The American Dream is increasingly viewed among the disaffected populace of the United States as a child’s fantasy. The realities of crushing wealth inequality, ghettos as dysfunctional as the most putrid Haitian slum and a public school system that is the laughing stock of the entire developed world have begun to take a dire toll on the mojo of the once-boisterous American psyche.
But even as America’s melting pot converts into the bed pan of a failed empire, the proposition nation is able to export more than oil wars and trashy consumerist culture. The one proposition that America has contributed to the good of the Earth’s peoples may be the American Dream – a quaint notion that hard work and determination are more important in deciding one’s station in life than some feudal caste into which they were, by accident, born.
Although the American Dream may be as dead as the attendees at the Constitutional Convention, abroad, it lives on in unlikely places. Countries that Uncle Sam once hardly deigned to scoff at for their lowliness now threaten the very primacy that the Monroe Doctrine had established as geopolitical fact for more than 200 years. Countries like Mexico and Brazil, once considered fallow malaria swamps peopled by half-dressed savages and highwaymen are now rising miraculously to become regional leaders in terms both economic and cultural.
Brazil, in particular, has undergone incredible growth and advancement over the last 50 years. Once the third-world fiefdom of tyrants and brutal caudillos, Brazil has rapidly industrialized and modernized its economy, converting it into the largest economy in Latin America, with one of the highest per-capita GDPs in the region.
With this unprecedented growth has come rich opportunity. Perhaps no one exemplifies the rise of Brazil to global eminence better than Luiz Carlos Trabuco Cappi, the CEO of Brazilian banking giant Bradesco.
Trabuco Cappi was born into humble circumstances in the small town of Marilia, Sao Paulo in 1951. Although middle-class by Brazilian standards of the time, the circumstances of his upbringing would probably be recognized by most Americans as being those of grinding poverty.
Trabuco Cappi was able to get excellent grades in high school. However, his family had no money to send him to college. As a result, he was forced to go join the labor market. He was eventually hired at a local bank, Bradesco. Over the following decades, Trabuco Cappi slowly moved up through the corporate hierarchy, proving himself to be a quick study and able leader. Throughout the 1970s, he was able to put himself through night school at the prestigious University of Sao Paulo. By the end of that decade, he had attained a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in social psychology.
Trabuco Cappi was now making far more money than any member of his family had ever done before. By the mid-1980s, he had been appointed to his first executive roles with the bank. Throughout the 90s and 2000s, Trabuco Cappi proved to be instrumental in the rise of Bradesco from a small local bank into one of the most important financial institutions in the country. In 2009, he was rewarded for his years of service and profitable leadership by being given the position of CEO.
In less than 40 years, Trabuco Cappi had managed to completely transcend his class of origin. Even though such precipitous ascents from the bottom of Brazilian society to the top do not happen with a high frequency, they happen often enough to suggest that Brazil may be a better incubator of the American Dream than America itself.