Nowadays, people may not remember much about H. Ross Perot outside of his boisterous personality, his third-party Presidential run, or maybe even just comedian Dana Carvey’s spot-on impression of the Texas billionaire. Perot was a naval officer and eight-year veteran whose work ethic and subsequent success is the very ideal vets strive to achieve. He not only helped himself, he helped others achieve their potential.
The onetime Eagle Scout even demonstrated his love for country after leaving the military, by remembering POWs, supporting American troops by opposing a war, and taking care of the Americans who worked for him. His Presidential run was just the most visible part of the former Midshipman’s life.
As far as Dana Carvey’s impression goes, Perot loved it.
“The number one rule in leadership is to always be accountable for what you do,” Perot famously said in the middle of the 1992 Presidential Debate. “When you make a mistake, step up to the plate and say you made a mistake. That’s leadership, folks.”
Perot knew a thing or two about leadership. He joined the Navy via the Naval Academy at Annapolis, becoming the class President for the Academy’s 1953 class. It was there he helped establish the Academy’s honor concept, a code of conduct that forbids Midshipmen from lying, cheating, or stealing. He graduated from the USNA a distinguished graduate, forever changing the experiences of Midshipmen at the Academy.
“I had never seen the ocean, and I had never seen a ship — but I knew that I wanted to go to the Naval Academy,” he reportedly said of his appointment to Annapolis.
But his determination didn’t end with his service. Like most of us, Perot transitioned into civilian life and found the standards much lower than he was used to. In his first post-military job as a salesman for IBM, he filled his entire annual quota in two weeks. He would eventually go on to found his own information technology company, Electronic Data Systems, the one that would make him a billionaire. Within a week of going public, he increased the EDS stock price tenfold. It was the fastest fortune ever made by any Texan.
When called upon to serve his country as a civilian, he did so, traveling to Laos in 1969 to investigate the conditions of American POWs held by the North. Perot was apparently appalled, as he tried to organize a relief airlift that rubbed the Cold War superpowers the wrong way. He also took care of his people, as many veterans instinctively do, even when he was at the top. When two of his employees were taken captive by Iranians in 1979, he organized and paid for the rescue operation that freed the two hostages.
It was with this life of service, hard work, and success that Perot was able to take the fight to two entrenched parties represented by longtime politicians, and change the American political scene forever. For all the jokes made about his demeanor, Perot earned nearly 20 percent of the popular vote, a return that forced President Bill Clinton to reconsider his economic policies and end his term with a budget surplus – a practically unthinkable feat in today’s politics.