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Foreword
  Hello, friends, I'm Sam Walton, founder and chairman of Wal-Mart Stores. By now I hope you'veshopped in one of our stores, or maybe bought some stock in our company. If you have, you probablyalready know how proud I am of what is simply the miracle that all these Wal-Mart associates of minehave accomplished in the thirty years since we opened our first Wal-Mart here in northwestArkansas,which Wal-Mart and I still call home. As hard as it is to believe sometimes, we've grown from that onelittle store into what is now the largest retailing outfit in the world. And we've really had a heck of a timealong the way. I realize we have been through something amazing here at Wal-Mart, something specialthat we ought to share more of with all the folks who've been so loyal to our stores and to our company.

That's one thing we never did much of while we were building Wal-Mart, talk about ourselves or do awhole lot of bragging outside the Wal-Mart familyexcept when we had to convince some banker orsome Wall Street financier that we intended to amount to something someday, that we were worth takinga chance on. When folks have asked me, "How did Wal-Mart do it" I've usually been flip aboutanswering them. "Friend, we just got after it and stayed after it," I'd say. We have always pretty muchkept to ourselves, and we've had good reasons for it; we've been very protective of our business dealingsand our home lives, and we still like it that way.

But as a result, a whole lot of misinformation and myth and half-truths have gotten around over the yearsabout me and about Wal-Mart. And I think there's been way too much attention paid to my personalfinances, attention that has caused me and my family a lot of extra trouble in our livesthough I've justignored it and pretty much gone about my life and the business of Wal-Mart as best I could.

None of this has really changed. But I've been fighting cancer for a while now, and I'm not getting anyyounger anyway. And lately a lot of folksincluding Helen and the kids, some of our executives here atthe company, and even some of the associates in our stores have been fussing at me that I'm really thebest person to tell the Wal-Mart tale, and thatlike it or notmy life is all wrapped up in Wal-Mart, and Ishould get it down right while I still can. So I'm going to try to tell this story the best I'm able to, as closeto the way it all came about as I can, and I hope it will be almost as interesting and fun and exciting as it'sbeen for all of us, and that it can capture for you at least something of the spirit we've all felt in buildingthis company. More than anything, though, I want to get across once and for all just how importantWal-Mart's associates have been to its success.

This is a funny thing to do, this looking back on your life trying to figure out how all the pieces cametogether. I guess anybody would find it a little strange, but it's really odd for somebody like me becauseI've never been a very reflective fellow, never been one to dwell in the past. If I had to single out oneelement in my life that has made a difference for me, it would be a passion to compete. That passion haspretty much kept me on the go, lookingahead to the next store visit, or the next store opening, or thenext merchandising item I personally wanted to promote out in those storeslike a minnow bucket or aThermos bottle or a mattress pad or a big bag of candy.

As I do look back though, I realize that ours is a story about the kinds of traditional principles that madeAmericagreat in the first place. It is a story about entrepreneurship, and risk, and hard work, andknowing where you want to go and being willing to do what it takes to get there. It's a story aboutbelieving in your idea even when maybe some other folks don't, and about sticking to your guns. But Ithink more than anything it proves there's absolutely no limit to what plain, ordinary working people canaccomplish if they're given the opportunity and the encouragement and the incentive to do their best.

Because that's how Wal-Mart became Wal-Mart: ordinary people joined together to accomplishextraordinary things. At first, we amazed ourselves. And before too long, we amazed everybody else,especially folks who thoughtAmericawas just too complicated and sophisticated a place for this sort ofthing to work anymore.

The Wal-Mart story is unique: nothing quite like it has been done before. So maybe by telling it the wayit really happened, we can help some other folks down the line take these same principles and apply themto their dreams and make them come true.


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