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Key to success: Vision Key to success: Passion Key to success: Perseverance Key to success: Preparation Key to success: Courage Key to success: Integrity Key to success: The American Dream Keys to success homepage More quotes on Passion More quotes on Vision More quotes on Courage More quotes on Integrity More quotes on Preparation More quotes on Perseverance More quotes on The American Dream


Frank McCourt

Pulitzer Prize for Biography

We didn't want to look like we came from the lane, but you could spot us a mile away. The urchins from the lanes. We had that look. You see kids roaming the big cities, in New York, in America, the inner cities as they say. You see bands of kids and you know. You know where they came from. You can spot them. They're roaming around. And you look at some of them, they don't want to be there, they want to be someplace else. They want to be a part of what they're walking through, the fine streets and the broad avenues. And that's the way I felt. I didn't want to be detected as a slum kid, but there was no choice. We had no clothes. We didn't have clothes. So when I came to New York I tried to pass myself off as middle class. I even tried to affect an American accent. It didn't work. I tried some days. Even nowadays my wife falls on the floor laughing at my attempt at an American accent. So we all wanted to sound like James Cagney.
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Frank McCourt

Pulitzer Prize for Biography

I wanted to be something else but I didn't know what. There was no clear cut dream. I thought I'd like to have a job, a decent job in an office. I'd like to be in an office sitting behind a desk, pushing papers around, making little decisions about pushing papers, get out at 5:00 o'clock, meet this gorgeous girl and we'd probably get married and have two-and-a-half kids and live out in Long Island or someplace like that, and I'd go to mass every Sunday morning, be nice and warm and clean, and I'd be accepted, and I'd lose my Irish accent, and I'd sound like James Cagney. I didn't know what to do. I read a lot. I discovered the 42nd Street Library. That's what I did. I read and read and read voraciously and widely. Then I was liberated from this menial job I had in a hotel. I was the man with the dust pan and the broom in the lobby. I was liberated by the Chinese who attacked Korea and America drafted me and sent me to Germany for two years. I don't know what I would have done if the Chinese hadn't attacked Korea. I'm a victim of history in Ireland and I'm a beneficiary of history in America.
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Frank McCourt

Pulitzer Prize for Biography

I had to show what happened to this young man, me, who I hope would be a prototype for all immigrants. What happened to me. How I made my way through New York, which is a fearful place to get through, and how accidentally certain things happened, and how I made certain things happen. That's kind of a balance. Some things happen to you. I made certain decisions. I made a decision that I wasn't going to be a cop, that I wasn't going to be a bartender. That I wasn't going to stay in some menial job for the rest of my -- because of my anger. I'm better than this. And most people know they're better than that.
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Frank McCourt

Pulitzer Prize for Biography

The day I retired from teaching, again, was one of the most satisfying days of my life and it was sad, but when I -- the day I retired, I went home and I was by myself and I was having a glass of wine. I was thinking about the lunch the teachers gave me that day. The retirement lunch. And I was able to look back on that life, that 30 years in the classroom, and say -- I was able to congratulate myself. I'm glad I did that. That was good. I felt useful, that I don't think I would have felt if I had gone into business or something like that. So that was -- that was that deep satisfaction that I had, that I had followed some kind of a daily -- what would you call it?-- discipline. And I was dealing with kids, and I hope that I had been of some use, of some help. You never know. But they've told me. I meet the kids, former students, and they tell me that I was of help.
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David McCullough

Two Pulitzer Prizes for Biography

Jimmy Stewart -- the part Jimmy Stewart is playing -- is very important. He's almost always playing the same part, and that is the seemingly ordinary, decent American who -- when put to the test in an extreme situation -- rises to the occasion and does the extraordinary. And that's an old, old story in our American way of life. In fact, it's the story of Harry Truman, which is what I've spent the largest part of my creative writing life working on, a project of 10 years. That's the story of Harry Truman, the seemingly ordinary fellow who -- put to the test -- rises to the occasion and does the extraordinary. And, I think we like that story because that's the story of our country.
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David McCullough

Two Pulitzer Prizes for Biography

David McCullough: I think the American dream is the good society. It's the city on the hill. It's what the Founding Fathers talked about, where justice is a way of life, where fundamental rights of citizenship are honored, where the individual counts, but where pulling together in the spirit of all being in the same boat can achieve more than any individual can in isolation or independently. I think it means education. This country was founded on the idea that education for all -- education at its best -- is not just good for the individual, it's essential to the system. The system won't work unless we have an educated population. Democracy demands it. It's the old line in Jefferson: "Any nation that expects to be ignorant and free, expects what never was and never will be."
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Audra McDonald

Six Tony Awards

Audra McDonald: I think every human being has a dream. I think what's special about the American Dream is that it implies, given everything that's happened with the history of America, that there is the opportunity to make your dream come true. So I think America signifies opportunity. I don't think we necessarily have cornered the market on dreams. That's a human thing. But I think opportunity is what the American Dream is about.
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