Edgerton Essays

Today’s public square is too often closed to those without a narrow set of credentials. Politicians and pundits in Washington are consumed with ideological battles far removed from the day-to-day concerns of American workers and their families, and often seem incapable of even understanding them. Our policy debates are poorer for it, our policymakers less informed, and our fellow citizens excluded.

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The Edgerton Essays are a joint project of American Compass and the Ethics and Public Policy Center. They feature working-class Americans sharing their perspectives on what they wish policymakers knew about the challenges facing their families and communities. Read American Compass executive director Oren Cass’s introduction to the series here.

The Edgerton Essays are named for Norman Rockwell’s famous 1943 painting, “Freedom of Speech.” Rockwell depicted Jim Edgerton, a farmer in their small town, rising to speak and being respectfully listened to by his neighbors. That respectful, democratic spirit is too often missing today, and what we’re hoping to cultivate with this series.

We are now accepting Edgerton Essay submissions from working-class Americans, particularly those without four-year degrees; please feel free to share our call for submissions or email Patrick Brown.

The American Dream Isn’t Dead, It’s Just Misunderstood Share This

Jeffery McNeil | Sep 22, 2021 | American Dream

Some people believe the American Dream is dead and the game is rigged against them. That isn’t my mindset or attitude. In order to fulfill your dreams, you must aspire to be what you desire. That is the American Dream, to me. And I think some people don’t understand what fulfilling that American Dream can […]

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Where Do Parents Go When Public Schools Go ‘Woke’? Share This

Joshua Clemmons | Aug 17, 2021 | Edgerton Essays

As a father of young children, I have been shocked by the rapid growth and impact of gender ideology within our society, reaching human resource departments in practically every major corporation and recalibrating the relationship between parents, children, and public schools, both in the realm of curriculum and in policy.

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When Work Doesn’t Seem to Pay Share This

Sasha Burns | Aug 04, 2021 | Edgerton Essays

Every day is a struggle when you’re living in poverty. You never know when you might lose your next meal or a place to live. You never know if something unexpected will come around the corner and knock you down, and how you’d find the strength to get back up again. I never had an […]

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Moving Beyond Surviving to Thriving Share This

Ethel Hunter | Jul 29, 2021 | Edgerton Essays

There are highs and lows in everything, and many of us experience both. We are all just one decision or one missed paycheck away from seeing a different side of life. That should be humbling for us all. But too often people assume the worst about people in difficult circumstances. I’ve been faced with an […]

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Our Policies Are Failing Working Mothers Share This

Kelly Nicole | Jul 21, 2021 | Edgerton Essays

When I was in my 20s, I was confident I’d be a stay-at-home parent if I had children—I simply didn’t give the alternatives much thought. But sometimes life goes in different ways than you expect. I got married in November 2019 at age 33. Three months later, in February 2020, we had a surprise positive […]

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Enabling Families to Support Each Other Share This

MeChell Roache-Johnson | Jul 12, 2021 | Coronavirus

Although I know that some of my opinions are solid and will not be changed, I usually keep them to myself—and wish a lot of other people would as well sometimes. This is a personal topic to me, but since we just celebrated Pride month, it’s important for me to be honest: I have a […]

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“Family Policy” Should Include Caring for Maternal Health Share This

Bianca Labrador | Jun 29, 2021 | Edgerton Essays

Lots of people have been talking about “family policy.” Let’s not forget that family policy starts with mothers. More than half of new mothers experience the “baby blues,” but for some, it becomes even more serious. I know firsthand. In 2014, I had my first daughter. I managed to stay upbeat, though worn out from […]

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Making It Easier to Make Ends Meet Share This

Hannah Ketcham | Jun 16, 2021 | Edgerton Essays

6 a.m. is much too early for this tired mama. But nonetheless, I hear that little pitter-patter of onesie-covered feet coming down the hall into our room. With a soft “Mom, can I have a banana?” my day begins, whether I’m ready for it or not. A few minutes later, my husband is out the […]

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Conservation, Farming, and the Wisdom of Our Elders Share This

Kelly Liddington | Jun 07, 2021 | Agriculture

The last time you voted, you may have seen “Soil Conservation District” on the ballot but not known why. These positions are frequently uncontested and local townships or counties can even have trouble finding candidates to run. Different states operate their conservation districts differently, but they are often the first line of defense in ensuring […]

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Social Security Was Supposed to Be Secure Share This

Nancy Merical | May 26, 2021 | Edgerton Essays

Politicians today are out of step with the many elderly—like me—who live on Social Security alone. They propose spending tax dollars on cancelling student loans or health care for illegal immigrants or other proposals that aren’t really “needs.” Meanwhile, this money comes out of the pockets of hardworking Americans, many of whom may depend on […]

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What I Wish Our Politicians Knew Share This

Sheila Wilkinson | May 19, 2021 | Edgerton Essays

Re: Don’t Talk to Us Like We’re Idiots

The recent post by Guy Stickney got me thinking about why it’s so hard for politicians to discuss things openly and honestly—and why we have a hard time doing it, too. Politics never used to pique my interest—maybe because my parents endured World War II, and I experienced those tragic, tumultuous days of the Vietnam […]

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Don’t Talk to Us Like We’re Idiots Share This

Guy Stickney | May 12, 2021 | Edgerton Essays

There’s an easy way to tell when politicians think we’re idiots. They have this way of dancing around the answer when they are asked a question, when even a simple “yes” or “no” would do the trick. But instead, they give us the song and dance and start distracting us by going into subjects that are completely […]

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