I know a man, or should I say, I know of a man … this man got his start in an ethnically diverse family; his father was a black African from Kenya and his mother was a white American originally from Kansas, and the parents met at the University of Hawaii where both were taking a basic Russian language course.
Both of this man’s parents could accurately be described as academics.
It would be dishonest to say that coming from an ethnically mixed marriage and a broken home that this man had a traumatic childhood. On the contrary, from the age of 10 he lived a rather storied life with his white grandparents in Hawaii where his grandmother became one of the first female bank vice presidents in 1970 and he attended the Punahou School in Honolulu, a prestigious preparatory school where his tuition was paid with the aid of scholarships.
This man’s college education included Occidental College in Los Angeles, Columbia University in NYC, and Harvard Law School, where he graduated with a J.D. magna cum laude. While in college he interned as a non-degreed law associate in Chicago during summer breaks. At Harvard, this man was selected first as the editor and then as the president of the Harvard Law Review. (Worth mentioning as a side note is that even though this man studied as a constitutional lawyer, just recently he recklessly attempted to force churches to abide by governmental regulations when hiring in opposition to a church’s stated beliefs and lost that case in an unanimous decision handed down by the Supreme Court last week. This is seen as a slap in the face and brings his schooling and subsequent role as a teacher of constitutional law into question. Specifically, how is it possible that such a brilliant constitutional lawyer could misunderstand the Constitution so badly as to get involved in such a faux pas?)
After graduation this man worked at community organizing before winning two terms in the Illinois State Senate followed by a seat in the U.S. Senate, an early resignation, and election as the 44th president of the United States.
This man of whom I write then is our current president—Barack Obama—and in addition to all that is delineated above he, himself, wrote in the Harvard Law Record that he had benefited from affirmative action programs during his academic career. So a man that was half black but had lived as a white man was the recipient of that which was meant solely for the disadvantaged. That is the storied life of what I consider to be a favored individual who never really suffered under much temporal hardship. Now I would like to contrast Mr. Obama’s life with the life of another man I happened to know personally who took a completely different path through life.
I know a man, the youngest of five siblings, born and raised by immigrant parents in South Philadelphia. This man had to drop out of high school to help his parents maintain their household. This man, as an adolescent, went to the Navy Yard with his immigrant father to collect the shoes of Navy Yard workers and repair them in a South Philadelphia shoe repair shop before returning them to the Navy Yard. Eventually this man, even though unlicensed initially, acquired a tow truck and began towing cars for local Philadelphia “junk yards.” When the opportunity arose this man leased property down in the infamous 61st and Passyunk “junk yard” row, most of which has been bought up by new car dealers and is now known as “Auto Row.”
This man met and married a widow with three young children and added the responsibility of caring for a young family to the responsibility of helping his parents, whose home he eventually paid off. Finally, this man decided to take a chance and worked out a deal to purchase a “salvage yard” in South Jersey. Unfortunately, this man was not flush with cash to make such a purchase so he made a deal with a loan shark to get the money and bought the property with a high interest loan and a lot of confidence that he could make it work. In addition, this man provided employment and eventually limited benefits as he was able to other people. Given the amount of work that was required on the part of this man and his wife to make this venture succeed they had to hire a woman to come in and watch their home and children while they spent all day trying to succeed in business and continue to employ others. In fact, this man’s day seldom ended before well after dark. On a typical day after the doors of his business were closed he could be found on the streets in his tow truck picking up cars or looking at cars to buy to bring back to his salvage yard. Finally, the loan shark, who made monthly visits to the property to collect his money and look over what he thought he might himself eventually own due to failure of the business, was paid off. Eventually this man became more and more successful and all his long days and nights of hard work and hustling paid off.
Now, this is the man, the man from South Philadelphia, who put it all on the line, unwilling to accept failure as an option, that Mr. Obama, the man from Washington who led a storied life in “white” suburbia and the halls of academia and government, wants to tell how much money he should earn. Here we have a man who attended the best schools and was cared for by his well-to-do grandparents, a man whose two daughters attend the prominent Sidwell Friends School at over $32,000 a year tuition surely placing him amongst the “One Percent” compared to a man who dropped out of school to help support his immigrant parents, added the responsibility of caring for a young family to the responsibility of caring for his parents and struggled to establish a business to give his family a better life. And one man, the president, who never really knew a day of hardship, has the gall to tell the other man, a self-made man, when he has made enough money.
This, therefore, is the story of two very different men who seem to be at odds. The first man was handed his opportunities on a platter while the second man had to struggle for everything he got. The second man wants to be left alone now to enjoy the fruits of his labor but the first man wants to take what the second man has earned through a lifetime of risk-taking and hard work because the first man thinks that other people should share in the second man’s rewards.
I rest my case.