An Open Letter to Speaker Vos

Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison. Photo by Callen Harty.

Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison. Photo by Callen Harty.

Dear Representative Vos,

As the Speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly you are in a  position to push certain bills or your entire agenda forward if you wish. That is the nature of the job you hold. You can also ensure that proposals that are not to your liking do not get a chance to be voted on by the legislature. As the leader of the Assembly you wield a great deal of power.

As I’m sure you know that power should not be taken lightly. Throughout history Speakers have used their authority to advance their causes and it is understood that will happen to an extent. There are scant few people in the world who would not take at least some advantage of the opportunity afforded by the position. However, there are some issues that should transcend partisan politics and personal goals. Most politicians and other citizens would agree that the safety and protection of our children are among those critical issues. As Speaker there are times when you do not just represent your district, your campaign donors, or your party.

There are two bills currently being circulated that it seems you do not believe are a high priority, but which are of vital importance to the safety and well-being of children across this great state. I would like to be proven wrong about this and see them introduced in session, but I am not hopeful at this time.

The first is commonly known as Erin’s Law (Assembly Bill 691). This law has been enacted in 26 states. Until now Wisconsin was one of only seven states that had not even introduced it. Under the law, all public schools would be required to provide a prevention-oriented program on child sex abuse to children through grade six. In addition, it would also provide information on sexual abuse to parents of young children.

As a child sex abuse survivor who just published a book on surviving that harrowing childhood experience (Empty Playground: A Survivor’s Story) I can tell you that this bill is badly needed. One in four girls and one in six boys is sexually abused before the age of 18. Most do not tell anyone about it because of shame, confusion, or threats. If these children are taught how to recognize these sexual violations, what to do to protect themselves, and how to report what happened to them to a safe adult I can guarantee you that countless lives will be saved, countless men and women will not turn to alcohol and drug abuse to escape their memories, and countless innocent children will be spared devastating abuse and years of its aftereffects. Providing parents with information on child sex abuse will also help responsible adults recognize signs that will enable them to get their children much-needed help. Studies have shown that the sooner a child gets into therapy after sexual abuse and the less abuse that has occurred the greater their prospects for recovery and healing.

The other bill in question is the Healthy Relationships bill (AB692) which would require schools to provide teen dating violence prevention education. I work with 13-18 year old students in a youth theater program and have seen the shattering effects of dating violence on some of them. As young people who may not yet be fully mature, educational materials that help them recognize early what constitutes a healthy and safe relationship will prevent possible emotional and physical violence and lead to a safer environment for our students.

I understand that some bills may have priority for you over others, especially when you are working to push through laws that are important to you and your fellow Republicans. Again, it’s the way things work. But I beseech you to listen to the needs of Wisconsinites who don’t care about party loyalty when the safety of their children is at stake. Both of these bills are critically important for Wisconsin’s children and families. They are also both bipartisan bills sponsored by members of both the Democratic and Republican parties. There should be no question about the bills reaching the floor and being supported by members on both sides of the aisle. You can help make that happen.

As a survivor of child sex abuse and someone who works with youth I urge you to do everything in your power to get these bills through this session, which is quickly running out. You cannot tell me that a law that would have helped me when I was a boy and that will help countless other children now, along with a bill that will help teenagers stay safe, can be less important than allowing pink blazers during the hunting season, allowing children younger than ten to hunt, or several other bills that some people may want but that were never clearly a priority for the majority of the citizens of this state. I would be happy to meet with you and share my personal story as to why these bills are of far more importance and why they need to be enacted into law now.

Thank you for your consideration.

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After Creation


Cover of Empty Playground: A Survivor’s Story. Cover photo and design by Callen Harty.

Writing, or any kind of creative action, can be hell sometimes, and it can even be worse after the creative act is completed and out into the world.

Sometimes people think of writers, actors, or other artists as living glamorous lives. They don’t think of it as hard work but as doing something you like and spending most of the time reaping the rewards of it, partying, and enjoying the fame and fortune.

If only.

Even those who are incredibly successful get there through a lot of hard work, and they are few and far between. The reality is that most artists in this country–which does not do very well at supporting its artists–are not rich and famous and they are also not the stereotypical starving artists either. Most are regular folks who have something to say and need to say it in a creative way, but who are only moderately successful at what they do. There are millions of writers in this country who have published books, stories, poems, and more, but only a handful of authors like Stephen King or J. K. Rowling who can live off of their royalties and movie deals. Most painters, musicians, and others work full-time jobs and create their art whenever and however they can with limited time and energy.

