Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “land of opportunity” as a place where people have many chances to succeed, achieve things, etc. And while it doesn’t outright list the United States under its definition, it probably should, according to Frank Greenman.
The Marathon institution and self-proclaimed “history nerd” will speak at the Friends of the Marathon Library Speakers’ Series on Thursday, Feb. 20. He’ll use different narratives from our country’s past to understand its present-day success.
Greenman’s talk will be held at St. Columba Episcopal Church, 451 52nd St., Gulf, Marathon on Thursday, Feb. 20 at 2 p.m.
“I see history contextually,” Greenman said. “I look horizontally on dates to see what else was impacting that time. Humans are very complex, so the things that get us to do things are also layered.”
Greenman, who taught history at Marathon High School in the 1970s, uses the city of Marathon as an example. The city was a fishing community of 1,200 people when he was growing up here. It eventually transitioned into the tourist economy we know today, but it was “slow goings,” adds the retired attorney. Now, Marathon enjoys a very powerful retail sector.
“Nobody really knows about it,” he chuckles. “But think about it: about one-third of our homes are winter-occupied, meaning mom and dad come down for Christmas, Aunt Sally and Uncle Bob come in January, and the kids come down for Spring Break.” Each of those homes then becomes a “serial spending unit” when different groups of people come down throughout the year, he said. “You can see it in our sales tax records.”
The phenomenon, which isn’t necessarily the first reason offered as to why Marathon has been successful, does explain why the Marathon Kmart was one of the branches that saved the corporation when it went bankrupt, why there are two Walgreens in town, and the success of the Home Depot promoted a lightning-quick build of a sister store in Key West.
During his talk, Greenman will look beyond the Keys to analyze why America enjoys such enormous wealth not found elsewhere.
Always scanning horizontally through history, Greenman gives us a sneak preview: “We created wealth out of the enormous amount of land we had here.” He will discuss how the real estate industry came to be after the American Revolution, and how the U.S. was the first country to allow people to own land in a massive way.
“Every other land uses people as tenants who pay rent,” explains Greenman. But here, during the 18th and 19th centuries, the right to own land was born. When the banking industry came about, this land was used as collateral for wealth generation, which revolutionized the economic makeup in the U.S., said Greenman.
“We are the richest country in the world because we capitalized on our vast resources available and allowed people to own land,” he adds. “We were lucky, but there are reasons why.”
Greenman adds, “There are so many things about America that are unique that people don’t know. We really were the pathfinders, and it makes us a beacon for the rest of the world. It absolutely influenced the American Dream.”