It was a white leather-look jacket that drew me into the Christian based clothing store in town. “Hello, how are you?” the proprietor asked. “I’m fine,” I said, how are you doing? “Very well, he answered.” “Good,” I said. “That’s what you want when you’re in business.” “Obama says I didn’t do it myself,” he said. “He’s absolutely right,” I responded. “For example, your customers were able to get here because of the public roads and sidewalks, and the lights to see their way by.” That pretty much ended our conversation, but not my thoughts. Without public highways and roads, his business would have been extremely difficulty to maintain – if not impossible. And what of the harbors and ports maintained by the public by which he received shipments of his products. Or trade agreements with the countries who created the goods he bought … Oh, I think it’s a good bet he borrowed money somewhere along the way, or at least uses banks insured by FDIC. I’ll bet, too, that he relies on the postal service to some extent. And I assume he has a lavatory somewhere in the store, with efficient sewage disposal and safe running water in the sink for drinking. Given that his business is Christian-based, I’m pretty sure his beliefs and subsequent business choice depend upon experiences with others who set him an example and standard. Most likely his church had a guaranteed mortgage at one point. If not, it depended on the community getting together to support it.

It’s not all public funds that support his business. What of all the stores around him, helping to bring in business, and the newspapers that make it possible to advertise his wares. Then there’s all the support those other businesses receive from public funds. Just as his customers probably work for, have been employed by, companies who have relied on the public infrastructure for their success.

But let me get away from his situation and into mine. It is true that my parents saved for my college education – for which I feel tremendous gratitude. My college was supported – like basically all institutions of higher education, by endowments. And I probably would not have been admitted to my college had it not been for an excellent public education at all levels through secondary school. Then my graduate degrees. Yes. I worked very hard for them, but those institutions as well relied not only on endowments, but also on grants, many of which came from public funds. The very research that contributed to knowledge in my field depended largely on NSF grants. I can’t forget, as well, that my entire career as a professor was at institutions supported by public funds.

Yes, I can be proud of what I’ve accomplished, as can the proprietor of the store with the white leather-like jacket. But the pride has to be tempered by gratitude for all who have helped me – us- along the way.

“No man (woman) is an island.”

By the way, I didn’t try on the white jacket, much as I would have liked to. I just couldn’t afford it, even though it was worth the price. I hope others are grateful for whatever made it possible for them to try and buy. And I’m happy for the proprietor’s success. I want that store to be there for a long time to please me when I walk by, and occasionally buy.


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  1. Yes, you and I were lucky to have so much help, but what is going to happen to the students who want college so badly, but the grants are fading away, and the funding is disappearing. i feel for the kids of our futures, with the high cost of education, even in the technology under study programs

  2. Interesting, isn’t it, that there should be controversy over the obvious. The President’s statement bore witness to gratitude, a sense of our indebtedness to those who have prepared the way for us, and a more appreciative view of life. That “You didn’t build that” should meet with snide comments and rebukes that assume the President is un-American says nothing about the President. It speaks volumes about how fasr our public life has fallen.

  3. You said it all, Mona: “I couldn’t afford it, even though it was worth the price.” i have decided, in this election, that the price of so-called civility is too high, the stakes are too great, and that I will not sacrifice harmony with those of hugely disparate political views for the relative “peace.’ This election and our future are just too important.

  4. Right on!
  5. So great to remember how much gratitude we all owe each other

  6. Thanks, Leelah, for commenting. Gratitude is so very important!

  7. Thanks for being there, Sally!

  8. Terry, I agree with you. We have to do something to help our young people get the education they need — at all levels. I just can’t imagine how awful it is to graduate with a hard-earned degree only to learn that it will take years to pay it off, unlike the expectations that education will improve your financial life. And not many of us these days can afford education just for the joy of learning, though I do still think that’s the best motivation.

  9. I agree with you, Mona, and it’s nice to see that someone actually understands what the President was saying without distorting his message. And yes, college is way costly these days, but if the Republican candidate gets into office, my understanding is that he wants to cut student financial aid, which would make it that much more difficult for those who want to attend college and maybe get ahead (or at least tread water) in life. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks so much, Laura, for reading and commenting. After all the work we did in the 60s and 70s,, I fear we are returning to a time when education will once again be an elitist adventure, leaving the 47%, 98%, Whatever the number, out in the cold.

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