- - Sunday, December 1, 2013


Last week, America celebrated another Thanksgiving, a holiday that reminds us to be thankful both for blessings from God and for the many aspects that make this country great. There are far too many reasons to ever list, but among the latter are the virtues of creativity, an entrepreneurial spirit and a vision that gives us the ability to push the envelope and continuously redefine what is possible.

We don’t always notice it when it occurs, but it actually happens every day in the business world in this country. One such example took place this summer in upstate New York where the Oneida Indian Nation unveiled a stunning, first-of-its-kind $25 million multivenue entertainment complex called “Exit 33” at its Turning Stone Resort Casino. Had this new attraction opened around New York City it would have hardly caused a stir, but this project was pursued in a sleepy part of the state hardly known for dining and entertainment.

Remarkably, it was undertaken by the same group of American Indians who fought alongside George Washington and his men during the Revolutionary War. Today they are helping transform this country’s landscape while delivering entertainment and creating hundreds of jobs in the process.

In the past 20 years, the Oneidas have transformed thousands of acres in Verona, N.Y., into a resort destination complete with world-class golf, luxurious spas, a casino, shopping and auditoriums and event halls that attract major sporting events and some of the country’s most famous entertainers. An unlikely story? Yes, but hardly unprecedented.

Imagine what the reaction must have been when the idea was first floated to convert the bone-dry and scorching hot desert of Nevada into the cultural and commercial center that we today know as Las Vegas. Yet decades later, people from all around the world flock there, just as they are drawn to other American cities. People living in central New York, elsewhere in the Northeast, and far beyond now have at their fingertips a range of interesting options which years ago would have seemed unimaginable.

Those I most admire in business are not those always asking “Why?” but those who dare to ask “Why not?”

Our history is filled with examples of men and women who have questioned the status quo and chased unlikely and lofty goals, starting with the Pilgrims who started Thanksgiving after having landed at Plymouth Rock, hardly knowing more than that America wouldn’t have the religious persecution they were fleeing in Europe. Centuries later, the American tradition of taking risks and shooting for the stars helped make us the first in flight, then literally took us to the moon.

Americans have built the most recognizable and beloved global brands, accelerated technology at unthinkable speeds, and constantly set the bar higher for ourselves and the rest of the world.

As our nation continues to recover from the worst recession in a generation, our lives are awash with stories of doomsday and dread. Our college students are returning home to live with their parents, unable to put their degrees to use. Too many people are out of work, unable to make ends meet. Many companies are paralyzed by fear of the unknown, waiting cautiously to see how things shake out.

The current administration continues to wring its hands as it struggles to jump-start the economy. Much of the problem is philosophical. The appropriate role of the government is not to steer our economy or try to control it. It’s to help create the necessary market conditions for the private sector and then get out of the way so small businesses, big businesses and entrepreneurs are able to seize the initiative and build. Left to their own devices, American businessmen will continue to innovate, to explore new horizons, to generate new jobs and to propel our nation forward.

The decision by the Oneida Indian Nation was to double down during a time of economic uncertainty and to embark on its initiatives and build when the economic forecast was allegedly dire. This willingness to swing for the fences at the very time that we are all being conditioned to fret is a powerful example of self-belief and long-term vision.

A healthy dose of optimism, creativity, foresight and an unflagging entrepreneurial spirit have been the recipe for past achievement in this country. They will also be the formula for future success. And future occasions of giving thanks.

• Armstrong Williams is the author of the book “Reawakening Virtues.” Join him from 4 to 5 a.m. and 6 to 7 p.m. daily on Sirius/XM Power 128. Become a fan on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

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