Book review: The Education of an American Dreamer by Peter G. Peterson

By Xin Lu on 23 June 2009 1 comment

The Education of an American Dreamer: : How a Son of Greek Immigrants Learned His Way from a Nebraska Diner to Washington, Wall Street, and Beyond is the personal memoir of Peter G. Peterson, the cofounder of The Blackstone Group, and also the former U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President Nixon.  Mr. Peterson became a billionaire when Blackstone went public in 2007, and he consequently founded the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.  This memoir is a fascinating and adventurous tale of life amongst the humble, rich, and powerful.  

I must say that I enjoy listening to senior citizens tell stories of their lives, and this book reads like a cool grandpa's retelling of the last sixty years. It chronicles the author's humble beginnings in a hardworking and frugal Greek immigrant family in Kearney, Nebraska to MIT, Chicago, the White House, and finally Wall Street.  As a child during the Great Depression Mr. Peterson learned to be very frugal from his father and the theme of working hard and paying for things without excessive debt seems to run throughout the book.

Along the way the book  features many interesting vignettes of famous people such as Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon, and several Rockerfellers. Many of the chapters contain a bit of self deprecating humor, and that kept the book from just being a history lesson.

I also loved how Mr. Peterson wrote everything as if he feared noone.  For example, he wrote about the inner circles of Nixon's administration with a bit of vitriol and decribed them as paranoid and underhanded. It was also pretty obvious that he became disillusioned as to how the government operates and there was a funny chapter about how he had to deal with baby seals and dolphins as the Secretary of Commerce.   There is also a brutally honest chapter about the inner workings of the now defunct Lehman Brothers, where the author served as CEO for over a decade.  Later, he recounted meeting the controversial Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad  and bringing a friend who witnessed the Holocaust.  Finally, Mr. Peterson writes that Ahmadinejad is a "loathsome bigot".

I have not read Mr. Peterson's other books, but by looking at the summaries of books such as Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It  and Will America Grow up Before it Grows Old: How the Coming Social Security Crisis Threatens You, Your Family and Your Country it seems like that we are definitely on the same page.  As a final note in the book Mr. Peterson started the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization focused on issues such as tax reform and the national debt.   This is the same foundation that created  the thought provoking documentary I.O.U.S.A., which has a portion you can view here.  I have nothing but respect for what Mr. Peterson is trying to do for this country and future generations, and I appreciate that the final message of the book offers hope that future generations will be able to achieve t

Finally, I think this memoir is definitely worth reading because I learned quite a bit about American history from its contents.  It also covers a variety of business topics such as advertising, investing, starting a business, and international trade.  Mr. Peterson's experience and perspective on these issues are worth learning from and I think America needs more intelligent people like him in public office.


No votes yet
Your rating: None

Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Bread is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Guest's picture

If you want to read another book about Peter Peterson and Lehman Brothers all in one, I suggest Greed and Glory on Wall Street. It talks about the first collapse (1984) of Lehman Brothers as well as a good background on how Lehman started. Also gives you a third party perspective on Peterson.