By Anastasia Kaliabakos
All of my grandparents came to the United States in the 1970s, hoping to have a better life than the one they had been afforded in Greece. Growing up, I thought that both of my grandfathers were the epitome of the elusive “American Dream” that everyone always talks about. My grandfather on my mother’s side studied to become a doctor in Italy, but, upon arriving in the United States, had to go through the entire process of residency and fellowship all over again. He made money by working, not only long day shifts, but through the nights as well, all while trying to learn English and supporting my grandmother in raising their two young children. My grandfather on my father’s side was a soccer player back in Greece, and upon moving to America, became a taxi driver and ran a hot dog cart. Both of my grandfathers weathered unforeseeable circumstances and obstacles in order to achieve their successes, and I owe the life that I am able to have to their hard work. However, both of them acknowledge that although life as an immigrant is not at all easy, it is definitely helpful to live in a country like America, where the concept of the American Dream is not just a dream, but a reality.
I am fortunate to have people I am close to that I can look at as role models for my life and who have inspired me every day to utilize the opportunities I have at my disposal to achieve my goals. However, although I typically dislike famous celebrities and large-scale influencers, there is one person I always think about in addition to my grandfathers who has beat all odds to become successful: Elon Musk. Musk is one of the richest people in the world as of 2021 and is probably the most forward-thinking, genius, and down-to-earth billionaire alive. To me, Musk is an excellent example of a true “rags to riches” entrepreneur who also has the passion and drive to change the world for the better.
Elon Musk was born in 1971 in Pretoria, South Africa. His parents divorced when he was just nine years old, and he faced a lot of awful experiences during his childhood. In grade school, he was beaten severely by bullies, having to actually make a trip to the hospital at least once. He also had a very tough relationship with his father, and ultimately decided to move away from South Africa with his mother and two siblings later on in his youth. Although Musk did have a lot of hardships early on in life, he also displayed natural entrepreneurial and innovative tendencies. For example, he developed a simple video game when he was only twelve years old and, in college, made money off the house he was living in by turning it into a part-time nightclub. Shortly after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Musk founded Zip2 with his brother, Kimbal. Zip2 was a company that provided city guide software to newspapers and was a revolutionary idea. During the time that it took for Zip2 to grow in popularity, Musk was essentially homeless, living out of his office and showering at the local Palo Alto YMCA. However, his patience paid him well—$22 million, to be exact. And, soon after this feat, Musk co-founded and became CEO of PayPal.
Now, Musk has co-founded and led even more companies that have a paramount impact on the growing world of technology, including Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, and The Boring Company. Musk’s mission at Tesla has been to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy, and with SpaceX, he seeks to develop rockets and spacecraft that can not only orbit the earth and moon but land on other planets as well. Currently, SpaceX is developing Starship, which is the world’s first reusable system that can transport people throughout the celestial sphere. Additionally, Starlink is an upcoming project whose goal is to deliver internet to places where access has been unreliable or unavailable. Musk has been at the forefront of the movement to make humans the first multi-planet species—something unthinkable just a mere few decades ago. Additionally, he recently made the news for his donation of nearly $6 billion to charity, shortly after his Twitter altercation with the United Nations over the issue of ending world hunger. It is evident that Musk is committed to making the world a better place, not just by means of technology, but with philanthropy and compassion as well.
Musk is simply the embodiment of successful eccentricity. He has taken full advantage of the opportunities he has had in the United States, using his immense intellect, forethought, positivity, and creativity to try to change the world. Additionally, he has lived with Asperger syndrome, a disability that could have set him back if he let it. Instead, he has overcome this by becoming one of the most successful and recognized innovators in the world. Musk also has something that his rivals do not (thinking of Bezos and Zuckerberg in particular): a personality. Other CEOs say the most carefully calculated thing in every situation, which makes them uninteresting. Can you name the CEO of Jeep or Ford? I definitely can’t. But everyone knows who Elon Musk is, and that means a lot to his company, his mission, and his personal self-worth. Finally, his journey as an immigrant also proves that if one truly tries to access all the opportunities provided by the seemingly elusive “American Dream,” they too will have the chance to achieve success.
As Musk himself said in his recent SNL debut, “To anyone I’ve offended, I just want to say: I reinvented electric cars and I’m sending people to Mars in a rocketship. Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?”
Anastasia (Stacey) Kaliabakos is a graduate of the Brearley School and is currently a Dana Scholar at the College of the Holy Cross majoring in Classics and Philosophy. She is an opinions editor for Holy Cross’ newspaper, The Spire, editor-in-chief of the Parnassus Classical Journal, and an avid matcha latte consumer. Anastasia has contributed to WestView News since 2018.