On 20 March 2017, President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, who owns a branded retail chain, tweeted an image of a quote attributed to novelist Ayn Rand:
— Ivanka Trump HQ (@IvankaTrumpHQ) March 20, 2017
Trump is not the first one to attribute the quote to Rand. In 2013, the young women’s clothing line Forever 21 put the quote on a tank top (the company no longer sells the shirt).
The quote is often attributed to Rand, an influential writer and philosopher with a cult following best known for the 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged. She never said or wrote exactly those words — but there is a similar passage in her 1943 book The Fountainhead, said Onkar Ghate, chief content officer and senior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute.
In an e-mail, Ghate told us the passage is part of dialogue between the protagonist, Howard Roark, and another character:
That “quote” is actually a paraphrase of what the hero, Howard Roark, says in Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead in response to a question.
Roark, a young, unconventional, aspiring architect is in conversation with the Dean of his college; they are discussing Roark’s expulsion from school. Here’s the relevant part of the conversation: …
[DEAN] “Do you mean to tell me that you’re thinking seriously of building that way, when and if you are an architect?
[DEAN] “My dear fellow, who will let you?”
[ROARK] “That’s not the point. The point is, who will stop me?”
Rand founded a school of philosophical thought called Objectivism, which champions individuality and self-reliance. Objectivism has played an influential role in American Libertarian and conservative politics. She is also seen as an intriguing anomaly as a female writer and thinker who become prominent in an era when the field was heavily dominated by men.