January 20, 2019

We Need to Restore the Dignity of Work

“There was once a path to a stable and prosperous life in America that has since closed off. It was a well-traveled path for many Americans: Graduate from high school and get a job, typically with a local manufacturer or one of the service industries associated with it, and earn enough to support a family. The idea was not only that it was possible to achieve this kind of success, but that anyone could achieve it—the American dream. That dream defines my family’s history, and its disappearance calls me to action today.

In 1956, my parents left behind a life of poverty in Cuba when they departed Havana with my 7-year-old brother for New York, and then for Miami soon after. My father started off taking whatever day jobs he could find before eventually becoming a bartender for most of his career, working various other jobs during the gaps. Once my younger sister and I were old enough, my mother started working again as a maid.

Between their two salaries and my dad’s tips, they made a good living, and I had a privileged childhood. My parents made enough to own a house, raise four children, and even allow my mother to spend most of her time at home when I was young. I was able to play football, go to college, and earn a law degree, because of the solid foundation built on the sacrifices my parents made for me and my siblings.”

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