Charles Petzold

I Owe My Success to the United States Government

July 20, 2012
Roscoe, N.Y.

On December 16, 1960, my father, age 35, was killed in an aircraft disaster as he flew home from a business trip. I was seven years old, my brother was six, and my sister was two.

My mother had several options. She could have remarried. Over the years that followed my father's death there were several available widowers in the neighborhood. But I'm glad she never picked one of them. These guys were not very educated and as a result tended to disparage education. They had primitive views on life, and sometimes seemed on the verge of violence. I fear that I might have been badly influenced living in the same house with them.

My mother could also have gotten a job. But she would have needed to find someone or someplace to care for my sister during working hours, and for me and my brother during the summer. We probably would have been latchkey kids, coming home to an empty house after school, and later trying to derive some motherly sustenance from a woman exhausted from a day at work. Without proper parental guidance, I could have sought friendship among the more delinquent children who inhabited the town where I grew up.

Fortunately neither of these options was necessary. We live in a country in which our forefathers and foremothers provided for situations exactly like this one. We three children were entitled to Social Security survivor benefits that my mother received to help support our family.

The result is that my mother was able to stay at home and raise her children, providing a loving home and nurturing parental support to me and my siblings. She was able to continue being deeply involved in our lives and our education. Over the years I have come to see this upbringing as essential to my development as a human being, and as a productive member of society.

Many people who are successful entrepreneurs or who have started successful businesses can often point to someone or something that gave them a necessary boost. None of us do this on our own. To me, the most important component of the help I received in my career came very early in my life in the form of a monthly check from the United States government.

I sincerely thank the Americans who came before me for putting the Social Security system in place, and for paying into it. I'm sure there are many children today who have lost parents to various tragedies, but who are surviving better than they would otherwise with the help of checks from Social Security.

These checks are an investment in America's future, and they are as important as any other type of investment in the citizens and enterprises of the future.