reliance, and it embraces builders who start from scratch. We nurture entrepreneurs and start-ups with stable rule of law, the finest university system in the world, the freedom of democracy, and a deeply accepted culture of risk-taking.
We can only maintain that culture if we celebrate heroes such as Jeff Bezos, and there’s much to celebrate. Read his full statement here—and share!
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