George Petropoulos came from Vahlia, Greece, to America as many immigrants did, to make a better life for himself and his family. Speaking no English and with a third grade education, he carved out a place in this country with sheer hard work and determination. George's older brother had come to America first, then George, and later others in the family came. Most made the trip through Ellis Island, as did my own father, to the land where the streets were paved with gold, or so they thought. Along the way, George changed his last name to Peterson and often told his son Peter how he regretted changing his name as he didn't want people to think he wasn't proud of his heritage. And a proud Greek family they were!
The tough times that Peter's family lived through, as he grew up, is one that so many children of Greek immigrants, like me, can relate to. George had worked several jobs before finally settling in Kearney, Nebraska. There he opened a 24 hour café and made it a thriving business out of sheer will and very hard labor. He married Peter's mother, Venetia Papapavlou, who had come from a somewhat prosperous family near Sparta in Greece. My own mother's family came from the same area so again, the story rang true to me of Peter's heritage. By the time she and George were married, his Central Café was prospering and the wedding in 1924 had the promise of a fine future. George was a typical 24/7 working man and Venetia, the typical obedient Greek wife. Peter SO wanted to be 100% American but as in most Greek families, his heritage and religion played a huge part in his youth and upbringing.
The beginning of THE EDUCATION OF AN AMERICAN DREAMER was especially interesting to me as I could relate so much with my family background.
Living the American dream didn't come without struggles and personal problems. He had to deal with brain surgery as well as went through two divorces. He had his share of enemies and supporters along the way, but is now married to Joan Ganz Cooney, who helped create Sesame Street, and is living his life for public service now in his eighties. He made many wise choices in life and now wants to pass on to others, especially the young, how to handle the financial burdens the youth of America are inheriting. He did in fact contribute much of the net proceeds he made from Blackstone to set up the Peter G. Peterson Foundation to help the youth of tomorrow. Peter Peterson's story is an easy read which read much like a novel thanks to his humor and easy going style. This is well worth reading whether you just want a good story of how a man can rise to prominence in spite of where they came from, or for the financial and political background that is clearly spelled out as well in the book. This is aptly titled AN EDUCATION OF AN AMERICAN DREAMER because it exemplifies all that title denotes.