Bernard Rapoport Video Transcript

RAPOPORT: Good morning.

CLASSROOM STUDENTS: Good morning, Mr. Rapoport.

RAPOPORT: You know you've got a star up there.

RAPOPORT: It's called the Rapoport academy. And it has about 131 kids in it. Its just a school where you walk in and you know it's filled with love.

RAPOPORT: I have a joke with them. Who can hold me the tightest?

RAPOPORT: Just a little bit tighter. That's good.

RAPOPORT: I am the child of Russian Jewish immigrant parents, and my father was in the Russian Revolution in 1905, sent to Siberia for life and escaped, came to the United States in 1913. I was raised with poor parents, poor economically, and yet we didn't know we were poor because we had love in the house and we had books in the house.

RAPOPORT: I'd walk with him with his pushcart, where he was calling on the homes of Mexican families, and there'd be a man, wife, four or five kids shelling pecans for a dollar a day on a dirt floor there, every time we'd walk over there he would shake his finger in my face and say, ‘That's injustice, you gotta fight against that all your life.'

NARRATOR: Bernard Rapoport founded the American Life Insurance Company in 1951. He began the company with a $25,000 bank loan, and fifty years later had built a company worth 560 million dollars.

RAPOPORT: The building of American income was a fifty year enterprise. We knew we'd get rich sure, but not quick. That's the way it proved to be (chuckles). So when we sold the company, we took half the money and put into a foundation.

RAPOPORT: I was introduced as a self-made man. The real truth is, of course, no one is self-made, and of course we all owe so much to so many for all the nice and good things that have happened in our lives.

RAPOPORT: I judge success by what people contribute to ameliorating the quality of life of citizens in our country or in the world. What I care about is, that when you have a society, where too few have too much, and too many have too little, that's not a sustainable society.

RAPOPORT: I went to the drug store the other day. I have a heart condition. I needed four pills. You know what the bill was? $1000. So I said to the druggist, ‘I just can't understand. What if I didn't have the money?' He said, ‘Well, you couldn't have them.' I said, ‘Well, I can't live without them.' And he had no further comment. I don't want a society where I can have better health than you. I want a society where no one is going to say ‘no' to something a person needs, because they don't have money.

RAPOPORT: When I'm political, I'm very idealistic. And when I am philanthropic I am very, very charitable. And when I'm in business I'm a predator, but I hope a civilized one. I love business, I really do. I just think that it's possible to build a successful business and have a sense of social responsibility.

RAPOPORT: Whose the smartest one in the class? Raise your hand. We're going to want to be teachers, right? We're going to be lawyers. You want to be a lawyer? You want to be a doctor?

NANCY GRAYSON (School Principle): It is a charter school, a public school, and we stress high, very rigorous academics in an innovative environment that supports learning and includes the families so that we can make it an enriching experience for the community. We also want our students to learn the most so that they can go on to a college experience and then be very productive in their communities and then work with children too because of their memories of people working with them.

RAPOPORT: I know those kids are entitled to be taken care of appropriately and I know that they are entitled to have good teachers and I know that they have breakfast and lunch at the school so that they are well fed and as a result of that they can absorb knowledge.

GRAYSON: His emotional support, his teaming up for children has been phenomenal.

RAPOPORT: The most important advice I'd give to young people is to want to live in a free country, and not have a sense that they are free; that they impose on themselves things that they must do; that they forgo choices that they can do whatever they want to do when they want to do it. That they concentrate on knowing more today than they did yesterday. That they really go whether they're in the first grade, or junior high school, or high school, or college, and more especially after they're out of school, that they continue to trying to know more today than they did yesterday.