The American Dream

Handwritten letterThis past Sunday I had the privilege of being on the CBS Sunday Morning Show with Charles Osgood. I gathered a group of my friends together to share in the excitement and give me strength as my stories and image went out to 5 million viewers. Many emails have arrived in since then. They have been alternately inspiring, humbling and touching. Stories ranging from the man who built the scale model of Rockefeller Center, to a woman who chairs the Centennial Celebration for the former home of my great grandfather, John D. Rockefeller Sr. in Ormond Beach Florida, to the accounts of many who are struggling to make ends meet and care for their families. 

The story below, for which I have received the author’s permission to share, illustrates the human struggle to achieve the American dream. Joyce was one of the lucky ones, but how she got there is an inspiration to us all.

Dear Ms. Rockefeller,

This thank you note is almost 58 years past due.  For that I apologize.  My tardiness does not, however, diminish my appreciation for the immeasurable gift given to me by your family.

This morning I sat mesmerized as I watched your story unfold on CBS Sunday Morning, along with the announcement of your new book, which I am anxious to read.  There was one part where your grandfather said “…thank you Standard Oil…”  Those few words produced such a flood of beautiful memories.    With tears in my eyes, I hit the rewind button and watched that segment a second time, then a third.  You see, your grandfather made it possible for me to go to college, a dream I thought I’d never be able to realize.

The back story:  I grew up in Pismo Beach, CA.  My mother worked nights as a fry cook in a coffee shop, and cleaned motel rooms during the day to support us — us being me, my younger sister (who was born with Down’s Syndrome) and little brother.  Our dad was nowhere in sight.  To say that we were poor is a misnomer.  Church mice look affluent compared to our family.  She worked hard and lived by a set of very simple rules, and we survived.  She knew that more than anything I wanted to go to college, to learn all I could about writing, because that’s what I loved most of all.  She also knew that college was out of the question because the money just was not there.  Still, following the example she set, I continued to work hard, study hard and get good grades.  My high school journalism teacher and self-appointed mentor (an angel if there ever was one) knew of my dreams and my circumstances. Unbeknownst to me, she applied for a scholarship on my behalf.

In June, 1956 I graduated from high school with honors and a scholarship for $200 from Standard Oil Company. With the scholarship and three part-time jobs, I became a full-time student with a double major in journalism and English.  I was on my way!

Thank you for making it all possible for me.  Your family’s generosity made my dream come true.

Yours most sincerely,


N. Hollywood, CA

P.S.  Oh, yes, the Life Rules my mother taught us were quite simple and incredibly powerful:  “Never give up” and “Make do with what you’ve got.”  My mother was the most remarkable woman I have ever met.  Her life lessons have served me well all these 75 years.

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6 Responses to The American Dream

  1. Susan Smith says:

    I watched the interview given on CBS Sunday Morning Show between Eileen Rockefeller and Charles Kuralt and I cannot wait to buy her book! Thank you for sharing the post! SusanSmith

  2. Judith A. Meyncke says:

    Dear Mrs. Rockefeller,

    Thank you so much for sharing this amazing and moving “Thank you letter” with us, 58 years later. So beautifully composed. Straight from the heart. It certainly brought tears to my eyes.

    Congratulations on your Interview! How sweet, bringing along some friends for support.

    With Authentic Blessings,

    Judith A. Meyncke

  3. Eileen Rockefeller says:

    Dear Judith,
    Sorry to be so long in responding. I’ve been on the road a lot, touring my book. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the beautiful “thank you letter.” It makes me proud of my great grandfather, that he had the foresight to set in motion such scholarships and many other good works, despite having hurt people too, in the process of building Standard Oil.

    And yes, it was wonderful having friends around me to celebrate my first debut on television.

    I hope this finds you well.

    • Judith A. Meyncke says:

      Dear Mrs. Eileen Rockefeller Growald,

      Thank you for your kind response. I am not quite sure how you would like to be addressed. Just in case you would like to place my name with a face, I am the friend of Miss Cathy Wells, who resides on Shelburne Farms. I brought you the organic pumpkin, that which I grew. I completed your book in record time. It was FANTASTIC! There were so many parts that I absolutely loved. What struck my heart to the very core was when your husband did NOT let you go until you were able to get to the bottom of the issue. Do you realize how many marriages could be saved if folks followed in your husbands footsteps? There is so much more to say about your book.
      Please stay well.

      Blessings and Love,


  4. Eileen Rockefeller says:

    Dear Judith, the lovely bearer of the giant pumpkin! (And I love being called Eileen,)
    I’m sorry not to have written sooner to your beautiful response, but I’ve been on the road doing book tour almost constantly since I saw you. Thank you so much for your gift, which is on my front porch by the door as I write. And thank you also for your feedback on my chapter, “In the Fire.” This was a hard one to write, but my dear husband insisted on it! We are thinking of writing a book together on the value of meeting the wall in relationships and ways of breaking through. So thanks for your encouragement.

    Warmest wishes to you,

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