Yes, I Am Entitled
Sometimes, you have to step into the ring, actually prepared to fight.
During this week’s presidential election debate, I expected the President to step into the ring – up to the podium, as it were – and fight.
I expected him to defend his opponent’s recent attack on the “47 percent.”
I expected him to defend hard-working Americans against elitist attitudes.
I expected him to defend me – and millions of people, who like me, are unemployed through no fault of our own.
Instead, he stammered.
He looked down.
He barely threw a punch.
Throughout school, I had always been the smallest kid in class. I didn’t have a big brother. So, I learned to defend myself against the bullies.
Years later, at 4-11 and 112 pounds, looks like I’m still defending myself.
So be it. I’ll step into the ring. I’ll fight the big boys. I’ll defend myself, Mr. President.
I recoiled when, just a few weeks ago, a tape was released showing the President’s political opponent saying certain Americans felt they were entitled. I waited for days until the debate, when I felt sure the President, of all people, would address that comment head on and thus, come to my defense.
So I will.
Let me say this loudly and clearly:
I am entitled.
Yes, I AM.
I worked for and earned two degrees – undergraduate and graduate degrees. I have earned company awards. I have been recognized by my profession.
And I’ll go on to say that I donate blood to the American Red Cross, exercise my right to vote and pay my taxes, just as other Americans do.
Yet, I have been laid off twice in less than four years.
After the first lay-off, I offered a monetary incentive to the person who sent me a lead that landed me my next job. My offer went viral. Eventually, I landed.
And then, two years later, came another layoff. This time, I remain one of the 23 or so million unemployed in America today.
During the past 100 days, I have lived in two different states, three different cities and five different hotels/residences to sustain employment – employment that was only temporary in nature. Is that what people who think they’re entitled to handouts do? Hardly.
I’m willing to work harder and earn half of what I formerly earned. I want to work.
No, I’m not entitled to a handout.
But I am entitled.
I am entitled to a job.
- My father worked three jobs to get me into college. As a result, he died of a heart attack at age 47 and never even saw me graduate.
- I re-paid every penny of my college loans. (And no one had to chase me down for those payments either.)
- Then, I went on to law school. I paid back that loan, too.
- I worked hard – sometimes 55 – 60 hours a week, getting paid for 40.
- I volunteered to serve on professional and non-profit boards.
- And again, I paid my taxes along the way.
In my opinion, that entitles me.
It entitles me to obtain a comparable job.
It entitles me to work without having to look over my shoulder every 90 days to see if a pink slip is floating my way.
It entitles me to be able to sleep soundly at night, instead of tossing and turning over where and when my next paycheck will come.
It entitles many people for whom the American dream is more like a recurring nightmare – layoff after layoff after layoff.
The stats – the 23 million unemployed and the 7.8 percent unemployment rate – don’t take into account those who no longer are looking for a job. They’ve run out of money, out of options and even out of hope.
And those people have worked hard. They have paid their taxes.
Like me, they, too, believe they’re entitled – entitled to a decent job and a decent salary.
So who is defending the middle-class and the middle-class wannabes?
The President didn’t do so during the first debate.
Even Big Bird went to the mat when the President did not. Since the President mentioned Elmo in a feisty retort he managed to fire back the next day, perhaps he’ll bring Elmo with him to the next debate.
Elmo, the entitled will watch to see if you show up.
Beverly Shepard is a self-described job(search) junkie. She has been featured on CNN and on a local ABC-TV affiliate as well as on Fast Company.com and other websites for her “extreme jobsearch” tactics. She comes from a lineage of job junkies. She was laid off earlier this year – her second time in less than four years. During the past 100 days, she has worked in two states, traveled between three cities and lived in five different residences, to sustain temporary employment. She is a former president of the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists, a former reporter, a communications professional and an award-winning marketer who holds a law degree.