I’m thinking about my mother today.
I was just a kid when my daddy had a heart attack. It was serious — we weren’t sure if he was going to make it. He eventually got better, but he was out of work for a long time.
We lost our family station wagon. It looked like the house would be next to go. At night, I’d overhear my parents talk, and that’s when I learned words like “mortgage” and “foreclosure.”
I remember one morning, I was standing in my mother’s bedroom on a warm spring day. Her face was red and puffy, and about a dozen wadded-up tissues were on the bedspread next to a black dress. It was that one dress that every mom had — the one that only came out for weddings, funerals, and graduations.
And she was saying, “We will not lose this house. We will not lose this house.”
She was 50 years old. She had never worked outside the home. She was terrified.
I watched her while she pulled it together, put that dress on, put on her high heels, blew her nose, walked to Sears, and got a minimum wage job. And that minimum wage job saved our house, but more importantly, it saved our family.
That story is who I am. That story is written on my heart.
And for a long time, I used to think that was just a story about my mother.
But years later, I came to understand that it’s a story about millions of Americans who — no matter how scared they are — reach down, dig deep, find it, and pull up what they need to take care of the family.
And then years later I came to understand this: It’s also a story about government.
Because when this happened to my family, a minimum wage job in America could support a family of three. It could take care of a mortgage, utilities, and put food on the table.
But today in America, a full-time minimum wage job will not keep a mama and a baby out of poverty. So let’s be honest: My mother’s story isn’t possible today.
Right now, when people in government are deciding what the minimum wage should be, they’re not trying to figure out what it takes to support a family — to make it possible for people to get a little toe in the door.
No. I hear them in Washington. They ask, “What will improve the profitability of giant corporations?”
I want a government that doesn’t just work for giant corporations. I want one that works for little families like mine.
My mother didn’t have much, but she knew that her four kids had a fighting chance to build a future — and that made her life successful.
Today, where mothers and families end up in life is about more than hard work and good fortune. The rules for a level playing field matter, too. That’s what I’m fighting for to honor my mother, on Mother’s Day and every day.
Thank you for being in this fight alongside me. Together, we reach down, dig deep, find the strength we need to find, fight for what we believe in — and celebrate each other along the way.
Happy Mother’s Day,