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Much has been made about how oblivious ol’ Mitt seems to be about the struggles a lot of people who don’t have rich parents face.

His “borrow money from your parents” line seems to sum that up.

I don’t think it’s a callous disregard for the majority’s struggles – I really do think it’s oblivion. Just run o’ the mill cluelessness.

I can see how he could be oblivious. I could have been, too.

I went to college on scholarships. Not one full one, but three smaller ones that added up to a full ride (minus summer courses, and plus reimbursement from my employer* at the time for half of summer costs my largest load summer). I lived at home, and split the costs of books with my father. I worked part time to full time, depending on my course load, and also worked internships. At one point I had two jobs.

All an example of putting in the hard work, right? Building it myself? My father would think so. Has said so, even.

The way I see it, I had the following advantages:
1) My parents’ income placed us solidly in the middle class. Sometimes the upper-middle. We had a house, cars - reliable cars. I never went hungry, though there were lean times during layoffs and what not.

2) My parents made education a priority. I’m not talking about a kid old enough to make education a priority themselves – I’m talking take us to the library and museums and do our homework with us and talk to our teachers even when we were in preschool priority. Private school (also requiring above-average income) so that their precocious 4 year old could start Kindergarten early priority.

3) I didn’t have any learning disabilities. I did not have to learn on an empty stomach. There was always money for school supplies, needed or wanted, always time to help me understand a word that was new, always time and energy to have a conference with a teacher or visit the school should an issue arrived. I was not abused (though I did get many needed and well deserved spankings). I was not neglected. I was loved.

4) I test well. I met the threshold for ACT scores to qualify for my state’s in-state scholarship program. Others who are smarter than me, but do not test well, did not meet the needed score.

5) I had a place to live past the age of majority. Hell: I had a place to live before that.

6) I had a reliable vehicle to get me to/from a campus 30 minutes away.

7) My father’s union membership awarded me my next largest scholarship, again based on test scores. If he hadn’t had a Union job, I would not have gotten this money.

8) The school I went to offered me a scholarship – again on test scores.

9) I qualified for another scholarship (voice) that *I was able to decline* because I didn’t think the time input equaled the monetary gain. I will repeat: I was financially stable enough, personally and within my family unit, to turn down free money. Because it was inconvenient.

10) Money again – between my job(s) and my parents providing free room and board, I was able to take more-than-full load semesters and maintain my grades while doing so. If I had been worried about rent, or food, this would not have been the case. I was able to take an unpaid internship due to not having to worry (that much) about money; just had to earn enough at my “real” job to afford my car insurance, gas and half of books.

11) There was always – ALWAYS – the expectation I would go to college. And never the question about if it would be paid for. I grew up not only understanding I could go to college, anywhere, for anything but also that my parents would front the bill. Thankfully they didn’t have to (scholarships, plus I chose an in-state commuter school instead of the pricier ones I was accepted to), but still: I knew I could pick anywhere, and have the cost fronted. Most people don’t have this – they have to worry about how to pay for it, even if it’s just how to *help* pay for it. My own children will foot part of their bills – but are as lucky as I was, in that I am willing and hopefully at the time will be able to help pay as well.

12) Not to put too fine a point on it – but I lived in a country that had a free public education system – so once I was out of private school, I still could go and learn. There was an infrastructure in place (roads, electricity, running water, community involvement and government security) that allowed that education to be safe, secure and predictable. My parents themselves were high school graduates, and considering our home state/their home town also had another advantage: they are white. This was conferred to me at birth, pure luck on my part.

So yeah OK I’ve worked hard. Still do. But I see how all the cards had to stack up, all the planets had to align – and I’m not only proud of myself, but thankful at all the luck that added up along the way. I could have been born elsewhere, or even in the same town but to different people, or suffered an illness or injury at some many, many things could have worked against me, but didn’t.



*rinky-dink job at a fast food joint. I hung in there from high school until my senior year of college, and qualified for reimbursement for half my summer tuition that summer. Woot!
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