I’m sure that most of us during our lifetime have questioned our future course of action by reiterating to ourselves one of Shakespeare’s most universal lines, “To be or not to be that is the question.”
Lately this question seems to be on the minds of many Americans including those seeking the Republican nomination and those in control of the Republican Party as they ponder over what is going through the complex brain of the most publicized Republican candidate to date, Donald Trump.
But, the purpose of this article is not to analyze the probability of which course that Trump may take, or the degree of his electability. Instead, I hope to provide personal insight into the character of the candidate himself so that you, the reader and voter, can form your own impression of the man and the path that he may select.
I do not profess to be an expert on Trump, although we have corresponded throughout the last four decades. But, I do have one advantage over most. Before Trump became a household name; before he was admired by millions; before he became a master builder, entrepreneur, and billionaire with an array of complex business deals that would boggle the brightest of minds and a Rolodex that must be the envy of most peers; I had the privilege of knowing Donald on a personal basis. We met by coincidence one winter evening while attending the New York Military Academy located in Cornwall, N.Y., and immediately developed a friendship that most would deem improbable due to the vast difference in our lineage.
Childhood years in a military environment were trying, challenging, inspiring, rewarding, sometimes exasperating, and incredibly impressionable. To survive and thrive in such a setting, it was imperative to form strong bonds with your peers and upper classmen, and a respectful rapport with the faculty and administration. And, if you were extremely fortunate, you found an upper class mentor to confide in and to guide you through the process, thus enabling you to find yourself, define and maximize your potential, and eventually become a mentor to another fellow cadet. Donald was such a person to me. But, unlike most mentors, he also became my friend.
Most people meet interesting characters during their lifetime, but for me, Trump is by far, the most intriguing and memorable of all my acquaintances. Due to his opulent, flamboyant lifestyle, Donald has accrued numerous labels in his lifetime, some accurate, others not so correct.
Therefore, I would like to dispel many of the misperceptions about the hype pertaining to the demeanor of perhaps, the most well known man on our planet, by sharing with you several experiences that tested the character of the cadet that now seeks to become president. Perhaps you will see a side of the man that vastly differs from what you perceive; a side that reflects the admirable qualities of a former cadet and exemplifies the very definition of the word ‘trump.’
The first encounter
Donald and I first met the winter of my freshman year during what would prove to be a turning point in my cadet life. I was assigned one evening to guard duty, an obligation every student had to fulfill at least one time per year. The detail was responsible for the safety of the corps and the security of the facility for a 24 hour period. Most cadets dreaded the experience for the shift rarely was without complication and often proved to be a career buster.
I was terribly nervous the first time my name was posted for duty. A few hours after arriving on site, both my commanding officer and sergeant became ill, and by attrition, I was left in charge until a replacement could be found. As I manned the desk checking attendance reports, I noticed two rather tall distinguished-looking upperclassmen approach the phone booth located a few feet forward of our restricted area. The taller of the two paused to ask my name. He was articulate, well mannered and quite personable. Impressed by his charismatic nature, I asked his name. “Donald Trump,” he boldly replied before extending his hand and asking if I needed any assistance.
Before I could answer, both scurried to the phone booth, which had just been vacated, each trying to restrain the other from entering the enclosure. Since this was a restricted academic area, I had to ask them several times to hold down the noise. After completing their respective calls they again approached my desk. Donald seemed to be somewhat in awe of my steadfast devotion to duty. He assessed the condition of my emaciated guard detail and inferred that with a little help I could adequately handle my newly acquired responsibility. He talked to our commandant who was in the process of finding a replacement officer and reaffirmed his confidence in my ability to meet the challenge. A few minutes later I was summoned to the office and asked if I could handle the added responsibility.
Inspired by my new found friend, I accepted the assignment. I was grateful for the opportunity, but humbled that Donald had attested to my character with that of his own. Few others would have taken the risk. Before retiring for the evening, he returned to check on me and to offer assistance in filling out required documentation. Donald again stopped by before breakfast to wish me well for the remaining hours of my shift. I later learned that he had praised my efforts to the administration which had a profound affect on my future status within the corps of cadets.
A friendship is born
Over time Donald and I conversed on several occasions, discussing our families and future plans.
Amazingly, he had his entire future mapped out, a vision that spanned from New York to Hollywood, from real estate to cinematography, a prophecy that was fully fulfilled. It did not take long for me to realize that Donald was destined for greatness and stardom, and that he was an incredibly difficult act to follow for he had it all and everyone, including himself, was cognizant of this fact which made him the most revered and envied man on campus.
I think we got along well because I was not intimidated by his dominant personality and family wealth, and he was not threatened by my exuberant demeanor and modest heritage. And, we both realized that my only ulterior motive was to learn from our association so that I could one day emulate my mentor’s confidence, style and quest for perfection.
The following spring Donald asked if I would be interested in accompanying him on his class trip to Bermuda, the academy’s spring break destination. I was startled by his kind gesture since I was a year behind. I knew approval would be difficult to obtain, so, Donald placed a call to my mother, promising to keep an eye on me during our stay. Although Mom was able to sort through the hype, she reluctantly gave her consent for she was incredibly impressed by Donald’s demeanor and maturity.
