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.

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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Not Every Family Wants a Big Yard Share This

Kendra Holten | Apr 28, 2021 | Edgerton Essays

The desire to achieve “self-sufficiency” has encouraged us out of the communities we grew up in. When children no longer live with their parents and those parents experience the freedom of an empty nest for the first time in decades, both generations have seemingly met the goals that modern society has set for families. It […]

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Does Anyone in Power Notice When Government Services Fail? Share This

Dorothy Ramsey | Apr 20, 2021 | Edgerton Essays

Take a deep breath and hold it for ten seconds. Imagine doing that over and over again, 31,536,000 times, not knowing where your children were. That’s ten years—or as long as my daughter was separated from her two disabled sons after their non-custodial father abducted them. But when she went to the police, they barely provided […]

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How Essential Are the ‘Email Job’ Caste? Share This

Gord Magill | Apr 03, 2021 | Coronavirus

Despite the impact of “Stupid-19,” life rolls on in a very essential fashion for myself and many other workers. In my case, I work in energy distribution, and here in the cold northeast, the “propane must flow” if homes were to be kept warm this past winter, and some level of comfort is to be […]

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The Relationships That Don’t Fit on a Spreadsheet Share This

Mary Thompson | Mar 24, 2021 | Edgerton Essays

A few nights ago, several of my six (mostly grown) children were around the dinner table, reminiscing about the days when their maternal grandparents would care for them. Their fondest memories were the little moments you’d think would have gone unnoticed: “Nana knew exactly how much milk to pour in my bowl of Cheerios,” said […]

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A Dream Achieved—Through Mere Luck Share This

Peter Martuneac | Mar 16, 2021 | Edgerton Essays

Improvise, adapt, and overcome. The instructors at Marine Corps Recruit Training drilled those three words into the heads of my friends and myself back in 2010. It’s a pretty linear concept on a battlefield. But what do you do when asked to apply this to chasing the American Dream? It’s ironic—that dream we’re all chasing, […]

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On Family Policy, Proceed with Great Caution Share This

Robin Taylor | Mar 09, 2021 | Edgerton Essays

The new American Compass “Home Building” blueprint on policies for buttressing the American family was thrilling to read, and it reminded me of the earnestness and passion of me and my friends 35 years ago. I sense a reawakening of that same youthful excitement and energy for supporting families from writers like Lyman Stone, Patrick […]

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Do They Even Know Who They Represent? Share This

Angel Bernard | Mar 04, 2021 | Edgerton Essays

It would be nice if politicians did their job and represented us. Half the time I don’t even know if they know the first thing about the places they claim to represent, much less the people who live here. What is the point of having a democracy if nobody will listen to you? Lawmakers worry […]

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COVID’s Toll on the American Dream Share This

Ruby Nicole Day | Mar 03, 2021 | Coronavirus

The American Dream—people have hung on to those three little words for decades, passed them down for generations. But it’s hard to see how we can believe in the dream right now. To me, the American Dream is having a well-paying job, having good health insurance, earning benefits for your family, and being a meaningful […]

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Introducing the Edgerton Essays Share This

Oren Cass | Mar 03, 2021 | Edgerton Essays

The population of policy analysts and commentators is drawn inevitably from the ranks of the college-educated professionals who excel at and enjoy reading and writing all day. But as more of our politics and policies become nationalized, those doing the politicking and policymaking have tended to become ever more removed from large segments of the […]

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