OPINION: I am the 47 Percent

November 1, 2012 By Evangeline Byars For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Byars looks at Romney's famous "47 percent" statement
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By now, most of America is familiar with Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s statements about the “47-percent.” This segment of the American public, he claims, will never be persuaded to vote for him, as he will never be able to convince them to take responsibility for their lives.

This “47-percent” is a segment of the population with which this man who is running to be commander in chief, is not concerned. While Governor Romney is entitled to his own opinions, I extend to him the opportunity to walk in my shoes for a day – the shoes of a single mother and college student, studying full-time at CUNY Medgar Evers College to create a better life for myself and my three-year-old daughter.

I extend to Governor Romney the opportunity to wake up at 4 a.m., to make sure my daughter gets to daycare, so I can spend the majority of my day in classes, where I am studying to be an elementary special education teacher. I am also junior class president, editor in chief of the school newspaper and president of Students 4 Justice, a student empowerment club on campus. 

I offer him the opportunity to shadow me, as I spend the better part of my evenings in my school’s library, and then leave with enough energy to pick my daughter up from daycare, bring her to campus for a few more hours, take her home, feed her, spend quality time with her, and put her to bed, before I pick my books back up to study.

What Governor Romney does not understand is that not all of this “47-percent,” is lazy. Many of us work multiple jobs just to make ends meet, and sometimes we fall short. Sometimes we need help from our family members, churches, and even the federal government. In fact, 70 percent of full-time undergraduates at CUNY receive some sort of financial aid.  Each year, students receive more than $600 million in the form of federal and state grants and loans, and assistance from work-study programs. What Romney sees as “freeloading,” I see as understanding that sometimes, those of us with lofty goals need a little financial assistance to make things happen. In my case, my tuition is paid with a series of grants and educational loans.

Contrary to what Governor Romney would have the public believe, much of this “47-percent” has dreams, aspirations, goals, and plans for the future.  I intend to continue to work hard and finish my degree at Medgar Evers, and enroll in law school.

What Romney fails to understand, is that I refuse to allow my current circumstances to determine my future. I am accepting help now, and working extremely hard  to ensure that my daughter will not be in a position where she will have to start from the bottom, like I did. Even at her young age, I stress the importance of education, and understanding that it is the best way to be successful. I look forward to her attending school, attending parent-teacher conferences, and being able to help her with her homework, because, I am determined that she will succeed.

I am the 47 percent, and I am proud to be part of the 47 percent. And guess what, Mr. Romney was once part of the 47 percent as well. His own mother has admitted that the family once received welfare relief – and that’s ok, because in this land of opportunity, we must help one another accomplish our goals. Once our goals are accomplished, we cannot forget the people who helped us get there.

I am the 47 percent, and I’m determined, hopeful, and unashamed.

Evangeline Byars is a student leader at CUNY Medgar Evers College, Brooklyn, and a resident of Bedford-Stuyvesant.

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