Bermuda proved to be an eye opening experience. Shortly after our arrival we realized that most social events were geared toward the older college crowd which seemed to dominate spring break. Unfortunately, I lacked the skill, experience, and confidence to converse with girls much older than myself. But, Donald and his classmate had little difficulty blending with the college age population for they looked much older than their peers and were far more experienced. Since the three of us roomed, dined, and initially socialized together, it soon became apparent that my presence was severely restricting their social life. However, Donald, the perfect gentleman, remained steadfast in his commitment to my Mom as he kept me within sight and monitored my activities.
Our third evening out, we met three college freshman co-eds who were in need of a ride back to their apartment. Donald’s classmate told me he had slightly exaggerated his age as well as Donald’s, telling the girls they were sophomores at New York Military Academy, a small college located in upstate New York. I was introduced as an accompanying cousin, which conveniently accounted for the apparent disparity in our ages. I was placed in a rather precarious position when my companion later asked the true age of my friends. Unable to lie, I confirmed her suspicions that the academy was indeed a prep school rather than a college.
When we arrived at their apartment, she informed her friends of her discovery. I expected the worse, but Donald listened attentively as I agonizingly explained my inability to distort the truth. He smiled and told me not to worry for he would never expect me to lie, especially on his behalf. I remember thinking, what an honorable friend.
The next day Donald decided to make my transformation the focal point of his day’s activity. We traveled to an upscale clothing shop in downtown Hamilton where my self appointed fashion consultant replaced my drab clothing with several new items including a bold green madras sports jacket, white pants, and contemporary accessories. That evening after a brief indoctrination on coolness and pickup-line protocol, I was turned loose at our hotel’s evening social hour. For me, life would never be the same.
When we returned to New York, I proudly stood behind Donald who was fashionable, but conservatively dressed in an elegant suit, and I in my newly acquired attire. This disparity did not go unnoticed by my mother, who in jest grabbed a red-faced Donald by the ear mockingly thanking him for ruining her son. After exchanging pleasantries and a few laughs, our families parted, each returning to their vastly different life styles.
A week later my commanding cadet officer asked if I wanted one of his senior portraits. I asked if he intended to write the customary comments across the lower portion of the picture. He became quite indignant for he did not want to ruin his expensive formal portrait. I truly understood his viewpoint, but considered the photo of little memorable significance if not easily displayed with words of friendship. Besides, no sane cadet would keep a non-autographed photo of another guy on his desk.
Later that evening I decided to visit Donald to get his take on the subject. After all, no one would value a portrait of himself more than he. I truly expected to be admonished, but was instead asked to explain my reasoning. A few minutes into the conversation Donald stood up and walked over to his desk and removed a large framed full body portrait of himself that he had purchased for his sister. Without saying a word, he wrote across the lower quadrant in bold white ink an exceptionally kind paragraph expressing his thoughts about our relationship. As he handed me the picture and extended his hand in friendship, a smirk emerged as he uttered a statement that each of us knew to be true. He told me I would be much better off with his portrait for it would prove far more valuable over time. He truly was the epitome of self-confidence. Because I was certain neither of us were destined to meet again, I failed to anticipate our next encounter and the opportunity of a lifetime it would present.
The steadfast loyalist
In the spring of 1968, my roommate at Pennsylvania Military College called to tell me that a fellow named Donald had stopped by the apartment looking for me. He did not provide a last name, but his description left no doubt that my visitor had been Donald Trump. This truly amazed me. Not only had I not heard from my mentor in four years, but my very astute friend had been able to find an apartment whose location had been successfully withheld from nearly all within our college community.
I called Donald, who in turn, insisted on taking me to dinner. I told him I had a date and he asked that I bring her along. We met at the Media Inn, in Media, PA. Donald appeared more serious than I had remembered, although he still retained much of his boyish charm. He was articulate in his speech and straight forward in his manner. Donald asked if we wanted a bottle of wine, but did not join us in drink. I knew of his aversion to alcohol from our high school days which was of a personal nature, and a testament to his principled character.
Impressed by my success to date, Donald asked if I would join the executive staff of an elite organization he was just beginning to assemble to develop real estate in New York City. He meticulously explained his vision of the future and the groundwork presently in place that would guarantee success and thus make this an incredible opportunity. When I asked why he had chosen me, he simply smiled and told me of the premium he placed on loyalty and trust.
But, at that particular point in time, my life was complex. I was committed to the army as a lieutenant for the next two years. And, although Donald was willing to await my release from active duty, and, I knew that he would challenge and inspire, and bring out the best I could offer for it is this that he is most suited, I did not accept his generous overture. I did not particularly care to work in a major metropolitan area, and I did not favor mixing friendship with business. Even though I admired his meticulous, perfectible manner, and believed Donald would become renowned and incredibly successful, and that he would be a fair and generous employer, I also feared any altercation would tarnish my fondest of high school memories and diminish the high esteem I had for this extraordinary young man. Besides, after completing my tour of duty I had hoped to return to Connecticut to be with my family and to launch a political career. (How’s that for irony!) It’s easy for my friends to look back and second-guess my reasoning! But, life has a way of working out for the best.
