*I really hate the whole "Open Letter" thing. But Trump is very aware of social media and I'll never have the chance to say these things to him in person. So I'll say them here and hope he see it. -Craig
I generally detest the whole “Open Letter” trope. I’ve done it twice in my life. Once, knowing full-well that the intended recipient was not going to read it, and another time I wrote President Obama, because I had just lost a job offer after Obamacare was implemented and the cost of my position rose above what the employer was able to pay. I had hoped he might see it, or perhaps one of his staff, but I never got a response. I am certain my plight wasn’t one he would have publicized, because it didn’t fit his narrative.
However, I am writing this open letter because you are very aware of social media and you seem to notice when you are addressed, even by “insignificant” regular folks. So I thought I’d give it a try. I cringe at the mechanism, but it’s worth a shot.
I wanted to write to tell you my story and to encourage you in your push toward the presidency. I think I am much like the average conservative American these days. I believe that my story is reflective of millions of stories out there right now, and –to be honest- you seem to be the only candidate who hears us, sees us, and has actual experience in helping people like us. My story could easily lend itself to me becoming a mindless Sanders supporter, seething with rage against the faceless “one percent” who succeeded in my stead and somehow took all the money from the system and left me broken. I could fall for Hillary’s farce of being helpless unless the government steps in and does it all for me.
I am neither.
What I am is a fifty-two year old man who has tasted bitter defeat in recent years and still believes that the American system (at least the one I grew up under) is still the best solution, because it allows me the opportunity –when it runs properly- to work hard and fix it myself. I believe you embody that ideal better than any candidate out there.
My story could be taken as tragic if I chose to see it that way. I do not. It was hard. It was difficult. It broke me down and shattered the dreams and plans I had. But I believe that I am bigger than those hardships, my faith is placed in a God who is certainly above those depths, and I believe that this country was created especially for a man like me.
A man who has tasted defeat by the pound, but still desires to do the hard work to rise from the ashes instead of letting someone else come along and give it all to me.
From 1998 until 2008 I was in the mortgage industry. I entered the business, as green as anyone could be. I had a wife of two years and a four month old baby. I left carpentry to enter a field where every penny was commission, no base salary, and I had absolutely no idea how to do the work. I had never owned my own home, had never even filled out a mortgage application. But I knew I could do better in this industry than I could do as a carpenter and my family needed me to succeed. So I did.
I threw myself into the business with all my might. I studied loan matrices until one or two in the morning after running appointments until nine, ten, sometimes eleven pm. I spent time in the processor’s office, learning to put together a better file, while other guys were on the golf course. The first month I made nothing. In fact I sold much of my construction equipment to pay the bills because, being in a straight commission job, nobody was paying my gas, or food, or expenses. The second month I closed my first loan and made $795 dollars. The third month I was the number three Loan Officer at that company and made $8950, after taxes. I was so proud. I worked hard for that money.
Nine months later, I had my own branch of a national mortgage company. It takes most guys five years to get their own net-branch, but I was already producing volume and had become so knowledgeable in the field, that I was offered a branch.
For the next eight years, I was increasingly successful in business. Sadly, my wife was just plain not happy and we divorced. My daughter was eighteen months old, and I settled into the life of a divorced dad, and a mortgage banker. I bought my first home in 2000. I sold it and bought my next home in 2004. I was making very good money –in the six figure range- and had flexibility to spend more time with my daughter than just the given “Once a week and every other weekend.” I received multiple awards from my employer, was active in the community and my church and had a good, comfortable, but modest life.
Then came 2008. I did not survive the crash of the industry. I was 45 and had two years of college, and the most success I’d had was in a field that had now all but vanished. I lost my home, and by May of 2008, I was literally homeless. I slept in my car, which I hid behind a church. My daughter’s mom had remarried and had a home, so, thankfully, our daughter did not have to endure this with me. I could not leave my daughter. I grew up without my dad and would not let my precious daughter grow up without hers.
I am a Philadelphia native, but lived in Nashville, TN during this time. I could not go home and could not move to another city where there might be work. So I stayed.
I lived this way for almost 6 years. During this time I would sleep in my car (and after that died an old GMC Yukon that was bigger and more “comfortable”) and showered at the county recreation center. I took odd jobs. I have built chicken coops, washed windows, and cut grass for meal and gas money. I took my unemployment because I felt that was okay since I had paid into it for so long. But after that ran out, I refused any other government assistance. I am not against it entirely. My biggest fear was not shame from taking a welfare check or food stamps…although it would have been shameful for me…but I feared it would eliminate my drive, and my ambition and my desire. We are all fueled in part, by pride. Not arrogance but pride. I was proud of my success in the mortgage industry. I was proud of the dad I was to my daughter. That pride drove me daily and helped me succeed. I felt like a government handout would strip that from me and I would never again succeed as I had before.