But the call is there. Artists have to create and doing so can sometimes be a long, arduous, and painful process. My second book, Empty Playground: A Survivor’s Story, was incredibly difficult to write. To do so I had to relive painful memories from childhood and throughout my life. I had to be vulnerable and put that vulnerability out there for all the world to see (or at least what small part of the world might buy and read the book). I had to honestly tell my story in such a way that after it was published I worried that people would dislike me or at the very least think less of me for some of the things I revealed that I had done. I didn’t have a choice, though. To be true to my story and to my art I had to write it the way I did, and that was scary and hard.

The creation of a work of art can take months, if not years, and can be physically and emotionally draining. Then, after it is done, comes the really frightening part. What will people think? Will anyone buy it or come to see it? Will critics tear it apart? Will they even bother to notice it? How do I get people interested enough to give it a chance? The thing is, most writers are writers but to be successful they either have to pay someone to help with marketing or do it themselves. Most are probably like me and can’t afford to have someone do it for them, but also find the concept of marketing and selling oneself and one’s work a foreign concept. So we do what we can and then we wait and worry.

I find myself often checking to see if any books have sold since the last time I checked which, especially early on, can be several times (or more) a day. You do whatever you can to get the word out and even then it may not matter. After Empty Playground was released I was interviewed on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Central Time”. They probably have tens of thousands of listeners, but I didn’t see any appreciable bump in sales after that interview. I have two more radio interviews coming up, but have no way of knowing whether those will impact sales or not. I was interviewed for an article in the Isthmus, which should appear this week, but again do not know if anyone will seek out the book after reading the article. I understand with the subject of my book I can’t expect thousands of people to suddenly decide they need to read it, but still I hope.

Most authors who are not famous do not get radio interviews and articles. I’m lucky because I’ve made so many media connections over a more than thirty year span in the Madison theater scene that at least the local media will pay attention to some degree. If the media in this city didn’t already know me I might not get any coverage, and that would make promoting the book even more difficult than it already is.

I also have been pushing the book in places where I figured there might be a natural interest. I have posted a notice about it on a couple hundred Facebook pages and websites that are about child sex abuse, sex assault, pages geared toward survivors, and the like. Those pages have more than half a million likes and yet I have not sold half a million books (or anywhere close to it). A good number of those posts have garnered likes and shares. Still, the impact of my attempts at targeted marketing has seemed to be minimal.

This is the hard part. While the creation can be painful and difficult there is also a reward. There is joy in creating something. There is a sense of accomplishment. The hard part is wondering whether your work will be accepted and whether it will impact the world in the way you had hoped. I don’t need to sell a million copies (though I wouldn’t complain if I did), but I want to know that the work had meaning, that it maybe helped at least a few people or that someone truly thought it was worthwhile. Because most of us are insecure underneath it all we tend to focus on the fact that several days may have passed without a sale instead of on the person who thanked you for writing something that they identified with or the person who sent a note saying that your book was meaningful to them.

I need to do better on focusing on those good things–the stranger who rates the book a five on Amazon or Goodreads rather than the readers who rate it a three or don’t rate it at all; the woman who takes time out of her day to write an e-mail detailing how thankful she was that she read the book rather than the three hundred twenty million in this country who have never even heard of it; the person who shares it with someone else rather than the ones who hear about it and pass on it. I need to take pride in the fact that I wrote a book that was important for me to write and that there are people for whom it has made a difference. That should be enough–although I admit I’ll still keep checking regularly to see if I made any more sales.



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American Resolution

FlagEvery year we are supposed to make New Year’s resolutions and every year most of us fail to keep those resolutions. We commit to losing weight, being kinder to others, sticking to some plan or another. Resolutions are generally ways that we want to better ourselves and they are also generally ways we shame ourselves when we don’t live up to the promise. I am as guilty as the next person in this annual charade. So this year I thought that instead of making resolutions I couldn’t keep maybe I could make some for my country. Unfortunately I expect America may be as bad as its citizens about keeping the promises.

