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Born in Manhattan in 1939, Harris Rosen lived the American dream the way every young US entrepreneur wants to.
After earning a degree in Hotel Administration from Cornell University, he worked first as a convention salesman. He worked in various hotels, including a number of Hiltons and the famous New Yorker Hotel, eventually rising to become Director of Hotel Planning at the Walt Disney Company. He left in 1974 to buy his own hotel in Orlando, the first of Rosen Hotels and Resorts.
His hotel empire is now worth over $500 million and employs over 3500 people.
Rosen is one of the few people to have benefited from capitalism the way hard working people across the world are promised they could.
But his ability to make the most out of a heavily flawed system is not what makes him admirable. For all his wealth and worth, what makes him an important is his kindness. His dedication to hospitality, not just for those people who pay for it in his resorts, but for all his fellow man.
Rosen’s hotels are based in Orlando, Florida, USA. Like most places, it has its good places and it’s bad places.
At the age of 73, Rosen decided that as long as he was profiting so well from Orlando, it wasn’t fair that the people who lived there were not.
Rosen turned his attention to Tangelo Park, an area with high crime and low numbers of kids managing to graduate high school.
Rosen’s first outreach programme paid for day care for everyone living there. He reached out to three thousand people and made sure their kids got an education. As they grew, he developed further programmes, including offering to pay tuition to Florida state universities for any aspiring student.
In the past twenty years, he has donated more than ten million dollars to that area. He has made a huge difference to the lives of people who suffered for no good reason. Almost every kid in high school now graduates. Crime rates have dropped by half. Children have better access to education there than ever before. Drug use is down and property values are up.
Most important of all, the people who live there have hope.
They have futures. They have something they can look forward that is worth waking up for in the morning.
Whatever else he has achieved, it is through this that Rosen has done something truly great. He hasn’t given these people luxury. He has given them the opportunity to have a normal life, free of poverty and crime and abuse. And that is so much more important than any idle pleasure.
Harris Rosen is a man who has proven that it is not how much money you have that matters, but what you choose to do with it.