The holiday season is a time when I meet with people to discuss their dreams, and their fears, for the coming year. They often ask why I am optimistic when there is so much to be worried about. Am I blind to the world around me or do I know something they don’t know?
Author Charles Geisst wrote an enlightening book called “100 years of Wall Street.” It takes the reader on a fascinating journey from Wall Street’s humble beginnings to when it became the world’s largest investment market. It talks of the scandals and corruption that plagued “The Street” since its inception, and the continual efforts of Washington to regulate it. Powerful politicians would regularly declare war on the evil financiers of Wall Street and through legislation, hearings, and prosecution, attempt to clean up the mess. These were very public battles with each side blaming the other for the problems, yet behind closed doors the two sides were cutting questionable deals and scratching backs. “100 years of Wall Street” could easily lead a reader to become a cynic.
As a famous philosopher, (Pollyanna) once said, “If you look for the bad you will surely find it.” I am not blind to the evil in the world around me. “100 years” focuses on some of the problems with capitalism, but that is nothing new. It reveals selfishness and corruption in Washington but once again, no surprise there. Nor do Wall Street and Washington have monopolies on scandal. Wherever there is great money, there will always be great temptation.
When I read the book, what really struck me was the big picture that came into view. The Wall Street scandals over the years have been overshadowed by the unparalleled success of the system in creating wealth for the American people. In providing funding to fuel the world’s largest economy, Wall Street has helped, not just the 1%, but millions of average American families build their own personal wealth. In no other country do so many people have such access to a nation’s wealth. The ability for average working-class Americans to invest in and profit from the genius, ambition, hard work and creativity of others remains one of our great privileges. The employment opportunities offered by the Wall Street wealth creation machine is the envy of the world.
When I see business leaders working honestly and tirelessly to continue the American Dream, when I watch my client’s monthly dividend checks from those companies come in month after month, when I read of young entrepreneurs staying up late working on the next breakthrough, how can I not be optimistic?
For every sorrow, national tragedy, act of evil or scandal, there are millions of good, honest, hard-working Americans out there doing the right thing. In fact, most of them are. That is why I am optimistic. That is why I choose to look for the good and, in the years to come, I fully intend on continuing to help people find it.