America, here are my resolutions for you. Do your best. This will be the year that:

  • we adopt peace first and no longer engage in endless wars in places all over the globe.
  • we stop shooting unarmed black men in urban areas.
  • our citizens put down their guns and stop killing each other.
  • even the Republicans accept climate change as a real threat to the planet.
  • mentally deficient candidates are no longer taken seriously or allowed to run for office.
  • the rich people in this country accept their fair share of taxes so that others can get some relief.
  • homelessness and poverty are ended.
  • drug companies quit peddling chemical happiness.
  • we end the War on Drugs (the ones that aren’t from drug companies) once and for all.
  • news organizations start to act like news organizations again instead of entertainment outlets.
  • minorities are accepted as equal members of society and the promises of our founding fathers are realized.
  • we quit lionizing famous people who are famous only for being famous and who contribute nothing to our collective culture.
  • the arts are elevated to a level of appreciation equal to football.
  • queer citizens are no longer killed for simply being and no longer commit suicide simply for being.
  • we go 365 days without a single mass shooting.
  • money is taken out of politics and legislators can no longer be bought by large corporations.

America, the majority of these resolutions are things that the majority of Americans can get behind. This list should be so easy with the support you can get. Likely there are several others that I forgot, but let’s start here. We can work on more next year. My hope is simply that you don’t fail as quickly as most of us once the new year starts.


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Bo Ryan at Christmas

Bo Ryan. Photo by Callen Harty.

Bo Ryan. Photo by Callen Harty.

When Bo Ryan announced his retirement I was as surprised as everyone. I watched his last game (and win) on television and there was no indication of the impending announcement during that game. Exactly one week before the announcement I had been invited to watch a Badger basketball practice at the Kohl Center the night before their game against UW-Milwaukee. The practice was followed by a brief meet and greet/question and answer session with the coach, so I got to see him up close for the first time and came away deeply impressed–but not because of his basketball expertise.

I have always admired Bo Ryan as a coach. I watched his UW-Platteville Pioneers when I lived there. In his tenure at Platteville his teams won four national championships. He then moved to UW-Milwaukee where he turned the Panthers into contenders. His last fourteen years were spent at the University of Wisconsin in Madison where he finished his career with the highest winning percentage in Big Ten conference history. He really was one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history.

But you could also tell that Ryan was a down-to-earth good guy. He had a great sense of humor during interviews and he just seemed like he cared deeply about his young players and their success–not only in basketball, but in life. While winning was clearly important to him you never felt that winning was the only thing or everything.

The question and answer session I got to attend showed me the human side of Bo Ryan that I had always felt. He answered questions about basketball that day, but that is not what impressed me. He was upbeat, generous with his time, and came across as very human. The first question that was asked of him was, “What do you want for Christmas?” I expect that the questioner thought he would answer a Big Ten or national championship.

Instead he took a deep breath and said something along the lines of, “I don’t really think about it in that way, what I want. That’s not what it’s about.” He then got very real and went on to talk about growing up in a poor family in Pennsylvania and described how when he was a child they didn’t have much and they were lucky if they got one or two small presents at Christmas. He said that he passed that on to his children, that they would get a couple things for the holiday but that he didn’t want them to feel privileged or that the world owed them something.

A little later in the program a man asked a question and then told Ryan that he had gone to a Bo Ryan basketball camp a couple summers when he was a youngster. The man turned out to be Lawrence Petty, the son of former basketball player Larry Petty who was with the Badgers when Ryan was an assistant coach in the late 70s. Larry Petty has been homeless and in and out of prison since his playing days ended. When Ryan realized that the man was Larry Petty, Jr. his eyes lit up and he went over and gave him a big hug.

These are the two moments that stand out to me from my brief time with Bo Ryan–two small moments that showed a man of deep reflection, compassion, and caring. Not everyone can coach, but any coach can teach the basics of a game and diagram plays. Not every coach can bring the intangibles. Not every coach can live life in such a way that their players learn how to be decent human beings by the example. I believe Coach Ryan was one of the rare ones who could win on the court while also winning in the game of life. This is what I saw a week before his retirement and this is what Wisconsin basketball will miss most about Bo Ryan.


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Statue of Liberty. Photo by Callen Harty.

Statue of Liberty. Photo by Callen Harty.

This has been on my mind for some time and I have not been able to clarify or express my emotions about it. But my heart hurts right now. It hurts not only for the Syrian refugees who are being treated like pariahs by the likes of the governor of my state, but also for all of my fellow Americans who are so filled with fear that they have lost their ability to show compassion and empathy to others.

Except for those in this country who are of Native American heritage we are all either immigrants or descended from immigrants, including many who were escaping war, horrible political situations, or other dire circumstances. My great-great-grandfather and great-great-grandmother came to this country during the Irish potato famine to escape the terrible famine in their native land and to find a better life here. They were greeted with contempt by those who were already here, those whose ancestors had come from many other lands.

In my lifetime I have seen Hmong immigrants who fought along our soldiers in Viet Nam come to this land and be greeted the same way, Cuban refugees who were treated like criminals, Mexican immigrants who settled on the bottom rung of the social ladder because people thought they were stealing jobs. If the Statue of Liberty–the “Mother of Exiles”–were a real woman she would cry at what we have become. If Jesus were to walk among us he would be ashamed to see what we have become.

Prejudice and hatred are borne of fear taken to its most extreme, and we are a fearful people. We fear our own political leaders, our townsmen, our neighbors, and, especially, the strangers among us, those who do not look like us or pray like us, those who do not share the same skin or the same ideas. The melting pot has become a weapon to bash the heads of those who would look to Lady Liberty’s lamp for refuge.

I do not recognize my state. I do not recognize my country. I do not recognize the Christianity in which I was raised. I do not recognize my fellow citizens. We are told by many that this is a Christian country, but in a Christian country we would give shelter to those who have none, we would welcome strangers into our homes, we would care for those in need. We would take the tired, the poor, the huddled masses and we would care for them as if they were family.

During the height of the Great Depression, when my mother’s family had little or nothing, my grandmother gave food to itinerant men who knocked on her door fresh off the train that used to run past their house. It was the Christian thing to do, the moral thing to do. When my roommate Dan and I were as poor as I have ever been we shared our apartment with others who needed a place to stay and shared what little food we had with those who were as hungry as we were. It was the right thing to do.

It is not the decline of the family or the Constitution being undermined or Christian values being challenged that is leading this country into ruin. It is the loss of compassion and humanity. It is the idea that our lives are more important than anyone else’s lives and that we deserve what others can’t have. It is the lack of empathy, the inability to see the world from someone else’s perspective and to understand, or at least try to, how they feel.

We need to start walking the long road that will return us to a nation of giving and compassionate people. We need to find our moral compass. We need to welcome the Syrian refugees to our land as much for us as for them.

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I Think I Can Make It Now

Me in grade school Photographer unknown.

Me in grade school Photographer unknown.

I never wanted to confront the person who abused me as a child. Confrontation was not what I sought. But I did want to talk. I wanted to speak my truth. Not everyone who has been abused can or should do that. For me, I felt it was necessary and the time was right.

Today I spoke my truth, and it was heard.

On the way there, as I drove around curves and hilly roads the sky was grey, dark, dreary, and the conversation I was determined to have was weighing heavily on my mind. I knew I was ready, I knew I was in a place of strength that would allow me to say what I needed to say, but my body was tense. My mind was filled with fear. I had thought of what I believed to be all the possible ways it could go–denial, taking responsibility, violence, anger, apologies, and although I had played out so many different scenarios in my mind the truth was I could not know until I was in the moment what would actually happen.

As I was thinking through these things a song from my youth came on the radio–“I Can See Clearly Now”, by Johnny Nash. “I think I can make it now, the pain is gone. All of the bad feelings have disappeared.” I sang along, “Here is the rainbow I’ve been praying for; it’s gonna be a bright, bright, bright, sun-shiny day.” I knew at that moment that I was ready and that it would go as well it could.

Because there was someone else in the house when I got there I said to him, “Can we go downstairs for a bit? I need to talk with you about something.” I saw in his eyes in that moment that he knew what was coming, but didn’t know how to get out of it. For the first time in our lives, maybe, he was not the one in control.

I had thoughts of positioning myself to be able to make a quick escape if necessary, but I decided that I wasn’t going to go there, that I would have no fear. I sat in the corner and stumbled a bit as I started. He didn’t sit. He stood looking down upon me, a position of power. Even so, I knew I had the power and the strength at that moment because I was there to speak my truth. Because the words were so intense and the time felt so compressed I know I can’t quote exactly what either of us said, and it might not be in the exact order, but it was pretty close to what I am remembering now.

I started it with saying again that I needed to speak to him and that it was important, but that it wasn’t going to be an easy thing to say. I then said something along the lines of, “I have to say some things, and I need to say them without interruption. I’m not looking for responses or anything right now. I just need to say what I have to say. When I’m done you can ask questions, make comments, or whatever and I’ll be happy to chat.”

