This Thursday, the National Football League will kick off its 77th annual draft. By Saturday, 253 young men will be on their way to achieving their version of the American Dream. But there is one man for whom this year’s draft may be even more special. Jacksonville Jaguar’s new owner Shahid Khan will spend his first draft inside the situation room as he continues to fulfill his own American Dream.
A native of Pakistan, Khan came to the United States in the winter of 1967 with nothing but an acceptance letter from the University of Illinois. He found lodging at a local YMCA for $2 per night. In an interview with Forbes, Khan explains his motivation for coming to the United States.
When asked what experiences motivated him to come to America, Khan said, “I heard the streets were paved with gold. I found that to be true.” On his second day, Khan accepted his first job as a dish washer. He made $1.20 per hour. Looking back on his first job, Khan recalls his thoughts:
“My God, what a country. I’m making more money than 99.9 percent of the people in Pakistan. This can’t get any better. Then I began engineering school, which was hard. And I would be saying, you know, if I can make this kind of money without a degree, why should I even be going to engineering school? ”
After pledging a fraternity and developing a social life, Khan quickly realized that he had higher aspirations than dish washing. After graduating, he landed a position at Flex-N-Gate, a company that sells equipment components and mechanical assemblies for cars. In 1978, Khan opened his own business with $16,000 in savings and a small business loan. Two years later, he bought the company he used to work for and turned it into one of the most successful companies in the country. He had now gone from an impoverished Pakistani immigrant to a billionaire. Khan had achieved the American Dream. But he wasn’t finished there.
In November 2011, Khan purchased the Jacksonville Jaguars from Wayne Weaver for $760 million dollars. As an American, Khan had fallen in love with football, and had now achieved his ultimate dream of owning an NFL franchise.
Reflecting on his experience Khan said, “Since the second morning I arrived in ’67, and I started washing dishes, I’ve been pinching myself. This is too good; it can’t get any better. And then you get up every morning, and there’s something else, there’s something else. So the wonderful thing about America is optimism, the American Dream. That is something so precious.”
Khan came to America in search of opportunity. The United States has always been a beacon of both individual and economic freedom. Free enterprise, rule of law, regulatory efficiency, and individual freedom have given all Americans the opportunity to pursue their own dreams without interference. Unfortunately, America is becoming less free. In 2012, the United States fell to number 10 in the Index of Economic Freedom. As the United States moves further away from a free economy, opportunity diminishes for all people. Massive debt, overregulation, and the welfare state threaten the American Dream for future generations.
In the United States, any person regardless of where they come from can achieve great things. We all have our own version of the American Dream. We admire people like Shahid Khan who have achieved their dreams through hard work and determination. Their success inspires us to better ourselves and achieve our own versions of the American Dream.
To learn more about how you can help save the American Dream and ensure prosperity, visit savingthedream.org.
Ryan McNulty is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm