The Education of an American Dreamer: How a Son of Greek Immigrants Learned His Way from a Nebraska Diner to Washington, Wall Street, and Beyond [NOOK Book]


With insight and refreshing candor, Peter G. Peterson describes his remarkable life story beginning in Kearney, Nebraska as an eight-year-old manning the cash register at his father's Greek diner through his "Mad Men" advertising days, to Secretary of Commerce in Nixon's paranoid White House, to the tumultuous days of Lehman Brothers, and to the creation of The Blackstone Group, one of the great financial enterprises in recent times.

In THE ...
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The Education of an American Dreamer: How a Son of Greek Immigrants Learned His Way from a Nebraska Diner to Washington, Wall Street, and Beyond

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With insight and refreshing candor, Peter G. Peterson describes his remarkable life story beginning in Kearney, Nebraska as an eight-year-old manning the cash register at his father's Greek diner through his "Mad Men" advertising days, to Secretary of Commerce in Nixon's paranoid White House, to the tumultuous days of Lehman Brothers, and to the creation of The Blackstone Group, one of the great financial enterprises in recent times.

In THE EDUCATION OF AN AMERICAN DREAMER, Peterson chronicles the progress of this journey with irony, humor and, sometimes, painful honesty. Within these pages are stories of marriage and family hardship; lessons in political gamesmanship; thoughts on his obsessive desire to succeed; and, finally, learning the meaning of "enough." From his advertising days in Chicago in the 1950's to becoming the youngest CEO of a Fortune 300 Company, he shares with us his rise to the top and the price paid along the way. As the youngest Cabinet member in the Nixon administration, he describes his survival techniques in a hubris-driven and paranoid White House, including his turbulent turf wars with Treasury Secretary John Connally leading to Peterson's abrupt and highly publicized firing. His stewardship of Lehman Brothers is a Shakespearian tale of a CEO who struggled to deal with partners who were plotting his demise and, at the same time, turning an institution on the brink of bankruptcy to one with 5 straight years of record profits.

His life's story is about doing well by doing good. In the wake of Blackstone's highly successful public offering, Peterson found himself an 80-year old instant billionaire, on the verge of retirement. And like many lifetime workers and over-achievers, he suddenly confronts an unexpected, depressing identity crisis. His solution? Committing a great bulk of his net proceeds to establish the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, his philanthropic endeavor to do something about America's politically untouchable challenges that threaten America's future, among them massive entitlement obligations, ballooning health care costs, and our energy gluttony.

Ultimately, this is a man's account of his legendary successes, humiliating failures, and personal tragedies - a testament to a remarkable life and, indeed, to the American Dream itself.
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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
Mr Peterson's memoir is worth reading for three reasons. First, he really has lived the American dream. . . . Second, Mr Peterson is a crusader for a noble cause. He has committed the bulk of his immense fortune to nagging Americans to take their fiscal problems seriously . . . All this could be hard going for the reader were it not for another of Mr Peterson's appealing qualities. He has a sense of humour, albeit a rather slapstick one. . . . Mr Peterson's playfulness never obscures the seriousness of his purpose, however. As he was putting the final touches to his book, America's national debt passed $10 trillion, and the national debt clock ran out of space to record it.
—The Economist
Kirkus Reviews
Sagacious octogenarian and genial plutocrat Peterson (Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It, 2004, etc.) recalls his journey from Kearney, Neb., to the White House and Wall Street. During the Depression, the author, then a young scion of hardworking Greek immigrants, tended the cash register in the family restaurant. Soon the bright lad was off to MIT and then to Northwestern's business school. As a young go-getter in a gray flannel suit, he found a natural place in advertising with a prominent Chicago agency. He quickly moved into management at Bell and Howell, where he created the boombox. An open-minded Republican, he entered the world stage as Nixon's adviser on international trade policy and then secretary of commerce in the early '70s. He became a member of corporate boards, study groups and think tanks. Then Wall Street beckoned, and Peterson took charge of Lehman Brothers. He later co-founded the Blackstone Group, leaving it as a billionaire. His life story epitomizes the American Dream, as our earnest autobiographer tells it, and no wonder, since he freely confesses to "troublesome traits" like "perfectionism and obsessive devotion to work." Of course, Peterson's life wasn't entirely unproblematic, fraught as it was with brain surgery, two divorces and Richard Nixon. He covers all of these, offering frank appreciation of friends (like Henry Kissinger and David Rockefeller) and candid assessment of foes (Chuck Colson). The author remains devoted to family-he's now married to Joan Ganz Cooney, who helped create Sesame Street-and to public service. Disingenuous candor is not unknown in works likethis, but Peterson's memoir is persuasive and lucid. Agent: Andrew Wylie/The Wylie Agency
The New York Times
"A refreshingly credible, often cautionary tale of his own classic rags-to-riches rise — and a few glimmers of hope, inspiration and guidance for the rest of us. . .. What distinguishes this book from most memoirs by business titans is Mr. Peterson's ability to mix insider tidbits with humor, painful self-revelation and candid skepticism of the Eastern establishment that eventually welcomed him as a tuxedo-wearing member . . . Mr. Peterson may be among the last of a dying breed, but it is still uplifting to be reminded that the son of Greek immigrants made his American dream come true."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446561822
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 6/8/2009
  • Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 687 KB