At that point there was no turning back. He did not object to my terms and the look in his eyes verified for me that he knew what was coming. “You did horrible things to me when we were younger,” I said, “and it hurt me very, very much. It damaged me for many, many years. I turned into an alcoholic and drug user, I was suicidal, I hated myself. I really hated myself. Pretty much all the typical behaviors that people who were abused as children have as adults–I fit them all. What happened hurt me very deeply, and if you didn’t know that I need you to know it now.”

That was the hard beginning. I continued. “I don’t know if you know this or not but five years ago I wrote a play about the things that happened to me . . .”

It was the only time he interrupted me before I finished the few things I knew I had to say. “I heard about that.” I honestly didn’t know before that moment whether it was something he had been aware of or not.

“In the play,” I said, “the character that was based on you was not named, the relationship was not named. The character wore a mask because it was important to me that the character be more universal and the audience members could project whomever they needed to onto that mask.”

The next part was going to be tough because I knew it would cause a reaction and I wasn’t sure what kind of reaction. “But now I’ve written a book about it, to share the story with other people and to educate people about this kind of thing. Most people think of abusers as strangers with candy or creepy guys who hang around school grounds, but the reality of it is that most abusers are family or close trusted people. They’re people who are loved. Because of that, because I needed the book to be honest it is named in this book.”

I paused for a second and he almost immediately interjected, “So now you’re going to hurt me because I hurt you. Revenge.”

The words took me by surprise. There was no thought of revenge in my mind at all, only the thought of honestly telling my story. “No, it’s not revenge. It’s not about you. It’s not even really about me. It’s about helping others by telling my story as honestly as I can. But I also thought that ethically I couldn’t release the book without letting you know in advance because it could have an impact on you.”

“It will hurt me.”

“It might.”

“It will. I understand you have to do what you have to do but it will.”

Our hometown is small and we are both known there so his fear was understandable. It is likely that if anyone there reads it they’ll talk and word will travel. He was speaking what was a truth for him in that moment.

He said, “I knew this day was coming.” My thought was that if he knew it was coming maybe he should have come to me first, but I didn’t have a chance to say anything before he added, “Dan told me years ago that you told him that I did that to you.”

“I told a lot of people,” I answered.

He then said something about having apologized to me about it years ago and I immediately and firmly said, “No, you didn’t.”

“Yes, I did,” he said, and we went back and forth like a couple of children several times with the “no, you didn’t”, “yes, I did” routine.

“What I remember,” I finally said, “was you and me in a bar and I brought it up and I told you that I hated you. Not hate, but hated. I forgave you years ago. A large part of the play was about forgiveness. I’ve forgiven you and let it go. That night you acknowledged it in some way–I don’t remember how, but then you turned it back on me by saying ‘You enjoyed it. You wanted it.’ I have to tell you that no, I didn’t want it and I didn’t enjoy it. Yes, physically, when someone touches you it can feel good, but emotionally and psychically it didn’t feel good at all. It hurt me.”

Without really acknowledging what I had just said he added, “It was right here and I apologized to you after we talked about it.”

I told him, “Honestly, I’m sorry, but I don’t remember that at all.”

“I told you it would never happen again.”

I said something about it not mattering if he said that because I wasn’t going to let it happen again and then added, “And that doesn’t sound like an apology.”

What he didn’t say was telling to me at that moment. He didn’t say, “I told you I’m sorry” at that time. He didn’t say that he was sorry now. He repeated that he had told me “that it would never happen again.” He mentioned that he’s grown a lot since doing those things with people, but that he’s never done it with anyone else since then. (Yes, people; I knew beforehand that I wasn’t the only one). There was a sincerity in the way he said that he’s never done it with anyone else and I believed him in that moment.

I told him, “I am really happy to hear that because I have always wondered. I believe what you’re saying now and I’m really glad.” And then I added, “I know you were abused, too, and I think you have a lot of healing that you need to do.”

He told me that he had dealt with all of his issues and that it was in the past, until now, when it was all brought up again.

There was a moment that felt like the most honest moment of the short conversation when he said something along the lines of, “I didn’t know that what I was doing was hurting anyone. I didn’t know.” I believed him in that moment, though with some of the history of what he did with me it is difficult to believe that he couldn’t have known it was hurting me. Still, I think in his worldview, in his memory and in his truth, it’s what he believes. So I said, “I know that you are a generous, loving, and caring person and that you wouldn’t want to hurt someone.”

