Saturday, July 21, 2012

My Dad’s America

You are in for a treat!  When my husband heard that I was having a “Soap Box Series”, he asked if he could do a post.  Now if you know Brent, you will realize that this is a very unusual request for him, so I knew he must feel strongly about something.  This post will replace my proposed “America” piece and will end our series.  (I also proposed something about teenagers for this series, but that will have be a topic for another time.)

Brent would like to dedicate this to his mom for her 69th birthday which was on July 16th.

My Dad’s America

My dad was the hardest working man I have ever known. In September of 1960, at the age of 24, he immigrated to America from Holland. He didn’t have much education, couldn’t speak any English. But America had tremendous opportunity and he had tremendous drive.

As a boy, every morning, by the time I woke up, my dad would already be at work. He would wake up at 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. each morning, 6 days a week and would typically work 70+ hour weeks. He did this from before I was born to long after I left home. He was happy to do it. He rarely complained, almost never took a sick day, and taught our family the value of hard work.

My mom and dad loved to tell stories of the “early years” when they lived in a one-room apartment and only had enough money to buy a 5 cent ice-cream cone every few weeks. They scrimped and they saved. Dad eventually saved enough money and started his own business – a small dairy distribution. He worked with his hands and always described himself as a milkman. My parents created a good life for themselves in small town Iowa and they prospered. By the time my dad retired, only a few short years before his death, he had perhaps reached the status of what our government calls “rich”. This is why America is the greatest country on earth. This is why, traditionally, people wait years and strive mightily to immigrate to America: To become Americans! I know this was true for my dad.

Because of America’s opportunities and my Dad’s hard work, I’ve had advantages that my Dad never enjoyed. I speak relatively understandable English (notwithstanding my wife’s corrections). I had the opportunity to attend Iowa State University and receive a degree. When I purchased my first rental house in 1991, I borrowed and received $5,000 from my parents for the down payment to acquire it. I’ve been successful. America, my dad and our economic system have been very good to me. I’ve made investments, I’ve started businesses; some good, some bad. I employee people, I provide services. I believe in America. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given.

I’m not very politically minded. I don’t spend much time thinking about our political system. I mean, I vote, and I support candidates that I believe in; I watch elections on TV, but it doesn’t often capture my attention. That all changed on Monday of this week. You see, on Monday a friend sent me a video of our president talking about small business owners. I watched it and became emotional and angry. I rarely become this way, and almost never about politics. The president spoke one phrase that I couldn’t get out of my head. One of the things he said was, “If you’ve got a business--you didn’t build that.” If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it here:

What particularly struck me as surreal were the people cheering in the background. Don’t they realize what he is saying? Don’t they know what it means? The president was implying that the government was responsible for our business successes, and therefore, we (the rich), should be paying more taxes.

I don’t know if I should be paying more taxes or not, and the government probably plays a part in all of our successes. I’ll leave that debate for another day. But this is what I do know. My dad (not the government) got up at 3:30 in the morning day after day, week after week, year after year. It was hard on him and hard on the family. But he did it because he believed in the American dream. He believed that it would be better for his family and better for his children. He built a life, a family, a business and success. People like my dad are what make this country great. Their simple life, work ethic and values seem to me to be the very essence of America. We should esteem the people that work hard, take risks and build businesses in this country. We should not denigrate the essence of America! And we should not denigrate my dad! Let’s honor success and individual achievement. Let’s give my dad a pat on the back and say, “Job well done. You built something beautiful.”

Brent Haverkamp

1 comment:

  1. Great words an an amazing tribute. Thanks for sharing, Brent!