Herman Cain died on July 30 from complications brought on by COVID-19 and the news quickly unleashed an outpouring of tributes, appreciation and gratitude. His life was a constant rocket ship powered by optimism, confidence and determination. His orbit was the American Dream.
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Cain earned a degree in computer science while doing high-level work for the Department of the Navy and before that graduated from Morehouse College, one of the most celebrated Historically Black Colleges in the nation.
He went to work for Pillsbury, which owned Burger King at the time. He was given a chance to turn around stores in the Philadelphia area and performed so well he was next offered a chance to turn around Godfather’s Pizza.
When he took over the restaurant chain had fallen from number three in the nation to number five. He turned it around by using a disciplined approach that meant the business would endure initial pain in order to achieve long-term growth.
Herman was so successful, when he and a partner made an offer to buy the company Pillsbury agreed. It was around this time when I first read the name Herman Cain. I wanted to be a businessman from a young age and would draw logos and daydream of having big factories and lots of employees.
But dreams need reinforcement. I needed people to look up to so in my greatest moments of doubt I could know others overcame so I could as well. I am not sure where I first read of Herman, could have been in Ebony or Jet or Black Enterprise, but he came into my orbit and lifted me like a rocket.
Cain, Percy Sutton and Reginald Lewis became my de facto mentors.
Later I would have the honor of meeting Herman Cain and we struck up a friendship. In the midst of his rise to superstardom outside of business Cain was always accessible and never changed. In fact it's because he was always the same person that he was propelled into the national limelight as someone that could do for the nation what he once did for an ailing pizza chain.
Herman Cain embraced the Tea Party movement because he was grateful the medical system saved his life in a difficult fight against cancer and he wanted everyone to have the same chance rather than be rejected by an indifferent, cold system that would make decisions based on statistical calculations without measuring a person’s soul or a person’s will to survive.
He was worried about runaway debt knowing it destroyed business and nations. He had ideas and eventually decided to run for president of the United States. He was on a roll and for a period was the favorite to win the Republican nomination. Ironically, politics sank his political effort. But he did not pause. He kept up efforts to serve the nation.
He crisscrossed the nation.
He gave speeches.
He appeared often in the media.
His appearances on my show were always a delight.
Herman eventually got his own nationally syndicated radio show and was just embarking on his own show in Newsmax. Did I say he was a rocket ship?
I looked up one of those Black Enterprise articles that celebrated his success at Godfather’s Pizza. It talked about his confidence and the significance of being the largest shareholder of a $234 million company in 1988. Herman observed:
“This demonstrates that Blacks can make it in mainstream corporate America…it can be done.”
I say to all Americans chasing a dream or ever in doubt to remember the words of Herman Cain:
“It can be done.”
Charles Payne is the host of Making Money with Charles Payne (weekdays 2-3PM/ET)