Last week, I was in the front row of the crowd for the First Lady’s rally in Reno. After her speech, she came to shake our hands, and when she got to me I shared with her a bit of my personal story. Michelle put her hands on my face and gave me a hug as she thanked me for persisting despite the many obstacles I’ve faced. She reassured me that things will get better and told me how important I was to the campaign.
It was an incredible moment, and it reminded me of how empowering it is to share why my experiences have led me to support the President. So I share them with you today - my story is one of struggle and perseverance.
I come from a poor family. My parents had no money to help me go to college, so after high school I planned to enter the Army. A month before shipping off to boot camp, I learned I had ulcerative colitis, a treatable but serious disease. My hopes of benefiting from the GI Bill were dashed.
Determined to seek higher education, I took out loans, got a grant, and went to college anyway. A few years into my degree, I realized I couldn’t afford the private college I was attending and transferred to a state university.
Then, my colitis flared up and I was hospitalized. Worst of all, I was uninsured – my job didn’t offer health benefits and colitis was considered a pre-existing condition. Luckily, the hospital offered me a payment plan based on my income; since I had little, they forgave my debt.
After graduating with a Bachelor’s in small business management, I started my own business in 2006, a shop in Tahoe selling ski and snowboard equipment. Just as the business was getting rolling, the financial crisis struck. Sales hit an all-time low and I was forced into debt to keep the business.
I decided to get my Master’s degree, thinking I’d ride out the recession at school. I studied environment and energy sustainability, hoping to get a job in the clean energy sector when I graduated. But as my commencement approached this past May, I learned the company I’d been interning at couldn’t fund my position. I was unemployed again.
Because of President Obama’s policies, I’ve been able to consolidate my college loans and get help for my small business (still running as a website). More importantly, my colitis will no longer be considered a preexisting condition and insurance companies will have to offer me care. Those are huge sighs of relief that allow me to keep looking for a job with confidence.
When you look at the candidates in this election, there’s one that walked the same path most of us have had to travel. President Obama’s lived our struggles and came out on top – he fights to solve our problems because he’s lived through them. He believes we do best when we all grow together. That’s more than enough reason to earn my vote.