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Business of Giving: Disney, HP Show Greatness Can Come of Tough Times


Our current situation is exciting in good ways as well as bad.

Our current economic situation has been weighing heavily on my mind - but then again, who hasn't been thinking about it constantly?

And yet, I just can't help but be an optimist. I know something good is coming. Challenges, after all, create great opportunities. With so many comparing this credit crisis to the Great Depression, and being a bit of a history buff myself, I decided to take a look at what happened in the years following the great crash of 1929. After all, it was John D. Rockefeller who said, in 1932:

"These are days when many are discouraged. In the 93 years of my life, depressions have come and gone. Prosperity has always returned and will again."

Rockefeller's words were proven true by two companies that were able to take the challenges of the day and work them to their advantage. The Walt Disney Company (DIS) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) were both started by men who, while they didn't have a lot of money, did have ideas that changed everything.

Let's start with Disney. The Great Depression was gripping the nation, people were out of work, and no one knew when things were going to get any better. People craved an escape from the anxiety that consumed them. Enter Mickey Mouse.

In 1933, Disney won an Oscar for The Three Little Pigs, a thinly veiled take on the country's current economic state. "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" became an anthem for fighting the Depression, and Disney's popularity began its unstoppable surge.

And then there's HP. This story, to me, is the embodiment of the American Dream. It's 1939, and the Depression is still gripping the nation. But Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard can't help themselves: They have an idea and have to see if they can make it work.
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