North Stafford High School
First Place Winner, Virginia
The Doctor and the General (and the President and the Plantation Owner and the Businessman)
Whoever said comparing apples and oranges was challenging clearly never compared a Founding Father with a “gangsta rap” rapper. At first glance, it would seem that George Washington and Andre Romelle Young, better known as Dr. Dre, are so profoundly different they seem like separate species. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that these two men share an inherent quality that distinguishes each from his contemporaries: the entrepreneurial spirit. Jean Baptiste Say is the Frenchman credited with coining the term “entrepreneur”. He was a great admirer of Adam Smith, and saw the entrepreneur as the “adventurer” who helps drive the world’s economy (Beattie). Today, the entrepreneurial spirit has expanded to include the values of those individuals who are daring enough to challenge the status quo, work tirelessly to achieve their goals, and truly be different. Although George Washington was already thirty-six when Jean Baptiste Say was born in 1767, he is considered by many to be America’s first entrepreneur. Dr. Dre, born to a teen mom in the tough area of Compton in the racially charged 1960s, built a billion dollar empire out of his unique style and incredible work ethic (Dr. Dre). These two men are indeed both great entrepreneurs, and although they came from wildly different backgrounds and their journeys to success took them on different paths, both had limited educations; were willing to work with others; and were prepared to strike out on their own. They employed these traits to make contributions to their fields that ranged from setting presidential precedent to laying the groundwork for an entirely new rap genre. That being said, the exceptional circumstances under which George Washington operated as an entrepreneur, and his willingness to break into uncharted territory and bring his entrepreneurial spirit and business mind into fields that others did not, make him a more impressive entrepreneur than Dr. Dre.
George Washington and Dr. Dre, both as men and as entrepreneurs, share a number of similarities ranging from their education to their willingness to cooperate and work with others. Few would imagine that a Founding Father’s education would draw any parallels to that of a rapper from Compton, yet both men received a sort of basic “street smarts” education that proved invaluable throughout their lives. Dr. Dre moved from school to school growing up, his mother attempting to escape the rougher parts of town. He spent a significant portion of his high school years fixated on his social image and learning the ins and outs of the rap scene rather than receiving a formal education in the arts and sciences. Washington’s father died when he was just eleven, so rather than receiving the classical education that most members of the upper classes did at the time, Washington received a practical education focused on arming him with the basic skills needed to run a plantation and succeed in life (First Entrepreneur). Both men also saw the value of teamwork and cooperation. Dre worked with a number of rappers and producers and owes a great deal of his success to partnerships like the N.W.A rap group and the various record labels he worked with (Dr. Dre). Washington helped to wipe out an enormous war time deficit by working with men like Alexander Hamilton, and was prepared to work with anyone necessary to “build the prosperity of the nation” and, in his personal matters, his own prosperity (Mochari). Each was willing to adapt their partnerships and work with opposing groups to maximize their successes and profits. Dre bridged the East Coast-West Coast rap rivalry and worked with artists originating from L.A. to New York and back. Washington dealt with Federalist and Anti-Federalist, Northerner and Southerner, Francophile and Anglophile, Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian alike, toeing the center line at a time when the nation was ready to crumble under the weight of differing opinions. Not only were these men able to draw inspiration from both sides of an issue, but they were willing to branch out on their own and act independently when they were unhappy with existing options. Dre abandoned notorious strongman Suge Knight and Death Row Records when he felt he was being taken advantage of, and started his own Aftermath Entertainment label, a daring move that proved to be incredibly lucrative and a key part of his legacy (Dr. Dre). George Washington, of course, led the nation in the Revolutionary War against the world’s most powerful economic and military empire. These giants were both armed with a simpler education than many of their contemporaries, yet they had the humility and foresight to work with others to advance their interest and achieve their goals, and perhaps most important of all, they were willing to look great challenges and legacy-defining moments in the eye and make the difficult decision to do the unthinkable.
