Simon Cowell is famous for being the tough-guy judge on the popular TV show “America’s Got Talent.”
Although you couldn’t call me a fan or even a regular viewer of the show, I recently watched several videos of Cowell using the “Golden Buzzer,” which catapults a contestant past several levels of auditions. That’s a big advantage when you’re competing for a million-dollar prize.
I realized two things from watching Cowell, the show’s founder. One is that he keeps digging until he knows the personal story behind each contestant, and he wants that story to be raw and genuine.
In return, he is raw and genuine with his feedback. His commitment to telling performers the truth, which I view as his way of showing respect, is misinterpreted by many in the audience as harsh. But that’s exactly why so many contestants respond to a compliment from Cowell by saying, “That means so much coming from you.”
The second thing I learned is that Cowell has a clear preference for performers who have had the odds stacked against them in life. The girl who became deaf at age 18 but learned to sing again, the foster father of six who wanted his children to have a dream, the boys who were bullied and found an answer in rap music — all were Golden Buzzer winners.
It’s clear that Cowell is inspired by people who never give up.
And that same inspiration is what I see in so many of our Mackinac Center donors.
Our donors understand that the greatest opportunities and greatest rewards are found in a free society where people can pursue their dreams and earn success, not in a totalitarian system of centralized control.
Yes, a competitive marketplace sometimes gives us harsh feedback, just as Cowell does. We might not get that job or win that bid or be able to open that business. But when we do accomplish those things, it means so much.
That’s why our supporters are inspired to fix the problems in our state and nation by creating more opportunities from the ground up — more school choice, more worker freedom, more money back in taxpayer hands — and not through government handouts.
Our supporters would prefer to say to someone, “Look how much you’ve accomplished” than “Look how much we’ve given you.” They know that this does far more to make Michigan a better place to live, especially for people with the odds stacked against them.
Not only that, but our donors give to the Mackinac Center to help protect the privilege of opportunity for everyone, not to protect privileges for special-interest groups only.
It was inspiring to me to watch those few clips of “America’s Got Talent” and see talented people pursue their dreams. But it’s even more inspiring to me to meet with our donors, the people who are creating that opportunity for others. For that, I’m truly grateful.