Of course, if you are poor, a woman, or a minority, in the US, the deck is stacked against you. It is significantly more difficult for you to 'get to the top'. Unfortunately, because we invest so little in the education of our poor, by the time they grow to become their own advocates, they are often so far behind that there is little hope of ever catching up.
I read this passage last night, from the close of Malcolm's portion of The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley:
My greatest lack has been, I believe, that I don't have the kind of academic education I wish I had been able to get -- to have been a lawyer, perhaps. I do believe that I might have made a good lawyer. I have always loved verbal battle, and challenge. You can believe me that if I had the time right now, I would not be one bit ashamed to go back into any New York City public school and start where I left off at the ninth grade, and go on through a degree. Because I don't begin to be academically equipped for so many of the interests that I have.