Meet the Author

Peter G. Peterson lives in New York City with his wife Joan Ganz Cooney, founder of the Children's Television Workshop, and has five children and nine grandchildren. His most recent book, Running On Empty, was a national bestseller. He is the Chairman Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and founding Chairman of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He is also founding President of The Concord Coalition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2013

    Insightful, entertaining, enlightening!

    A must read for those concerned with our children & grandchildren inheriting "our" debt!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 11, 2009

    BlackStone's Hero, if only he would adopt me:)

    Just finishing reading another great books titled - The Education of an AMERICAN DREAMER. The author is Peter G. Peterson. This book starts off with a story of how a Son of Greek Immigrants learned his way from a Nebraska Diner to Washington, Wall Street, and beyond. This book was referred to me from watching a show that Fareed Zakaria hosts on Sunday. Fareed Zakaria book titled The Future of Freedom is my next book which will surely be another great read. Having parents that came from Poland I could easily relate to the same treatment from my Father while growing up, He never in all my years ever said he loved me or hugged me, so I felt the same strange feelin all my years of "was I adopted"! Please include Mr. Peterson's book on your list of must read books, his book tells stories that you will love to learn about and them refer this book to your friends as a must read book

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  • Posted June 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer


    Peter G. Peterson
    Hackette Book Group
    ISBN: 978-0-446-55603-3
    Reviewer: Annie Slessman

    As I read THE EDUCATION OF AN AMERICAN DREAMER, How A Son Of Greek Immigrants Learned His Way From A Nebraska Diner to Washington, Wall Street and Beyond by Peter G. Peterson I heard the words of my own mother, "You and your willingness to work for it will determine what kind of life you have." It is apparent that Peter G. Peterson agrees with my mother.

    Living in a small Nebraska town and working in his father's restaurant, Peterson learned early in life of the opportunities that living in America offered. Of Greek descent, his family worked hard and was very happy with the live they carved out for themselves in the U.S. Peterson's father financed his college education starting at MIT and eventually at Northwestern. No stranger to work, Peterson financed his social life at Northwestern by working as a waiter. Upon graduating from Northwestern he entered the advertising field and eventually worked his way into the financial sector.

    The name Peter G. Peterson brings to one's mind the word success. From advertising to finance to politics, Peterson has proved to one and all that he has the ability and foresight to lead a generation of thinkers. His ability to say no to things that would tempt even the strongest of us, he has made choices in his life based on his own ideals and the ability to look forward. He is definitely not a man who lives for today only. He has always been a forward thinker, even today, as he wrote this work, he worries about what leaving a mess for our children and grandchildren. He even contributed one billion to finance his own Peter G. Peterson Foundation to hopefully educate our young in how to deal with the problems they are inheriting.

    This was a good read. It provided a good analyst of today's problem areas while telling the story of a young Nebraskan man who made his life one that everyone will find interesting and motivating. In today's economy, $34.99 is a hefty price to pay for elective reading. However, I will go as far as to say, "It may be one of the best investments you make this year."

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