I owe Donald Trump an apology. Until now I have viewed him as spoiled, self-indulgent and narcissistic. But I was wrong. There is a side to The Donald heretofore kept secret, hidden in the shadow cast by his modesty. It is a rags-to-riches tale of a young man surmounting seemingly impossible odds and clearing seemingly impossible hurdles. But let Mr. Trump tell you his own story, in his own words.
During a town hall hosted by NBC’s Today Show, Trump was asked if at any point in his life anybody had ever told him “no.” “Oh, many times,” he said. “I’ve been told ‘no’ many times. I mean, my whole life really has been a ‘no,’ and I’ve fought through it.”
And how he has. But let’s once again turn to Mr. Trump.
“It’s not been easy for me,” he said. “It has not been easy for me, and, you know, I started off in Brooklyn. My father gave me a small loan of $1 million. I came into Manhattan, and I had to pay him back and pay him back with interest.”
So there you have it – Donald Trump made it in the jungle of New York City on nothing more than a million dollar loan from his father. How many of you can claim to have overcome such a hardship? My guess is not one in a million.
Young Donald was born in a family that by any reasonable standard would be judged as deprived. (When he died, Trump’s father, Fred – an affluent real estate tycoon — had amassed a fortune worth $250 to $300 million.) Donald’s story is a remarkable series of hardships, starting from attending the private Kew-Forest School in Forest Hills to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Then came the Viet Nam war. Clearly to his regret, Trump was unable to serve in the war due to a medical deferment. He blamed “heel spurs,” though earlier this year he told an audience in Iowa he couldn’t quite remember which foot the spur was in.
From there it’s been one difficulty after another, culminating in his $7 million Sikorsky helicopter, his Boeing 757 (designed to carry 43 passengers secured with 24 caret gold plated seat belts, a dining room, big screen TVs, a master and a guest bedroom and even a shower) and a Cessna Citation X jet. And then there’s his $100 million apartment high atop the Trump Tower in Manhattan, modeled after the Palace of Versailles and boasting floor-to-ceiling windows, hand-painted ceilings, fountains, paintings, and decorated in 24K gold and marble. And of course don’t forget Trump’s oceanside estate in Palm Beach, Florida, a mansion consisting of 58 bedrooms, 33 bathrooms, 12 fireplaces, a spa, a swimming pool, a tennis court, a croquet court and a golf course just minutes away. That would be the same mansion in which, after adding a 20,000-square-foot ballroom, Trump celebrated his 2005 marriage to his third wife, Slovenian model Melania Knauss, holding a reception that included Bill and Hillary Clinton, Simon Cowell, Barbara Walters and Tony Bennett. (Billy Joel sang “Just the Way You Are.”)
It has been hard on Trump, harder than I ever imagined. He is a Survivor; his whole life has been one “no” after another, and he has fought through them all. And to think he did it with nothing but perseverance, hard work, and a million dollar loan from his father.
Peter Wehner is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times.