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Voices / Letters from readers

‘Because I was the recipient of this kind of support, I am beholden to give back’

RE: “We worked for it. Why should we pick up the tab?” [Viewpoint, Mar. 6]:

I read and re-read Dan Jeffries’ Viewpoint on why it is that people like him and his siblings should not be expected to financially support programs for those who have less.

While I understand the pride he takes in the hard work of his family members (whom he uses as examples of people who have been viewed, as he says, as having the “ability to pay”), I take issue with his attitude that because they have worked hard for what they have achieved they should not be asked to support others.

I recognize that Mr. Jeffries believes that we all live in a land of opportunity and that the only real difference between those who have been successful and those who have not is self-discipline, hard work, good judgment, and being flexible.

And I appreciate his pride in his accomplishments. He writes of parents who did not go to college and grandparents who did not go to high school.

I think there are many of us, approaching retirement in this country now, who attained college educations and professional careers as the first generation to do so in our families. I also think that it is quite a different experience to grow up in a working-class family that values hard work and education than to grow up in poverty.

My background was a lot like Mr. Jeffries’, and I too was able to go to college with the help of scholarships and loans. My attitude, however, has always been that because I was the recipient of this kind of support, I am beholden to give back.

I have done a lot of my giving back through the non-lucrative work I have chosen to do, as a counselor and as an educator. But I also see it as my responsibility to give back financially, as I am able, to programs that support those who are less fortunate.

There is a tone of judgment in Mr. Jeffries’ viewpoint, and I have found that judgment stands in the way of building community.

Not all high-school students can achieve straight As and gain a full ride to an elite college, even if they have the intellectual capacity to do so. Many young people growing up in the U.S. today (as was the case in the past) do not have the familial support to achieve much of anything. This is where community programming comes in to pick up that slack.

Not everyone will feel the inclination to support such efforts. We won’t all agree on this. But another view on the topic is worth considering.

Ann McCloskey

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Originally published in The Commons issue #501 (Wednesday, March 13, 2019). This story appeared on page D3.

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