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“Ayn Rand Was ‘Born’ Here: Rand’s Chicago Roots”

“Ayn Rand Was ‘Born’ Here: Rand’s Chicago Roots”

5 Mins
December 17, 2019

Remarks by Jennifer Anju Grossman, CEO of The Atlas Society

Saddle & Cycle Club, Chicago, Illinois

December 12, 2019

Thank you so much, Stuart and Elise, and yes, a special, special thank you to Elise.  I empathize with what it’s like to be a part of an ideologically mixed family. Stuart, though libertarian, may be somewhat right of center, Elise, if not left of center, left of Stuart.

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But my parents who celebrate their 54th wedding anniversary in exactly two weeks are living proof that there does not need to be political agreement for there to be a happy marriage.  My Dad is to the left of center, and mom --mom is to the left of the left….of left of center.  

And then there’s Ayn Rand, who had plenty of criticism for conservatives and for liberals, so we’ll all a fun time.

And who wouldn’t have a fun time here at the prestigious Saddle & Cycle Club, founded, I take it, by people who thought the best ways to get around are either on horseback or on a bicycle.  Hey, isn’t that pretty much the Green New Deal?  I did not come to the club today on a bike or a horse.  I was supposed to get a ride with former Police Chief Eddie Johnson but he never showed up….Hope he’s okay.  

You think he’s got problems.  The President has problems. Tomorrow I’m going to the White House.  Looking at the calendar, so on Friday the 13th, I’m going to the Trump White House.  Talk about tempting fate. I hear the weather forecast calls for lightning.

But it’s a White House Christmas Party for Senior Staff -- so I was excited to get an invitation.  Although it really looked a lot more like a summons.

I don’t know if you heard but apparently they’re trying to impeach President Trump.  Which I don’t think is going to happen. But just in case, at the party tomorrow, I’ll be getting my food “to go.”  

But there’s a lot of hysteria on both sides, President Trump’s supporters keep calling his impeachment a Witch Hunt….but I say, let’s leave Hillary out of this. (I parked my own broom outside, so I’m not picking on her).

Though in Hillary Clinton’s defense, I do think there’s a double standard when it comes to women voicing political opinions that rouse strong emotions, and Ayn Rand is a prime example.  Despite her unparalleled literary accomplishments she is uniformly ignored in academia when she’s not being vilified.  

And in an age when we’re constantly exhorted to provide due recognition for the professional and intellectual accomplishments of women, Ayn Rand gets bupkis.  As I pointed out in one of my articles, not even a Google Doodle.

And we, the women of The Atlas Society -- and we are a staff primarily of women -- think Ayn Rand deserves her due as a great novelist, a great Patriot, and a great example of staying true to your own vision, even when the whole world is against you.

Which is one reason we’re so honored to be here in Chicago today, because there’s a case to be made that in a sense, Chicago was the city where Ayn Rand was born...hold that thought.  Chicago is also a city where she drew much inspiration from its architecture for The Fountainhead, and from its industry and manufacturing, for Atlas Shrugged.

But wait a minute, wasn’t Ayn Rand born in Russia in 1905?  Alisa Rosenbaum, was born there, in Saint Petersburg. Her parents Anna and Zinovy, owned a pharmacy -- St. Petersburg being one of the few cities where Jews were allowed to live, and pharmacist being one of the few professions Jews were allowed to practice.  The Rosenbaums were hardworking and their pharmacy was successful, and provided a nice life for Alisa, and her two younger sisters.  

That ended when Alisa was 12, when she and her little sisters watched the bloody Bolshevik revolution from the window of their apartment.  Not long after soldiers came in and liberated the Rosenbaum’s pharmacy and their home in the name of the greater good, of the collective, of brotherhood, of the needy.

The next eight years of Alisa’s life were very hard, with her family suffering -- along with millions of other Russians -- on the brink of starvation.  But at 21 years of age, Alisa managed to escape to The United States.

Within days of landing in New York on February 19, 1926, she boarded a train bound for Chicago where she had relatives.  Alisa knew it was her calling in life to let the world know about the atrocities of the totalitarian dictatorship she’d fled -- and about the evils of Marxism and collectivism which had given birth to that monstrous regime.  And she was not going to keep her mouth shut.  

She would have at the very least been sent to the gulag for speaking out if she’d stayed behind in the Soviet Union.  Many were.

She would place the safety of her family in jeopardy in the Soviet Union by speaking out even here, in America.  So here in Chicago, Alisa Rosenbaum was re-born...and here in Chicago, Ayn Rand, was born.



