I was blessed to grow up in the Beasley family.
Our too-small car for a family of eight could be heard coming from a mile away and smelled for hours after we departed. My siblings and I did not shop for clothes at a store but from trash bags of decades-old clothing.
We didn’t have much in the way of material wealth, but if you had peeked inside the thin walls of our trailer, between sleeping bags and a mattress from the side of the road, you would have seen that our parents provided us a priceless possession – the gift of love. Unconditional love from family, faith in a loving God, kindness of neighbors, and the love of laughter and each other’s company.
You would have seen something else, too. Premature worry lines were starting to appear on our faces as the daily grind of living in poverty took its toll on our young lives. Poverty threatened to snatch our dreams.
But because of the investment Americans made in me, and so many more like me, I not only escaped poverty, but have succeeded in building a career, a family and am a contributing member of my community.
That investment was a simple Pell Grant. Tax dollars paid by patriotic Americans which sent me to Western Kentucky University. If it weren’t for that grant, I would not be the woman I am today. That one investment has been returned ten-fold to my community, my state, and my country.
I now have a little boy and girl of my own. My dreams for them are what every parent and grandparent dreams for their little ones: first, of course, that they will be loved, and then that they will be safe, have plenty of healthy food to eat and good medical care, and have access to an education that will enable them to reach their potential.
To me that is the vision of economic justice.
In the next few weeks, Kentuckians face important decisions in our commonwealth and nationally. Those decisions dictate what happens to Pell Grants, what happens to child nutrition programs, and what happens to health care and many other issues related to economic justice.
At the state and federal levels, we need solutions that raise adequate revenue to give our children a fair start in life, to give those who want to go to college the opportunity to do so without crippling debt, and to provide security for our elderly. We need to raise that revenue fairly – so that low‐ and middle‐income Americans don’t pay a disproportionate share.
In recent debates, the presidential candidates have entered our homes via television, radio and the Internet as they answered questions about their ideas. I listened for a vision of economic justice, for good solutions using our tax dollars to build the kind of communities all children deserve. We must continue to listen and know that our voices are important; that it is we – the families “on the ground” – who are in the best position to know what is needed.
What we say to our families, friends and neighbors is what will create change. That is what ensures our equal voice in the conversation.
When my voice joins your voice, and my vote joins your vote – when my tax contributions join your tax contributions – we can build a new economic and democratic power that will make the country we want for our families possible.
Dana Beasley-Brown lives in Bowling Green, Ky. She is a wife, mother of two and member of the Economic Justice Committee at Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and the Equal Voice for America’s Families Network.