At that point it didn’t seem like there was a lot more to say. We looked deeply into each other’s eyes. I think he saw the hurt in mine and I saw hurt in his, too. I think he thinks I am writing the book to somehow get even with him and it didn’t matter how many times I told him that the book was to help other people and the only way to do that was to be completely honest. I didn’t mention there’s a lot in the book that is not a good reflection of me either. I also understand the fear of what will happen once it’s published. As we were about to wrap it up he said something along the lines of, “I guess I can change my name and move.” He may be seriously thinking of that or it may have been a manipulation to try to get me to change my mind about publishing the book. It doesn’t matter. I’ve made my choice to do what I need to do. He will have to make his choices about how to deal with it and I more or less said that to him.

He then took control and his power back by turning and walking toward the steps. I followed him up the stairs. He stopped at the sink and started messing around with dishes as I stood there awkwardly. Finally, I said, “Well, I’m going to go. Talk to you again.” There was no response. I headed out the door, got into the car and took off. On the way home the grey clouds were parting and showing a brilliant blue sky and the sun was gracing the treetops.

The Johnny Nash song came into my head again. “Look all around, there’s nothin’ but blue skies; look straight ahead, nothin’ but blue skies.”

Note: This blog post, slightly revised, was included as a chapter in my book, Empty Playground: A Survivor’s Story.

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Letter to Donald Trump

A new citizen holds an American flag and naturalization papers. Photo by Callen Harty.

A new citizen holds an American flag and naturalization papers. Photo by Callen Harty.

Dear Mr. Trump,

I saw a very sad story about you in the newspaper today and wanted to offer my condolences about your tragic history. I had made assumptions about you that were clearly wrong. After reading that article I now find it so difficult to believe that you were able to create such a magnificent empire with only a one million dollar loan from your wealthy father. I had assumed that you were a man of privilege and that your father gave you whatever money you needed to get your life started and to keep it going. I could not have imagined that he would only loan you money rather than giving it to you outright and that even then the loan was not for an unlimited amount but a measly million dollars. How did you ever survive? I have a hard time imagining it.

Then again, survival is an amazing thing in this world. It just occurred to me that as amazing as your success has been others have somehow survived on even less than your tiny million dollar startup loan. In fact, my father never gave me a loan at all because he died when I was only two years old so I grew up in a lower middle class single parent family with a mother who barely had a million pennies let alone a million dollars. Like you she struggled and worked hard to provide for her children and to create her own empire. Granted, her empire was a bit smaller than yours–a three-bedroom house that took her a little more than a dozen years to pay off–because she really started with pretty close to nothing. However, when she passes away my brothers and sisters and I will be set for life–well, maybe not life unless it’s a lot shorter than I hope, but at least a few months–because of the wealth she accumulated over the years. Like you she had a head for finances. She just didn’t get to start with as much or I’m sure she would have had an empire as large as the Trump fortune by now.

I’ve had friends, too, who have shown that same Trump spirit, who have survived disasters like losing jobs, eyes, legs, or minds with a can-do attitude. I know if their dads had given them a million dollars it would have helped with medical bills and recovery, but then again they wouldn’t have learned the hard lessons that you’ve learned through your intense struggles to create your own wealth from the small loan your father provided.

I’m sure you’ve paid your father back the way I paid my mother the several $100 loans she gave me when I was just starting out. If nothing else you paid him back by making him proud of you for the way you created something out of (almost) literally nothing. Just like me and my mom. I think I’m starting to love you, Donald.

I really would like to be more like you but I never learned financial responsibility by being forced to create my own life the way your father made you do it. As a result instead of investing and growing wealth I tend to spend money almost as quickly as I get it. I often take friends to dinner or coffee, donate to causes that are meaningful to me, and even donate money to politicians like you who show empathy and concern for others and who know what it’s like to be destitute and struggling just to live day to day.

I would wish you success in everything you do, but I can see that you don’t need my support. You’re a self-made man. Maybe, instead of sending you money for your campaign I’ll keep it and try to make it grow some–just like you did–or maybe, because I do tend to spend it as I get it, maybe I’ll donate it to a candidate who appears to need it a little bit more.

Thank you again for your honesty in the article. I appreciate your humility and humble beginnings. It makes me feel much more like you truly understand the plight of the have-nots that populate my family and circle of friends. It makes me feel like you get the immigrants who come here to live the American dream and to better their lives. It makes me feel like there is no 99% or 1%, but that we’re all part of the 100%. God bless you.

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