President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
August 22, 2013
I hope your vacation is going well and the weather is providing you a period of rest and rejuvenation from all the golf and vacationing that has been wearing you down in this, your second term.
You will excuse me if I sound a bit cynical and a touch sarcastic. It’s just that, well...I am.
You see Mr. President, three days ago I was informed that a job I had been offered only a week before, has been withdrawn. The company decided to freeze hiring for the foreseeable future. Part of their reasoning was the rising cost of healthcare, making it unaffordable for them to provide. This unaffordable-ness came as a result of your “Affordable Care Act.”
Five years ago I might have smiled at the irony of those words. But I’m not smiling.
Mr. President, five years ago I lost my career as a mortgage broker. I was never a rich man. I broke the lowest level of a six figure income only twice in ten years. I made good money but never was so consumed by material means as to earn the large sums that many of my associates in the industry did. Instead, I chose to limit my office time, and focus on the time I had with my daughter.
I am a single dad. My daughter is my treasure. She is the axis upon which my world spins. Of all the roles I play, being her dad is the one by which I define myself. My daughter and I spent our time together in the little 2500 square foot ranch house on five acres that we owned for four years. She grew from age 6 to age 10 in that house. I never remarried, choosing instead to focus on her and on being a great dad. I think I did an admirable job.
I lost my house in 2008. Part of losing a house and having no place to live is having no place to keep your pets. We had two beautiful Springer Spaniels, named Bonnie and Cooper. We raised them both from puppies. They are gone. I had to give them away. We had a cat named Giacomo. He is gone too, as is my daughter’s Welsh pony. My garden is someone else’s garden now. The little country house I wanted all my life belongs to someone else.
I live in Nashville, but I am a native of Philadelphia. When I lost my home and could not find another job, I had to make a decision. Do I stay in Nashville and remain active in my daughter’s life and be her dad? Or do I move home, or move to North Dakota and work in an oil field, or to Texas, or someplace where there was work and leave my daughter behind with her mom? For me, there was only one choice. I love my daughter.
I know you love your kids. People tell me that all the time, they say “Well he loves his kids, that makes him okay in my book.” No disrespect sir, but Pol Pot loved his kids too. It doesn’t make you a good president.
So...I stayed. Staying meant sleeping in a Volvo 850. I am 6’ 4” and Volvo 850’s are not very comfortable for me to drive...imagine sleeping in one. But I did. Sleeping in your car is actually against the law. It’s vagrancy and so it required me to hide my car in some tall brush behind a church in Nashville. I took showers at the County Rec Center. I ate every other day sometimes. I worked every odd job I could find and put out hundreds of resumes. To date I have put out almost 250 resumes to no avail.
So I kept on trying. I kept on being my daughter’s dad. I refused to let her see me broken so I hid my tears. Do you know what it is like to have to lie to your daughter about where you live, Mr. President? No? I didn't think so. Let me tell you...no pain hurts like that. I wonder, Mr. President if you have ever cried yourself to sleep at night, with the image of your daughter in your head, and worried that your current state would be all you have left as a legacy?
I wonder if you have ever had to explain why she can’t come stay overnight every other weekend like she used to, because you don’t have a home anymore? I wonder if you know how it hurts to watch her growing up before your eyes and almost feel the time rushing past and worry about how your homelessness will effect her.
I have wept many many times thinking about my daughter. I worried that some day one of her classmates would find out I was homeless and tease her about it. I worried that she would be embarrassed by my situation. I worried that she would grow up in fear that this would happen to her.
I pushed myself day and night. I worked every odd job. In 2009 I resumed my college education via an online program and in May 2012 I graduated from Liberty University.
I was still homeless as I did this. I thought that doing these things would open doors of opportunity for me and my daughter. But no doors opened. I have spent another full year since graduation, doing carpentry, and putting out resumes, and still sleeping in my car. And missing priceless moments with my daughter.
Ten days ago I had hope. Hope that perhaps this enduring nightmare was coming to a close. Monday, that hope was dashed yet again. Dashed as a direct result of the policies you so erroneously and yet stubbornly cling to, Mr. President. Policies that literally stole a job –and the hope for a home again with my daughter- right out from under me.
To say my heart is broken is an understatement. For the first 48 hours I was spinning through space. I could not grasp how this could happen again. Today I am angry. I am angry that the man charged with leading this great nation, cares nothing at all for the plight of her citizens. You care more about adherence to your ideology than you do for those you are supposed to lead.
This afternoon I made a decision. This fall, because I am unemployed, and have no health insurance, I am supposed to register for an exchange. Mr. President, I wrote this letter because I wanted you to know the plight of your citizens. My other intention is to inform you that I will NOT be registering for that exchange. I am a man. I am a dad. I am an American. I want to pay my own way. I refuse to let others pay for something I would gladly pay for myself. I will not lower myself and violate my own integrity and work ethic and heritage. A heritage of hard work and integrity that my grandparents –immigrants on both sides- passed down to me. They came here with nothing, worked hard, took nothing from anyone that they hadn’t worked for, and built a life. I want that same opportunity.
If this results in my being prosecuted, so be it. Someone has to take a stand, sir. Someone has to look you in the eye, straighten out their backbone, and with the respect due the office you hold, tell you “No!” "No sir! I will not violate my conscience." I will not lower myself. I will not become a statistic and a name on a list. I want a job. I want to work, and pay my own way. Your job is to create an environment whereby employers can hire men and women like me. Then we can take responsibility for ourselves, and pay our own way.
I respectfully refuse your handout, sir. And while I doubt your precious vacation time will be interrupted with news of my refusal, perhaps one day it will be brought to your attention. Perhaps you will read of my plight. Perhaps you will grasp the pain I live in every day. Perhaps you will look up from this letter, and see the faces of your own beautiful daughters, and for just a moment grasp what the past five years have been for me. Perhaps.
Enjoy your vacation, Mr. President. I envy you having those treasured moments with your family. I miss those times for myself. I have all but given up hope that I will enjoy them again.
God Bless America,