The rest, one might say, is history, as Ayn Rand went on to write some of the most popular and influential books of all time, including The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged -- and ANTHEM, now enjoying a popular renaissance as a graphic novel and animated series, thanks to The Atlas Society.

But history is not what The Atlas Society is about.  Ayn Rand is not even what The Atlas Society is about.  We’re not about the past, we’re not about a person. We’re about the future.

A future which we believe is at grave risk given the surge of popularity of socialism and the hostility to capitalism among the younger generation.  Grave risk given the competition among certain politicians to see who can promise more free stuff, who can promise more punishment, more vilification for the successful and the wealthy.

The conventional wisdom is that this is a case of historical amnesia.  That young people today have never known the threat of communism, and have really only experienced relative prosperity.  Maybe. But we here at The Atlas Society take a different view. We believe the surging popularity of socialism isn’t a case of bad memory.  It’s a case of bad values.

Our diagnosis isn’t amnesia.  It’s an epidemic of STDs -- socially transmitted diseases.  Envy. Entitlement. Victimhood. Resentment. Greed -- which Ayn Rand described as “the desire for the unearned.”

How do you fight bad values?  With good values. Gratitude. Individualism.  Reason. Achievement. Freedom.


Our audience is primarily young people.  Our messaging is specifically tailored to their tastes -- graphic novels, animated videos, edgy social media, pocket guides.  Our distribution network is through our student partner organizations, we’re at about a dozen student conferences a year -- another half dozen comic cons each year -- and a growing number of groups include our materials in the thousands of activism kits they send to students every year.

One of our most popular items is ANTHEM: The Graphic Novel, based on Rand’s famous 1938 novella -- a quick read, a fun read, which I adapted with Marvel Comics illustrator Dan Parsons who is racing to finish our second graphic novel: Red Pawn.

Our most popular video series is our Draw My Life videos, they’re about two- to three-minutes each, they’re all on our site and on our social media. I started out with My Name is Ayn Rand, My Name is Dagny Taggart, My Name is Hank Rearden, and we’ve gone on to My Name is Envy, My Name is Greed, My Name is Gratitude, My Name is America -- and one which won the award for best narrative short film at FreedomFest:  My Name is Victimhood.

And all these pieces of content, our many pocket guides, to Objectivism, to Atlas Shrugged, etc. are also great tools for our student programs -- which these two ladies manage -- including Atlas Advocates and Atlas Intellectuals.

It’s a lot of fun. I get to work with great people, like Ana Kugler and Marilyn Moore, here with me today, and I get to work FOR great people, which includes all the members of The Atlas Society, a number of whom are here today, and including our incredible board of trustees.  For those of you who attend FreedomFest in Las Vegas, we’ll be there, and we’d love to see you there. But we’d really love to see you at our gala, in New York, in October.

And of course back here in Chicago, where Ayn Rand got her start, but also gave one of the most powerful speeches of her career at McCormick Place in 1963.   People came not just from Chicago, but in Chartered buses from all over the country. And her message then is needed more today than ever. In an age when some politicians claim that billionaires should not be allowed to exist, that the greed of businessmen are responsible for causing our problems, Rand in her inimitable fashion said that businessmen were America’s most persecuted minority, subject to differential treatment, blamed as a group for problems caused in fact by their persecutors, government bureaucrats.

She described the persecution of businessmen as “the penalizing of ability for being ability, the penalizing of success for being success, and the sacrifice of productive genius to the demands of envious mediocrity.”

Ayn Rand spoke out with great courage for America, for the creators, for businessmen and businesswomen.  She spoke out for you. I hope you’ll join us in speaking out not just for her, but for the values she dedicated her life to advancing and that The Atlas Society is dedicated to advancing today.


Jennifer A. Grossman

Jennifer Anju Grossman is the CEO of the Atlas Society.

Jennifer A. Grossman
About the author:
Jennifer A. Grossman

Jennifer Anju Grossman -- JAG-- became the CEO of the Atlas Society in March of 2016. Since then she’s shifted the organization's focus to engage young people with the ideas of Ayn Rand in creative ways. Prior to joining The Atlas Society, she served as Senior Vice President of Dole Food Company, launching the Dole Nutrition Institute — a research and education organization— at the behest of Dole Chairman David H. Murdock. She also served as Director of Education at the Cato Institute, and worked closely with the late philanthropist Theodore J. Forstmann to launch the Children's Scholarship Fund. A speechwriter for President George H. W. Bush, Grossman has written for both national and local publications.  She graduated with honors from Harvard.

Art and Literature
Ayn Rand's Life