My hometown (Dubuque, Iowa) was in the national spotlight yesterday due to visits from both presidential candidates. As they often do, they brought along a few celebrity supporters. I’ve been to my fair share of political events (since Iowa is such a big deal these days) and have never been as impressed as I was with the speech from Kate Walsh (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice).
I’m paraphrasing here because I can’t find any coverage where her comments are included: She talked about her father’s involvement in his trade union, her family’s use of medicaid, food stamps and her mother’s use of a government training program to return to the workforce after her parent’s divorce. She spoke of her use of Planned Parenthood for her annual exams as being the one form of healthcare she knew would always be available even while she went uninsured for long periods of time. She said that Barack Obama wants to give us a country where it doesn’t matter who your parents are and you don’t have to win the lottery (or get picked for a role on a TV show) to improve your situation.
I can relate to Kate – my dad worked at John Deere as a member of the UAW for 40 years and my mom also struggled to find employment that would provide health insurance and a decent wage when my parents divorced over 12 years ago. We were able to get reduced price lunch and low interest loans for home improvements because we often landed on the cusp of being poor enough. My mom raised my sister and me on the $700/month in child support from my dad and around $10/hr from her retail and community training jobs.
I have an amazing mother who ALWAYS put me and my education first. I went to college (thank you Pell grant, subsidized loans and mom) and graduate school – which I was able to pay for while I worked full-time.
She got me my VIP ticket to see Barack Obama on Saturday and we stood together, side by side, in the 40 degree weather for 4 hours.
If I’ve learned anything from my experiences, it is that we all do better when there is a net to catch people who find themselves in less-than-ideal situations; most of us can’t just “borrow money from our parents”, and many do not have any bootstraps to pull themselves up by. My mom was there making sure I had the tools to pull myself up, and like Kate, I would compare that luck with winning the lottery.