It was through my grandparents’ experience that I was brought up to believe that anything is possible in America. But they also knew the feeling when that opportunity is pulled out from under you. They would tell me about seeing their fathers or uncles losing jobs during the depression; how it wasn’t just the loss of a paycheck that stung. It was the blow to their dignity; their sense of self-worth. I’ll bet a lot of us have seen people changed after a long bout of unemployment; how it can wear down even the strongest spirits.
So my grandparents taught me early on that a job is about more than a paycheck, as important as that is. A job is about waking up every day with a sense of purpose, and going to bed each night fulfilled. A job is about meeting your responsibilities to yourself, to your family, to your community. I carried that lesson with me all those years ago when I got my start fighting for men and women on the South Side of Chicago after their local steel plant shut down. I carried that lesson with me through my time as a state senator and a U.S. Senator. I carry that lesson with me today.