Mary Katharine Ham

What do you call a person who feels bad about a feel-good movie? Probably a liberal.

I saw “The Pursuit of Happyness” last week. It will be called a conservative movie, a Republican flick, a right-wing anthem.

In fact, it already has. Washington Post movie reviewer Stephen Hunter called it “a radically conservative encomium to trying hard, to capitalism, to salesmanship, to Dean Witter, to never saying die, and to reaping the big reward.”

I’m sure it will be called worse than “radically conservative,” too.

“Happyness” is a classic overcome-the-odds journey, an underdog-wins-big story, an American dream chase. And, it’s true. It’s the story of Chris Gardner, a high-school graduate, medical supply salesman, and father, who’s determined to climb the steepest hills of San Francisco toward a better life for himself and his young son.

After spotting a man with a Ferrari in the early 80s landscape of the West Coast and finding out that man’s a stock broker, Gardner--played with an easy combo of warmth and grit by Will Smith--makes up his mind to become one, too. He takes a chance on an unpaid internship with Dean Witter. He’s in a pool of 20, out of which exactly one man will eventually be hired. It’s the very definition of big risk, big reward. He’s got a young son to care for—played by Smith’s own son, Jaden—and the “unpaid” part of this internship puts the two of them in homeless shelters and church soup kitchens for half the movie.

The real-life Chris Gardner is now a 51-year-old multi-millionaire with his own Chicago brokerage firm.

Think “Eye of the Tiger” on the corporate ladder.

He did it all with bone-grinding discipline, precious little complaining, and a belief that he could. The movie is remarkable for what it does not contain. No griping about race, even though Gardner is a black man trying to make it in a mostly white firm. No bashing of Reaganomics, even though the time period makes the movie ripe for it. No two-dimensional, evil, greedy, white executives trying to stiff the little guy. No two-dimensional black male figure leaving his kid in the dust. No government hand-outs for Gardner.

No excuses.

Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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