Dear Mr. President,
I was watching your State of the Union address a few nights ago on television. There was a part in your speech where you alluded to the many letters you receive from people throughout the United States. I’m writing because I thought that you might somehow get to read mine.
I am a 21 year old college senior at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania majoring in elementary education. My home is farther South, in the small town of Walnutport. That is where I reside with my family when I am not living at school. My father is in his fifties and has been laid-off from his job as a union construction laborer for many months. He is receiving some money through unemployment, but not nearly as much as he would receive if there were a job available to him. My mother is in her late forties and has a job in a screen printing factory. Her hours are cut frequently without notice. My 18 year old brother graduated from high school last year and has opted to work two jobs, one at a local grocery store, and the other at UPS. I recently had to take a few months off of my job as a swim coach for two teams to ensure that I can put all of my energy into student teaching.
The reason I am writing to you is to ask for some advice. I want to help my family. We are lower middle class and very hard-working, especially my mother and farther. We are certainly not at the top of the food chain, but we have always been thankful for the things that we do have, knowing there are others with larger needs. My father is used to experiencing temporary lay-offs, as it is typical of the construction industry. Because of that, we have always been an efficient and frugal family. We’ve also been able to make it through past financial hardships by sticking together and waiting patiently for things to get better. But I’m starting to really worry. My parents have always kept their concerns hidden by telling my brother and me that they were the adults and these were not problems for us to worry about. Well, I am an adult now, so I have a decent idea of what our status is.
Throughout my life, my father has always been positive about everything. He works incredibly hard and is very good at what he does. But since he has been out of work so long, I can see a marked change. It is mainly in his eyes. They seem much more sullen. He does not laugh nearly as much. He seems smaller somehow. I can tell by the way he acts that he feels responsible for all of our current worries. Will my mom have enough gas to make it to work? Which car will break down this week that he will need to fix? Out of all of the important bills, which is most important to be paid first? How long until his benefits run out? What if one of us gets sick? What groceries will we be able to afford this week? Will he have a pension when he is finally able to retire? The list goes on and on. I can see it all eating away at him. He can’t sleep. And I wonder… if even he is starting to break, what can the rest of us do?
And my mom, she tries hard as well. She stayed home with my brother and me for most of our lives because her job couldn’t pay for childcare, and she hated the idea of strangers raising us. She went back to work a few years ago. Now, after getting sent home early due to lack of work, I’ve seen her come inside, a long while after hearing her car park, only to enter the house with red eyes from the tears she just cried to herself in the car.
Please don’t get the impression that I am searching for an appology or pity. Those things are never necessary or useful, and there are others who are far worse off than I can imagine. I know action is the only way we can move forward. But I feel so insignificant and helpless. I don’t know what I can say or do to help my family. I know the usual answer, “Just wait, things will get better.” I have to be honest though, I don’t know how much longer we can wait. I don’t know how much longer I can bear to look into my father’s eyes and see the deep-seeded sadness that has replaced his positive demeanor and posture. I don’t know how much longer I can watch them be told to “just wait, it will be OK,” just to see their hopes smashed again and again. I don’t know how much longer I can listen o the subtle note of defeat that is invading my mother’s words. And I don’t know how much longer I can deal with the guilt of putting additional financial strain on my family by trying to be the first of us to attend and graduate college. And now, I am realizing that the chances of me being able to get an honest job as a teacher is more like a fairy tale than a reality.
I guess the advice I am searching for is “What do I do?” I know that as president, you have a lot of expectation placed on you. A lot of things that people are expecting of you are not even things you have direct control over. I also understand that all of the things contributing to our country’s problems will not be and cannot be fixed overnight, or even over four years. It’s not your job to respond to me, or even read this letter. But for some reason, I felt that I needed to try. Maybe my mind finds comfort in the fact that I took some sort of an action.
Anyways, I don’t care about having enough money to buy a new car, or a laptop, or a smartphone. I just want to be able to walk back into my house and see my mom smile the way she used to, or hear my dad laugh without it sounding like it is coming from someone else. I miss that more than anything.