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10 People Living the American Dream

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Times may be tough, but the "American Dream" is alive and well.

The idea that hard work and perseverance can pay off is embedded into the American psyche and a cause for celebration.

The following are 10 people whose poor, mundane or troubled pasts didn't hold them back from becoming true American success stories, starting with:

John D. Rockefeller

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One of six children, he was raised almost single-handedly by his devout Baptist mother while his father, a traveling salesman of questionable character, was on the road. It would later be learned that his father had a secret second wife.

Rockefeller is America's first business superstar, and that his rise to legendary status came after a impoverished childhood makes his story all the more legendary.

At 16, after helping support his family by taking on small jobs and even loaning his meager savings (with interest) to neighbors, Rockefeller was hired as a bookkeeper by a produce company. His analytical skills and adeptness at number-crunching led to a variety of other ventures.

The skills honed during these days served Rockefeller well as he and a brother entered the oil business. The firm they started would later become Standard Oil, perhaps the most successful U.S. company in history due to its monopoly on the nation's oil refining and distribution. At the time of his death, Rockefeller's personal net worth accounted for nearly 10% of the nation's GDP, a metric that places him as one of the wealthiest men ever.

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