Why do public figures who are clearly “born on third base” insist they hit their own triple?
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh claims he didn’t get any help getting into Yale after graduating from Georgetown Prep. “I have no connections there,” he said last week in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I got there by busting my tail.” At Yale, however, Kavanaugh would be considered a legacy admission. His grandfather, Edward Everett Kavanaugh, attended.
Donald Trump boasts that he is a self-made billionaire who received no family help except for a $1 million loan from his father that he paid back with interest. But a sweeping investigative report by The New York Times estimates that Trump received at least $413 million, in today’s dollars, from his father’s real estate business. Yet Trump holds tightly to his personal bootstrap story.
No doubt both Kavanaugh and Trump have personal characteristics that helped them to advance in life. They may have “busted their tails,” as many low-wage workers also do. Hard work, creativity, and entrepreneurship should be celebrated and rewarded. But to deny the transformative role of family wealth and connections in future success is to pretend that there is no such thing as advantage.