Juneteenth Had Profound Impact On Our Nation 

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It was not the end of slavery in the United States. That didn’t come until passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. 

But for much of the Black American community, and our country as a whole, the date June 19, 1865, signifies symbolic freedom. That’s the day that Major General Gordon Granger (and 2,000 Union troops) arrived in Galveston, Texas, to order enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation. Abraham Lincoln wrote that proclamation in 1862, declaring that all enslaved Americans in Confederate states would become free on Jan. 1, 1863, unless those states returned to the Union. 

Why Texas? 

Texas was a slave state and seceded from our United States on March 2, 1861. There were only three Civil War battles in Texas, and many slaveholders from eastern states ran for Texas as the war progressed. There were few Union troops in the state to enforce the rule of law (sound familiar)? As a result is estimated that there were 250,000 enslaved people in Texas in 1865 even after the Emancipation Proclamation made it illegal. 

Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union on April 9, 1865, and the Confederate military department covering Texas was disbanded a month later. But it wasn’t until Major Gen. Gordon Granger ordered the Proclamation enforced in Texas on June 19 that the enslaved Americans officially became free citizens. 

The American Dream 

Something that I love about America is that we continue to attract the best and brightest from around the world. This not only gives us an incredible advantage economically but also culturally—because we have relationships that reach around the globe. It’s why we have the most powerful economy in the history of the world and why we continue to inspire entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and move global markets. Our greatest gift to the world (and to the next generation of Americans), is that we continue to reward hard work, innovation, and risk taking with the ability to own our own homes, businesses, and future for our families. 

But it also takes a tremendous amount of courage. Even more so for those who leave their hometown or home country – to make new lives for themselves and their families with fierce competition and not a lot of certainty. It’s the hope that we all have a shot and will be given equal and fair treatment under the law. 

What Juneteenth Represents 

The story of the American Dream is much different for most of the African American population of the 17th and 18th centuries, who may have been taken by force from their home countries and deprived of the basic rights that America stands for—that all men and women are treated equal under the law. Although many Americans still don’t want to accept the dark stain of slavery as a part of our American story, the recognition of Juneteenth is a powerful and mature acknowledgement that our national story—the American Dream—hasn’t been perfect, but that we can and will be better for future generations. And Juneteenth is the celebration of a milestone—of moving to a new and more mature stage in our national story. 

Making America Greater Than Ever 

As we know, the Emancipation Proclamation was not the realization of the American Dream, but the beginning of another long stage of the American journey. We continue to take two steps forward and one step back with each generation of the American Dream. But I am incredibly hopeful that the best days are still ahead of us. There are many fearful people who want to take us backwards but life is lived by looking out the windshield and not the rearview mirror; and, the the future of the American Dream depends on what we do next with the opportunities and resources we have been given by those who came before us. 

The most inspiring stories I’ve heard and read are those about Americans who maximized the resources they had and turned so little into so much. For example, Alonzo Herndon was born into slavery in 1858. He started as a barber in Atlanta, eventually opening his own shop. His entrepreneurial spirit led him to found the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, which became one of the most Black-owned businesses in the country and made him Atlanta’s first Black millionaire. 

A little too far back? Well, how about Oprah Winfrey, who many call the most influential woman in the country. She was born to a single mother in rural Mississippi, and had a difficult, poverty-filled childhood. Today, she has an Oscar, a 25-year run as host of the most popular daytime talk show around, a media company, etc., etc. With an estimated worth of $2.8 billion, she is the richest Black woman in the U.S. 

The Sunstone Way 

You have heard me talk about my Sunstone partners and founders John Shen and Stella Zhang many times. As young immigrant students and entrepreneurs who came to America specifically seeking opportunity and the American Dream, their journey was not easy. But they did it through incredibly hard work, persistence, and the support of some amazing Americans along the way who reached out and provided energy, joy, and navigational support (just like the Sunstone) at critical moments in their lives.  

That’s why we believe in The Sunstone Way. We acknowledge that the American Dream is not a perfect story and that it isn’t fair for everyone. That’s why we also believe in venture capital—investing in those great young entrepreneurs who are willing to risk it all to pursue something great—but also, work with our affiliated accelerators, Long Beach Accelerator and Lair East Labs, and provide opportunity for our minority founders. It’s an acknowledgement that the American Dream isn’t as accessible to everyone but that by facing reality and providing some support we can still succeed.  

Let’s celebrate Juneteenth and what it makes us. Because that’s The Sunstone Way. 

And as always, be a Sunstone! 

John Keisler 

CEO & Managing Partner 

Sunstone Management, Inc. 

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©Sunstone Management, Inc. 2024 

More About Sunstone Management 
Sunstone Management is a diversified private capital sponsor firm headquartered in Southern California. Identified by Financial Times as one of America’s Fastest Growing Companies three years in a row. In the latest Pitchbook rankings, Sunstone Management was #15 in the third quarter of 2023 nationally, and #18 in the fourth quarter.1 

  1. Rankings from Pitchbook Venture Monitor, Q3 and Q4. 

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