Dr. Dre and George Washington both put their unique entrepreneurial spirit to work, and the fruits of their labor have forever changed their respective fields, and the world as a whole. Although Dre’s greatest contributions primarily affect the music industries, Washington’s legacy branches across fields ranging from politics to agriculture, the rippling effects of which are felt around the world over two hundred years later. It is in the marks each man left, and still leave, on the world around them that Washington surges past Dre in the race to be the greater entrepreneur. Dre was at the forefront of “gangsta rap”, expletive-laden music that focused on depicting the hard life on the streets of areas like his native Compton, and G-funk, which features heavy synthesizer use and long, slow beats (Dr. Dre Bio). He also bridged the gap between producer and rapper and laid the framework for artists in the future to do the same. Perhaps Dre’s greatest contribution to the “rap game” is his entrepreneurial spirit itself; he showed that rappers could excel in a variety of roles and that they could become credible and successful businessmen rather than being the thugs many labelled them. He started a multi-billion dollar headphone and speaker company in the form of the Beats by Dr. Dre and continues to promote himself as not only an innovative rapper and producer, but also businessman and investor.
Washington surpasses Dre not only in the impact of his entrepreneurial contributions, but also their incredible scope. He brought his innovative business mindset into everything he did. He broke with tradition and led the Continental Army in what was often a guerilla war against the British, having realized that he must literally innovate or die when it came to his battle tactics. As the new republic’s first President, literally everything Washington did was new and he was well aware that his actions would be considered precedent. Specifically, he declined to accept any title other than “President”, and his no-nonsense attitude allowed the office to become the esteemed institution it is today (George Washington). He put aside personal and political feelings and approached the office as a businessman with the sole goal of “building the prosperity of the nation”. He viciously attacked the nation’s debt and focused on building a strong economy. His “community of interests” concept revolved around the idea that people who shared economic interests would grow closer, a crossing of economic and diplomatic policy that is still practiced today (First Entrepreneur). In his personal enterprises, Washington pursued profit, both at the time and in the future, above all else. He abandoned tobacco on Mount Vernon because he realized it was a crop with limited uses; was terrible for the soil; and as a raw commodity, was only good for credit in a market controlled by the British. Instead, he grew wheat which he could use for a variety of purposes. Washington was also an early practitioner of vertical market integration: when he started to grow wheat, he decided to build a whiskey distillery and grain mill to make alcohol and flour at Mount Vernon (First Enrepreneur). Even when it came to slavery, Washington saw that the status quo was not what was best for business, arguing for the abolishment of slavery because slaves had no incentive to work hard or innovate since they did not enjoy the fruits of their labor (Mochari). While Dr. Dre made impressive entrepreneurial contributions in his field, George Washington made them in many fields, something that places him amongst history’s most impressive entrepreneurs.
While both Dr. Dre and George Washington shared a number of characteristics that made them incredibly successful, Washington was a greater entrepreneur. His contributions had a far larger impact in a much wider range of fields, and his ideas and actions were truly unprecedented and unparalleled. Dr. Dre is the model for the new rap businessman, a financial success story who set an example for later moguls like Jay-Z. However, there was only one George Washington; a plantation owner and businessman-turned military man-turned politician who quite literally created the foundation of the world’s greatest republic, while achieving impressive personal success.
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“Dr. Dre Biography.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone Magazine, July 2010, www.rollingstone.com/music/artists/dr-dre/biography.
“Dr. Dre.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 28 Oct. 2016, www.biography.com/people/dr-dre-507628#personal-life.
“George Washington: America's First Entrepreneur.” Knowledge@Wharton, University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business, Apr. 2016, knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/ed-lengel-george-washington-myths-book/.
“George Washington.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 8 July 2015, www.biography.com/people/george-washington-9524786.
Mochari, Ilan. “5 Surprising Business Lessons From This Entrepreneur-Turned-U.S. President.” Inc.com, Inc., 2 May 2016, www.inc.com/ilan-mochari/george-washington-entrepreneur.html.