Plain-talking Texan brings his philosophy to Kansas.
Manhattan - Texas billionaire Ross Perot today challenged Kansas State University students to honor the hard-working taxpayers who help pay the tab for their college education.
"I don't want you to ever forget that people out there working their hearts out -- policemen, firemen, electricians, carpenters, janitors -- are giving you this great opportunity," said Perot, speaking at the 99th Landon Lecture on the KSU campus.
Perot, the red-faced, jug-eared former independent presidential candidate, enthralled many of the 5,500 people at Bramlage Coliseum with populist ideas for success in business and life. Among those in today's overflow crowd in Manhattan was Kansas Gov. Bill Graves.
"If somebody does something great, recognize it," Perot said, evoking applause from fans, many connected with his group United We Stand America. "You've got to have an environment with no penalty for honest mistakes."
Perot is no stranger to Kansans, from whom he snagged 27 percent of the vote in the 1992 presidential election. Only in Maine and Utah did he get a larger percentage of the vote.
The flat-talking pragmatist spoke in blunt terms to college students -- first to the brightest, then to the average.
To the brilliant ones, Perot said that through the luck of genetics they had never been required to struggle for success. This blessing can be a curse, he cautioned.
"Success has been too easy for you. You are not intellectually tough," said Perot, advising them not to be complacent.
Perot said mediocre students were fortunate to have learned that success came from hard work. He advised them to surround themselves with talented people and work together toward success.
"You just keep on keeping on," he said. "This is really basic stuff, but for some reason people miss it."
Perot said his $3 billion or so personal fortune often prompted people to ask how he defined success.
"Success is being the best at what you do," he said. "You either win or lose, and they don't even give you a red ribbon for second place."
The best way to make certain a person fails in life is to make money a god, Perot said.
"Financial success and happiness are unrelated," he said.
Perot said he loved competition in the workplace. "The more brutal the better," he said, grinning broadly.