Presidential front-runner Donald Trump seems to be on the minds of most Americans, including his fellow candidates seeking the Republican nomination and his opposition seeking their Democratic endorsement. Equally attentive are those in control of the Republican Party as they struggle to comprehend the distrusts, anger, and discontent within their party’s membership and the membership’s overwhelming support of the Trump candidacy. Frustrated with their inability to anticipate what is going through the complex brain of the most publicized Republican candidate to date, they still fool heartedly ponder over how they can prevent Trump from obtaining their party’s nomination.
But, the purpose of this article is not to endorse or analyze the probability of Mr. Trump obtaining the Republican nomination or his electability to the office of President. 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 I know and respect, and call my friend.
I do not profess to be an expert on Donald Trump, although we have corresponded throughout the last five 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; before he acquired a Rolodex that must be the envy of most peers; and before he became the front-running Republican candidate for President, 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, New York, 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 upperclassmen. 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 and friends. 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 misconceptions and 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 who now seeks to become president; a candidate who some rivals say has no core principals, which is quite laughable. Perhaps you too 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.
Donald and I first met the winter of my freshman year during what would prove to be a turning point in my cadet life. A few hours after arriving on site for a 24-hour tour of guard duty, a most dreaded task, 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. After asking them to hold the noise down in the 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. After completing their respective calls they again approached my desk. Donald seemed to be very impressed with 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 newfound 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 effect on my future status within the corps of cadets. I laugh today when I think of that evening when I hear others say that Donald will not listen or take advice from others. Of course he will, if he thinks, in your given area of expertise, you know more than him.
Over time Donald and I conversed on several occasions, discussing our families and future plans. I always felt comfortable expressing my views and thoughts even if they differed from his, for I believed that he was a sincere listener. And, he was also the only cadet I trusted to tell me if I was right or wrong in my beliefs and actions. 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 cadet 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 motive was to learn from our association so that I could one day emulate my mentor’s confidence, style, and quest for perfection. I scoff today when some say he is not principled; for I believe he had the highest standards of any cadet I met at the academy.
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. During the trip, 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 worst, 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. Upon our return, our families exchanged pleasantries and a few laughs, before departing, each returning to their vastly different lifestyles.
A few weeks later, my commanding cadet officer asked if I wanted one of his senior portraits. I asked if he intended to write a few comments across the lower portion of the portrait, which was customary, for no sane cadet would keep a non-autographed photo of another guy on his desk. Not wanting to write across his formal portrait, he denied my request. Later that evening I decided to visit Donald to get his take on the subject. After all, no one would
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. This truly surprised me, because I had not heard from my mentor in four years. I called Donald, who in turn, asked if he could take me to dinner. We met at the Media Inn, in Media, Pennsylvania. Donald appeared more serious than I had remembered, although he still retained much of his boyish charm. He was articulate in his speech and straightforward in his manner. Donald asked if I wanted a bottle of wine, but did not choose to 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 be willing to 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. Donald was willing to await my release from active duty, which illustrated the value he placed on military commitment and returning veterans. Although 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 did not accept his generous overture. Upon completion of my military commitment, I wished to return home to spend time with my family, even though I knew this to be the opportunity of a lifetime and he would challenge and inspire and bring out the best in me, for this is what he is most suited. Donald accepted my decision gracefully and we parted friends. He handed me his business card and said to contact him if I ever needed anything.
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.” Donald taught me not to dread fear, or the fear of rejection; that perception can indeed become reality; and to be immaculate in appearance. 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 who never personally met the man, 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. 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 at times in politics and 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. The media often asks if Donald overestimates his ability, which is hard to affirm, since he is the ultimate overachiever who has far exceeded most expectations. And, of course he is cunning; that’s a positive trait in politics and industry, as is being opinionated when you are a strong Presidential candidate and CEO. Yes, Donald can be overbearing, as can I, my better half, several of my closest friends, and many of the businessmen I know who have not employed thirty thousand employees in their workforce. But, the term blowhard is the most inaccurate if one truly understands the definition. Yes, Donald boasts, but do you really believe he is ineffective? When he says he will be the greatest job creator in history and a terrific president, it is indeed hard to disbelieve when, by design, his entire life has been directed and driven to becoming the very best in his every endeavor.
Some say 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, presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders would be the candidates making the majority of the significant news. Others say he has made it into a circus. In actuality, it has usually been a circus. To them I say Trump has simply mastered the art of being the supreme “ring master.”
In 2011, I wrote “If Trump chooses seeks the nomination, his candidacy would pose a real problem for his fellow candidates and the Republican leadership. He was correct when he once stated that he would be the party’s greatest nightmare for he would expose the vulnerability of his Republican opposition. Can you imagine a relentlessly decisive candidate with no fear of failure, who can multitask 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 think this was a fairly accurate assessment when one considers it was written five years ago.
Although I don’t entirely subscribe to Donald Trump’s ideology, I do appreciate and respect many of the points he raises in reference to the severity of our economic crises, the need for border control, 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. And, like others, I am, at times, surprised and disheartened by his occasional use of profanity. But, I give him some slack, for, perhaps this is simply a sign of compassion and overzealousness when he too, like us, is angry and disgusted with the incompetence that has plagued our great nation and has led America astray.
Perhaps Trump will not garner enough delegates to win the nomination on the first ballet resulting in a brokered convention. And, if not treated fairly, 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 Mr. Trump will not go away quietly if he believes he was mistreated and is the true choice of the American voter.
It is often said Donald Trump is not a true Republican, which is hard to define in contemporary times. Nevertheless, he is an admired American, a valid threat to the status quo, and, therefore, an inherent fighter for what he perceives to be the correct path to be taken. So, the most prevalent question of his candidacy is the following: Can Donald Trump, trump the Republican Party, and in doing so, trump the special interest groups and nullify the exorbitant spending that has, since the “Great Barons” of the industrial revolution, funded their candidates to the highest office in our land. As Trump and Sanders have shown, Americans have had enough. The real question at hand is will the American voter be as determined as these candidates to invoke real change.
Some excerpts from the book “Makers, Shakers and Takers” by Roy Eaton (2012).