During this time of homelessness I returned to college, through my alma mater’s online program. It was hard. I studied in my car, at the library, or in restaurants that provided free Wi-Fi. I graduated in May 2012, from Liberty University, while still homeless. I had hoped that this would open doors of employment for me, but alas; while I had my degree now, we still had the same president and the same horrible economic policies.
I tried returning to the mortgage industry, and was immediately offered a job. My reputation in that field was stellar and the local manager was more than happy to hire me. However, one week later, after Obamacare was official and the guidelines for commissioned employees took effect, the offer was withdrawn. They simply could not afford the enormous costs the new policy would incur and froze all hiring. I was crushed. Perhaps more than any other time in my life and certainly more than any other time while I was homeless.
I returned to carpentry as a last resort. There was not much work at the time, but I took whatever I found. Meanwhile, my daughter’s life was unravelling because her home situation became dangerous. It is the hardest thing in the world to have a child who needs your help and not be able to give it. I could not. I did what I could, but I could not get her out of the situation then. There were times when this was too much. Times when the work I was doing was extra painful…like the time I was hired to build custom, hand-made porch columns for government subsidized housing in Nashville. There I was, living in my vehicle, homeless, and building beautiful porch columns for people who would not have to pay a dime to live in the houses I was building them for. Sometimes it drove me to tears.
Finally in 2014, my daughter and I decided to move. (Her mom saw the trajectory of her husband’s behavior and agreed to let our daughter come with me) I applied for a job at my alma mater and, without a guarantee of work, moved to Lynchburg, Va. We came here with two months’ rent, and no furniture except the brand new mattress some folks had bought for her before we left.
For the first time in 6 years –almost to the day- I had a home. I slept on the floor, on the foam that I used in my truck. But I was in a home. I did carpentry that summer, and in August was hired at Liberty University. I have a wonderful job at a place I have loved since high school. I work hard and I still do carpentry on the side. Liberty takes good care of me, but we are a nonprofit, and daughters in college are expensive. While I get her tuition as part of my benefit package, there are still many expenses incurred. I have bills to pay. I am digging out of a big hole. I work most weeks, about 70 hours between my job at LU and my side business. I am blessed that I have a craft that I am very good at, that pays well. I love my job here and I love working for my school. I know you have a friendship with our President, and I love working for him. He’s a great boss and a visionary.
My road was hard, Mr. Trump. Very hard. But it never occurred to me to give up. I wrestled with the thoughts sometimes, but I never could imagine myself living in public housing, or letting someone else pay my way forever. My pride remained intact. Damaged for sure, but intact. I overcame, entirely by the grace of God and the faith I have in Him and His providing me enough –just enough- when things were hard.
Three of my grandparents were immigrants. They came (Legally!) with nothing, worked hard, built a life, and took nothing from anyone that they didn’t pay for. That is my heritage and that is what drove me to do it the same way they did it.
And that is why you will have my vote this fall.
I did not arrive at this decision easily. I had my reservations. Honestly, I initially would have preferred someone who is a little less rough around the edges. But I realized that when you spoke, you spoke with the voice of people like me. People who have been miserably failed by this “president” we now have and who feel the full weight of the truth that he does not care about us. That he never cared about us. I know you hear us, Mr. Trump and I believe you care.
And so I wrote this because I wanted you to understand the history behind this one vote. You’ll be getting millions of them this November, Mr. Trump…but mine was hard earned. I lived this mess for that long, six-year period. It made me better. It did not defeat me. But it hurt. It hurt in ways I can’t describe. I lost things that had nothing to do with money. I lost those years with my little girl. I went almost six years not tucking her in at night and hearing her bed time prayers. I can’t ever get those back. She was ten when this started. She was sixteen when we arrived here and I finally had a home again.
This vote I give you in the fall is dear to me. It’s precious. It’s sacred. Those immigrant grandparents of mine ventured far and wide to give it to me. I did not give it to Barack Obama. But his eight years have steeled my resolve as to how precious this vote of mine is. I am giving you mine this November and now you understand how valuable it is to me. You understand how much I have endured just to still be here and vote this fall.
I love this country. Love it with all my heart. This country gave life to my family and gave me a chance. I took it and succeeded. I plan on succeeding again…I already have simply by surviving this. I know you love this country as well. While I still have questions and reservations concerning your presidency, I do know you love this country.
Take care of my vote, Mr. Trump. Now you know what I had to do to hold onto it. Bring this country back. Give people their pride back. The pride that comes from doing it ourselves, against long odds, with our leaders cheering us on, not standing in our way.
Listen to the voices of those who love this country, this flag, that Constitution, and our freedom. Treat my vote like the sacred thing it is.
You are getting my vote because I believe you will do exactly that. I trust you will not fail me in this.