None of us are entirely self-made. We must recognise what we owe to the communities that make personal success possible. – Michael Sandel on the tyranny of merit.

Reminds me of something “Knowing History and Knowing Who We Are” by a famous biographer - David McCullough. I always thought he said it in a fairly poetic way.

“Nor is there any such creature as a self-made man or woman. We love that expression, we Americans. But every one who’s ever lived has been affected, changed, shaped, helped, hindered by other people. We all know, in our own lives, who those people are who’ve opened a window, given us an idea, given us encouragement, given us a sense of direction, self-approval, self-worth, or who have straightened us out when we were on the wrong path… Family, teachers, friends, rivals, competitors—they’ve all shaped us.

And so too have people we’ve never met, never known, because they lived long before us. They have shaped us too—the people who composed the symphonies that move us, the painters, the poets, those who have written the great literature in our language. We walk around everyday, everyone of us, quoting Shakespeare, Cervantes, Pope. We don’t know it, but we are, all the time. We think this is our way of speaking. It isn’t our way of speaking—it’s what we have been given.

The laws we live by, the freedoms we enjoy, the institutions that we take for granted—as we should never take for granted—are all the work of other people who went before us… It’s not just a birthright, it is something that others struggled for, strived for, often suffered for, often were defeated for and died for, for us, for the next generation.”

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