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Entrepreneurship Creates Opportunity

Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas

Over the last few years, I’ve watched people struggle with poverty (and self-worth) not only around the world, across this nation but also in our own back yard. Governments and politicians have tried to help, but generally get it wrong. The answer is not to make everyone the same, but rather to make sure opportunities are available to everyone. I’ve come to realize that entrepreneurship and/or entrepreneurial thinking are the essential ingredients in individuals. Governments and politicians should be concerned with and involved with removing barriers to opportunity.

In the Entrepreneurial Mindset class, we meet Rodney Walker. Rodney grew up in thirteen different foster homes on the south side of Chicago in the 2000’s. When he was younger, he thought there were those on the prosperous side of life and those not on the prosperous side of life. He was in the latter group. In high school, meeting a good mentor and getting involved in the entrepreneurship program is what changed his thinking to realize that he had the opportunity to make his own way and move to the prosperous side of life.

I wrote the following last year before the election. Now, we’ve had a year with emphasis on free ice cream, instead of opportunity and I’m not sure our situation is much better. Maybe it’s time to use some of the free ice cream money to ensure everyone has equal opportunities instead of free ice cream.

We Need Opportunity Not Ice Cream

The story has been around for years. A teacher somewhere in America, generally somewhere between 5th and 7th grade helps her students conduct an election for class president. Class members came up with two nominees, taking turns stating their plans and vision for the class if elected. Candidate #1 laid out specific ideas about ways to improve the class and would work very hard to make the ideas come to life. Candidate #2 said “If you vote for me, I will give you ice cream.” Discussion followed about who would pay for the ice cream. Would parents or the school pay for it? Candidate #2 couldn’t say for sure who would pay but the class didn’t care, they wanted free ice cream. Candidate #2 won the election.

Free Ice Cream if Elected

In every election I can remember there are candidates that promise free ice cream if elected. The notion seems to be more prevalent with every passing election. Some challenges with free ice cream are that it doesn’t always get to everyone, the overall cost is way more than if people just bought their own ice cream and much of it is wasted. The main problem is that, while many people desire the free ice cream, it’s not really healthy and does nothing to promote the physical and emotional well-being of the recipients.

Humans Made to Work

Human beings, as well as most of the animal kingdom, are made to be self-sufficient, “making a living” by working. In earlier eras, choices were limited to hunting (game), gathering (fruits, vegetables and grains) and building shelter from the elements. For those of us with Judeo-Christian religious backgrounds, we believe this started when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden and told they would now have to work hard to make a living. Over time, commerce evolved into marketplaces where people could choose from a wide variety of ways to make a living besides hunting and gathering. We get to choose our way of becoming self-sufficient, productive members of society, serving others as employees or entrepreneurs in exchange for a means to have a fulfilling life with enough money to have food to eat and a roof over our heads.

Kids Want Opportunity

The need to work to be productive is innate. When we take that away by giving free ice cream, we do a disservice. We see that in the Lab (or at least we saw it before the pandemic) all the time. Kids want to learn and do for themselves. Many have been programmed to be dependent on teachers or parents for answers, but when we give them an opportunity to learn, grow and work on their own, we see a transformation take place. If everyone, not only in America, but around the world was given equal opportunity to learn, grow and work on their own, the world would be a very different place.

Opportunity, not free ice cream, is what we need to make America work better. America was founded as a land of opportunity where people could escape tyranny and make their own way in a new world. It needs to be equal opportunity for all, not free ice cream for all. All of us, the politicians, educators, government officials, everyone in society have a responsibility to do everything we can to provide equal opportunity to everyone; a hand up, not a handout.

Jim Correll can be reached at (620) 252-5349 or by email at jcorrell@indycc.edu. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Fab Lab ICC or Independence Community College. Archive columns and podcasts at www.fablabicc.org.


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