Most people in America have heard the phrase “the American Dream”. Surprisingly, it was only coined in 1931 by James Truslow Adam in his book The Epic of America. Adam’s definition of the American Dream is “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”
I started thinking about the American Dream after reading an article in Forbes about George Feldstein, the 70-year-old founder and CEO of Crestron Electronics. Crestron Electronics makes home automation devises; Mr. Feldstein has been awarded 14 patents for his inventions, and Crestron produces $500 million in annual revenue. But what I find so impressive about Mr. Feldstein is that he does more than just design products from his headquarters in Rockleigh, New Jersey; he actually hires American workers to manufacture the products he has designed. Crestron manufactures 80% of its products—1,500 in all—in the U.S. According to the Forbes article, Crestron has added 500 people in the last five years and now employs 2500 people. Assembly line workers at Crestron earn $17 an hour, are provided with medical care and a 401(k) plan; most of the line workers are Hispanic women from working-class neighborhoods.
Not only does Mr. Feldstein hire U.S. employees, he truly values them. Mr. Feldstein spends about $1 million a year training employees, teaching them new assembly techniques and helping them obtain safety certifications. Mr. Feldstein promotes from within with most of Crestron’s management team being promoted from lesser jobs. In the Forbes article, its author David Ewalt quotes Mr. Feldstein on his view of what to do when the going gets tough; “I have great belief in American enterprise. When the economy went south we brought everything in-house and paid more for it, rather than lay people off. People don’t realize the importance of the continuity of labor.” Rather refreshing to hear from an American CEO isn’t it?
Mr. Feldstein is the embodiment of the American Dream. This country provided him with the opportunity to succeed based on his abilities and hard work and he has made the most of it. Mr. Feldstein grew up in New York City and attended New York University where he received his master’s degree in electronic engineering. After concluding that he was better off working for himself than for others, he started his company in a room above a delicatessen. Beginning with nothing but his drive, intelligence and a few tools, Mr. Feldstein has created a very successful corporation and a comfortable life for himself and his family. But more than that, he has also provided the opportunity to other members of our extended American family who work at Crestron “to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” For this, Mr. Feldstein should rightly be celebrated.
Millions of Americans are out of work. I believe that if Americans like you and I would buy more products, such as the products produced by Crestron Electronics in New Jersey, we could put quite a few members of our extended American family back to work. I ask you to join with me in this effort. Thanks.