I was raised in Atlanta, Georgia by loving and hardworking parents. We grew up poor, but we grew up happy. Things weren’t always easy, but my mom and dad knew that if they kept their faith in God, faith in themselves and their faith in the greatest country in the world, they, too, could achieve their American Dream.
That dream, we discovered, was for my parents to own their own home and watch their two sons graduate from college. Those dreams required that my father work three jobs to support our family.
The first dream was realized in a brick home on Albert Street. I can still recall the excitement of the day, as he surprised us—even my mother—when he drove us to our new home.
Their second dream was realized when I proudly accepted my degree in mathematics from Morehouse College in 1967 and my brother graduated from Morris Brown College. Both of my father’s American Dreams were achieved. Now, I set off to achieve mine.
One year after graduating, I married the love of my life, Gloria. And together, we started our journey to achieve our Dreams. This meant relocating to Indiana where I would begin my Master’s degree program at Purdue University, while working full-time as a mathematician at the Department of the Navy.
After earning my Master’s degree and six years working for the Department of the Navy, we returned home to Atlanta, where I began to climb the corporate ladder with the Coca-Cola Company. I faced challenges, but I always remembered the values my parents taught me. With enough faith and determination, I knew I could go as high in corporate America as I desired.
I enjoyed a successful career at the Coca-Cola Company and later moved to the Pillsbury Company. Within a short period, I rose to the position of Vice President. When I got there, I thought I had already achieved my American Dream on the 31st floor of the new Pillsbury Corporate Headquarters with a corner office. But I quickly realized I wanted something more.
I resigned my position and started on another path- the restaurant industry. I knew that in order to be successful, I had to start from “the ground up.” This meant broiling hamburgers at Pillsbury’s Burger King division. After nine months of a grueling restaurant experience, I was assigned to lead a low performing region of 450 Burger King restaurants. Within three years, we became the best-performing region in the U.S.
I could have been content with my executive role with one of America’s biggest corporations. Instead, after consulting with my wife, we decided to take one of the biggest risks of our marriage: picking up our young family, relocating yet again and accepting the call to become CEO and President of Godfather’s Pizza, a company teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.
In 14 months, we turned the company around and returned it to profitability, and I ultimately led my management team to a buyout of Godfather’s Pizza. The company never went bankrupt, and today, there are still hundreds of locations across the U.S.
My success at turning around Godfather’s got the attention of fellow restaurateurs around the nation who invited me to join the Board of Directors of the National Restaurant Association and later elected me its chairman. In 1996, they retained me as the full-time President and the CEO of the National Restaurant Association, working on behalf of thousands of small businesses and entrepreneurs.
In 1994, as chairman of the National Restaurant Association, I had the opportunity to speak with President Clinton during a nationally televised town hall meeting. Here, I challenged the President regarding the impact on businesses if his health care overhaul proposal were passed.
President Clinton attempted to assure me and the millions of viewers watching at home that his legislation would not harm American business owners and their employees.
I was skeptical. “Quite honestly Mr. President, your calculations are incorrect,” I said. “In the competitive marketplace, it simply doesn’t work that way.”
Through these and other appearances on behalf of the National Restaurant Association, I began working with business leaders across all sectors of the American economy. This led to my acceptance of a position on the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and I was subsequently elected their chairman.
Today, I host a radio talk show, “The Herman Cain Show,” on Atlanta’s WSB 750 AM/ 95.5 FM. I serve as a regular contributor on several broadcast networks and as a keynote speaker at conferences and events around the nation.
Despite the many professional commitments of my life, I continued to enjoy most the time spent with family and friends. As my children got married and had their own children, I knew that I had an extraordinary obligation to do what I could to make this a safe and prosperous nation for them. The paramount joys in my life are my wife, Gloria, our children and our grandchildren.
I am grateful for the many professional successes I have enjoyed. I am grateful for the steadfast loyalty and unwavering love of my family and friends. And I am grateful for this country that is so exceptional that I was afforded the opportunity to achieve my American Dreams.
I’m not done yet!