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Week 7: Oscar Wong & the American Dream at Highland Brewing

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Week 7 of our adventure brought us to Asheville, North Carolina to work with the Highland Brewing Company. Highland was the first business that agreed to host us when we started reaching out to entrepreneurs last November, and it proved to be the perfect capstone engagement for our trip.

We started the week as we did every other week before then, asking the team lots of questions to understand the business, and more importantly to learn the personal stories of the folks we were speaking to. We had several days to dig in to the business, but we always started with personal introductions and individual backgrounds to create a connection that we hoped would go beyond a client relationship. So when we sat down Monday morning with Oscar Wong, Highland’s founder, we started by asking him if he could share the story of how he came that to start a brewery in North Carolina.

His answer was deeply rooted in the American dream, specifically his vision of America as a place where, in his words, “you’re free to fail [where] in other places, you’re not even free to try”, and where hard work pays off more often than not and “more so than in the rest of the world”.

Oscar’s words resonated strongly with all of us, and they struck a particular chord with me as I’ve been reflecting throughout the summer on my experiences living in the US over the past decade. I first set foot in the US as a bright-eyed 15 year old tourist visiting with my family, then again two years later to visit colleges, and finally in 2004 to enroll as a freshman. Since then, I’ve lived in the US for a total of 6 years, and my feelings about this country largely align with Oscar’s.

The States are a place where smarts, hard work, and a wee bit of luck lead to success far more often than in other countries where those same ingredients are nulled by systems designed to keep everyone equal, with some more equal than others. The question is, to what extent can this level playing field be recreated or even improved upon in other nations? Can the American Dream inspire other national dreams, or is it immutably rooted in these 50 States? What do you think?

Posted by Hicham Mhammedi Alaoui

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On August 24, 2013
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