Donald Trump has always had to deal with competition. He was one of five children born to Mary Anne and Fred Trump and seems to have had no problem standing out among his siblings. I guess that was a sign of things to come. Unlike many privileged children who end up wasting their lives and fortunes, Donald took the advantage of being born to well off parents and and ran with it. Trump became a very rich and very public figure in the 1980s. By the 1990s he was already a legendary figure in New York City, a town of legendary figures. In the first decade of the 2000s the Donald became a reality show star as “The Apprentice” and later “Celebrity Apprentice” made a ratings impact on television. Always reinventing himself, Trump has recently traded in his reality show host gig and moved beyond his business empire to run for the Presidency of the United States in the 2016 election.
It was no surprise to many of us when the Donald almost immediately took over in a large field of Republican hopefuls. Some people were shocked by his comments about big national issues such as illegal immigration and the mistreatment of veterans by their own government. Many predicted his campaign would flounder in the wake of several controversial rants, however, just the opposite happened. Trump managed to strike a nerve with the American People. He was suddenly the front runner as the first Republican debate took place. Although he had no more or less time than any of the other hopefuls, Donald Trump managed to respond to what appeared to be some very controversial questions with his own brand of humor and swagger. Fox News sponsored the event which was viewed by more than 24 million people and there can be no doubt that the Donald had a lot to do with those record-breaking numbers.
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To understand Donald Trump you have to understand where he came from. It all started when Frederick Trump arrived in the USA from Germany in 1885. He married Elizabeth Christ in 1902 and that is where his German background and his family fortune began. Donald’s father Fred Trump (who was named for Frederick) married Mary Anne Macleod (a Scottish immigrant) in 1936. The family business was Real Estate and the Donald showed an early interest in his dad’s work. He watched everything his father did in business and learned from it. While living in Jamaica Estates, Queens, New York City, Trump attended the Kew Forest School in Forest Hills. He had trouble focusing on his school work and ended up being dismissed. His parents hoped to set him straight by sending Donald to the New York Military Academy. It must have worked because Trump then went on to attend the prestigious Fordham University.
After a couple of years Trump transferred to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics. That school was one of just a handful that offered highly regarded Real Estate studies at the college level. Some critics argue that Trump purposely avoided military service during those days because of his position in society. Trump responded to those critics by pointing out that he had a very high selective service lottery number, which is true. He also received two student deferments and was ultimately declared unsuitable for service due to a punctured eardrum. That is not uncommon and has been a reason that many others have been turned down by the U.S. Military. Regardless, Trump used his education and family connections to his own advantage. He joined the family business in 1968 and became its head in 1971, the same year he moved to Manhattan. From that point on the company became known as The Trump Organization.
Trump married his first wife Ivana Zelnickova in 1977. She immigrated here from what is known today as the Czech Republic. That union lasted until 1992 and produced three children: Donald Trump Jr (born in 1977), Ivanka Trump (born in 1981) and Eric Trump (born in 1984). In 1993 Trump married Marla Maples and the two remained together until 1999. Their marriage produced a daughter named Tiffany (born in 1993). Trump credited his marriage failures with a love for his work. In 2005 the Donald married Melania Knauss from Slovenia. Baron Trump was born in 2006. As of this writing Trump is still married to Melania with no public signs of marital discord. Unlike his first two wives she stays in the background and perhaps that is a lesson learned for the current Mrs. Trump: Never try to be as famous or controversial as the Donald.
Two of Donald Trump’s first big deals were turning the financially strapped Commodore and Grand Hyatt hotels into profitable entities. After receiving a hefty Broker’s Fee for the sale of property where the new Jacob Javits Convention Center was eventually built, Trump took over the restoration of the Wollman Rink located in Central Park. That project had been plagued by work delays and ran over-budget for years. Donald completed the restoration in three months at no cost to New York City. Although projects like the rink helped to establish Trump’s reputation as a shrewd businessman, it was also costly. By 1989 Trump faced financial problems of his own making by possible over-investing in Atlantic City casinos and other projects. This lead to business bankruptcy, however, he never filed for personal bankruptcy.
Trump turned things around during the 1990s and presented New York City with amazing properties like The Trump World Tower (across the street from the United Nations headquarters) in 2001 and later developed the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. He followed that success with more Trump properties in New York City, Chicago and around the world. Trump also began to cash in on his name by branding and licensing it to everything from events and businesses to clothing, perfume, chocolate, home furnishings and even bottled water. He occasionally played the stock market and won earning a profit of around $27 million dollars in 2014 alone. Trump’s love of sports lead him to buy a USFL Team in 1983, briefly manage boxer Mike Tyson and become a part of various Professional Wrestling events. He is said to be an avid wrestling fan and personal friend of the WWWF’s Vince McMahon.
Trump always managed to keep himself very visible to the public. Part of this apparent strategy meant making a cameo appearance in “Home Alone 2: Lost In New York” in 1992 and “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” in 2010, as well as appearing on TV shows like The Nanny, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Days Of Our Lives. Then came “The Apprentice” reality TV show in 2003 which became so popular and influential that some college professors that teach business courses ordered their students to watch the show and explain what they learned from each episode. I watched the show and encouraged my older children to watch. After all, it was free advice and business training from a Billionaire: How can you lose?
Beauty Pageants and Golf Courses also became a part of the Trump Organization. In 1996 Donald Trump took over ownership of the Miss USA and Miss Universe contests. Trump also owns and operates a number of popular and very high end golf courses in the USA and around the world. When he became a hopeful for the 2016 Republican Presidential Candidacy he made comments about illegal immigrants from Mexico which the NBC and Univision television networks took exception to and they say that caused them to cancel their participation with Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” TV show and Beauty Pageants. Trump says he is suing Univision for half a million dollars.
None of the controversy he has caused has hurt his overall popularity among potential Republican voters. He now leads the pack of Republican hopefuls by double digits. Whether he has planned all this or is simply winging it, nothing the Donald has done so far seems to be able to keep him from being a Presidential Candidate in 2016. For better or worse, Trump has managed to accentuate the positive and explain away any negatives in his life so far. Like most New Yorkers his speaks his mind and takes on all comers. As a fellow New Yorker I can say that in New York City failure is not an option and Trump has spent his life proving that very fact. It remains to be seen if he can remain at the top of the political heap. That all depends on his ability to explain, in detail, exactly how he can solve so many of the problems Americans face. Stay tuned.