Saturday, June 16, 2012

The National :: Colonel Sanders and the American Dream

Colonel Sanders and the American Dream
by Josh Ozersky
Colonel Sanders: the American Dream inside a bucket of fried chicken
Steve Donoghue

Josh Ozersky, in his earnest Colonel Sanders and the American Dream, stresses at the outset his alarm over the fact that a growing number of Americans don't realise that unlike Uncle Ben - in fact unlike any other such marketing creation - Colonel Sanders was a real person, not a corporate creation. And not only a real person, an exemplar: "More than almost anyone in the hagiographic literature of American business, he truly lived the American Dream."

Ozersky's book is part of the University of Texas Press's Discovering America series, which operates on the premise that much of US history still remains to be written and sets out to tell the peculiar and perhaps illustrative side stories that get lost in the drama of wars and westward expansion. But since the food company that Colonel Sanders founded, Kentucky Fried Chicken - KFC - has a worldwide reach (more than 15,000 outlets in more than 100 countries), it's incumbent on Ozersky to do a little clarifying about that central conceit of his book - just what is the American Dream?

 He rejects the simple definition: "Often it is used to describe hard work leading to fortune, but there is nothing especially American about that; that is the Protestant work ethic wrapped in a flag," he writes. Instead, he digs deeper: "The phrase 'American Dream' was coined specifically to describe a state of egalitarian opportunity, a novus orbis where a man might transcend his roots and create himself as he saw fit." Our author's main contention in this energetic little book is that people shouldn't forget that Harlan Sanders was a real person, because forgetting that fact would drastically lessen the heroism of the man's personal journey from obscure beginnings to global figure.

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