Jeff Bezos and his parents’ rags to riches story

by WorldTribune Staff, August 2, 2020

An “unexpected argument for liberty” popped up during congressional testimony on competition in digital markets, a columnist noted.

In a Wednesday virtual appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos “shared an inspiring message about this great land and its infinite possibilities,” James Freeman noted in a July 29 op-ed for the Wall Street Journal.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that it was easily the most powerful and compelling testimony offered in the halls of Congress since Tuesday.”

Appearing along with other tech CEOs before the committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee, Bezos noted that while he may be the richest man on the planet, he didn’t exactly start out that way.

In his opening statement to the subcommittee, Bezos said:

My mom, Jackie, had me when she was a 17-year-old high school student in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Being pregnant in high school was not popular in Albuquerque in 1964. It was difficult for her. When they tried to kick her out of school, my grandfather went to bat for her. After some negotiation, the principal said, “OK, she can stay and finish high school, but she can’t do any extracurricular activities, and she can’t have a locker.” My grandfather took the deal, and my mother finished high school, though she wasn’t allowed to walk across the stage with her classmates to get her diploma. Determined to keep up with her education, she enrolled in night school, picking classes led by professors who would let her bring an infant to class. She would show up with two duffel bags—one full of textbooks, and one packed with diapers, bottles, and anything that would keep me interested and quiet for a few minutes.

My dad’s name is Miguel. He adopted me when I was four years old. He was 16 when he came to the United States from Cuba as part of Operation Pedro Pan, shortly after Castro took over. My dad arrived in America alone. His parents felt he’d be safer here. His mom imagined America would be cold, so she made him a jacket sewn entirely out of cleaning cloths, the only material they had on hand. We still have that jacket; it hangs in my parents’ dining room. My dad spent two weeks at Camp Matecumbe, a refugee center in Florida, before being moved to a Catholic mission in Wilmington, Delaware. He was lucky to get to the mission, but even so, he didn’t speak English and didn’t have an easy path. What he did have was a lot of grit and determination. He received a scholarship to college in Albuquerque, which is where he met my mom. You get different gifts in life, and one of my great gifts is my mom and dad. They have been incredible role models for me and my siblings our entire lives.

Bezos went on to say:

The initial start-up capital for Amazon.com came primarily from my parents, who invested a large fraction of their life savings in something they didn’t understand. They weren’t making a bet on Amazon or the concept of a bookstore on the internet. They were making a bet on their son. I told them that I thought there was a 70% chance they would lose their investment, and they did it anyway.

Freeman noted of Bezos’s testimony: “Gratitude has perhaps been in short supply lately in our public discourse, and who would have guessed it could be found at the House Judiciary Committee? The Bezos testimony explained his entrepreneurial success and the risk-taking American culture that encourages such ventures. It seems unlikely that Bezos would describe himself as a supply-sider, but he also explained how such an environment allows companies to create amazing inventions that consumers never demanded but quickly embrace.”


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