Donald accepted my decision gracefully, but found it incomprehensible that any person, if given the choice, would not elect to live and work in New York City, “the greatest metropolitan area in the world.” I believe my friend was startled by my denouncement of urban life, for he loved New York City as one would love a living, breathing entity.
Upon exiting the restaurant, Donald and I paused to check out each other’s method of transportation, which, by coincidence, had been parked in adjacent spaces. We simultaneously began to laugh for it was I who had the flashy Mustang convertible, and he, a rather large, dull colored clunker of a car which, if my memory is correct, was a Toranado. Donald told me it was a gift of love from his dad who was intent on guaranteeing the safety of his son and heir. We parted friends, but sadly never again came face to face. Donald did not have time to waste on those unwilling to commit, or on those who would pass on the opportunity of a lifetime.
I learned much from and about my friend during the second decade of our lives. He was tenacious but kind and generous. He displayed an unwavering commitment to excellence and would repeatedly remind me, “If you can’t do it with class, don’t do it at all.” He taught me not to dread fear, or the fear of rejection; that perception can indeed become reality; and, if you want to make a statement, surround yourself with an entourage. But most importantly, he taught me that others will not respect you if you don’t respect yourself.
I laugh when I hear comments about Trump by others, for most have not been allowed into the inner sanctum of the Trump mindset. Some say he is brash, immodest, insensitive, and narcissistic. Others call him a cunning, opinionated, overbearing, blowhard, womanizer.
Yes, Donald is brash, and immodest, that’s what makes him so different from others. But, I never found him to be insensitive. Perhaps he exemplifies this trait in business, but not when dealing with friends and family. Insensitivity is defined as: “Inefficiently aware of other’s feelings and unable to respond appropriately.” How could this be true when his entire image is built upon an understanding of other’s feelings and how to effectively respond? As for narcissistic, that is subject to interpretation. One would have to ask himself if he believes that Donald overestimates his ability which is hard to affirm since he is the ultimate overachiever who has far exceeded most expectations, and if he seeks excessive admiration or simply self-promotes to entice business. And, of course he’s cunning, that’s a positive trait in his industry, as is being opinionated when you are a strong leader or presidential candidate. Yes, Donald can be overbearing as can I, my better half, several of my closest friends, and many of the businessmen I know who do not have thirty-thousand employees in their workforce. But, the terms blowhard and womanizer are the most inaccurate if one understands the definition of each. Yes, Donald boosts, but do you really believe he is ineffective. And, the characterization of womanizer is actually comical for it is defined as “someone who is in constant search for casual sex.” Get real! Everyone knows of his aversion to shaking hands, and even his most ardent adversaries would agree that his hygienic standards are beyond reproach. Ladies man perhaps, but not womanizer, because as a teenager he was admired by many women who, in my presence, he treated with dignity, and class.
At a time when most baby boomers are looking forward to retirement, Donald Trump may change course and become an active candidate for President. Some say that he’s not serious, that it’s simply a well orchestrated self-serving publicity stunt, and that his presence is disastrous for the Republican Party. When one considers the cast of alternates, it is difficult to imagine that his presence is catastrophic to the Republican Party. If not for Trump’s press exposure, President Obama would be the only candidate making significant news.
If Trump chooses not to run, others will enter the limelight. But, if he seeks the nomination, his candidacy poses a real problem for his fellow candidates and the Republican leadership. He is correct when he states that he would be the party’s greatest nightmare for his recent meteoric rise in the polls exposes the vulnerability of his Republican opposition. Can you imagine a relentlessly decisive candidate with no fear of failure, who can multi-task and macro and micro manage, who answers to no special interest groups, who readily expresses his own controversial views, who refuses to accept failure, and can most likely finance much of his campaign? Most candidates would not be willing or able to handle his dominant, aggressive demeanor and condescending, brash behavior. Yes, Donald is charming, personable, and humorous, but when engaged in confrontation; his intimidating style can unravel the best of strategies.
I really don’t know if Donald intents to run because it is difficult to believe that he would leave real estate or the city of New York. But, I know if he decides to declare, he will be in the race to win, which will make him an admirable and difficult foe. Although I don’t entirely subscribe to his ideology, I do appreciate and respect many of the points he raises in reference to the severity of our economic crises, the mismanaged use of our military personnel and resources, his contempt for the status quo, and the frustration over our county’s declining influence abroad and how we are perceived by others.
Perhaps Trump will surprise us by throwing his support to another candidate. And, it is conceivable that he may form a third party which could very well prove to be his greatest legacy, since he has the resources and following to support a threatening alternative to our presently complacent, gridlocked, two-party system run by career politicians whose polarized interests seem to differ from those of main stream America. Regardless, of the path chosen, I am confident the announcement will present another surprising Trump moment.
No matter what one thinks of Donald, all who know him would agree that he loves his country. And, the man loves life and is intent on living it to its fullest. I’m sure many fellow Americans wish they had the means to do the same.