American Familia: David Morales on Grit, Self-Reliance, and the American Dream

“This is the greatest country on the planet and you can do anything here. Do not let yourself be put in a box."

“The smallest minority on earth is the individual,” said Ayn Rand. Yet, today it seems that individuals are increasingly grouped into boxes based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, or gender, which can weaken one’s spirit of self-determination.

This is the topic of my LiberatED podcast conversation this week with David Morales, author of the outstanding new book, American Familia: A Memoir of Perseverance.

Morales spent his childhood in Puerto Rico and moved to Massachusetts when he was 11, where he was surrounded by the love of his family, but also widespread poverty and despair. Determined not to be a statistic and instead to seize the opportunity this country offers, Morales began embracing an attitude of self-reliance and self-improvement in his early teen years that would ultimately lead to his personal and professional success. His tenacity and grit enabled Morales to rise above his modest beginnings and achieve the American Dream.

“This is the greatest country on the planet and you can do anything here. Do not let yourself be put in a box,” said Morales during our podcast discussion.

This message of individual self-reliance and personal responsibility echoes throughout American Familia, which is told as a series of conversations between Morales and his two young sons. He writes: “Our sons will also fully understand that the freedoms and opportunities they enjoy in America will not come from the color of their skin, or their ethnic heritage, but rather from their faith, work ethic, grit, skill, and their willingness to assume personal responsibility. Anthony and Alexander know well that character matters more than skin color or ethnicity. That they enjoy constitutional freedoms not available in any other country. That as Americans, they can live, pray, and learn freely, as well as pursue better for themselves with self-reliance, perseverance, and faith. Only in America can one go from living on the third floor of a triple-decker in a small, working-class urban city to a successful career and prosperous life in one generation. I believe in the promise of the United States of America.” 

It’s an uplifting message about the power of the individual at a time when individualism is frequently disparaged in favor of collectivism. Morales reminds all of us that the “only obstacle in front of you is the mirror, the person in the mirror. You.”

You can listen to this inspiring episode of the LiberatED podcast on Apple, Spotify, Google, or wherever you get your podcasts, or visit

More by Kerry McDonald