Opinion: Don't forget where you came from
Susan Bodnar's grandmother implored her to remember her roots in a Pennsylvania coal patch community.
November 24th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Opinion: Don't forget where you came from

Editor’s note: Susan Bodnar is a clinical psychologist who works with people from diverse backgrounds and teaches at Columbia University’s Teachers College. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, two children and all of their pets.

See how readers reacted to Bodnar's piece.

By Susan Bodnar, Special to CNN

(CNN) - When the director of diversity at my son’s new elite Manhattan private school recently asked a few parents in a diversity committee meeting to comment about the personal impact of stereotypes, I paused. As a white American with white children, I could have expressed my deep empathy for the racism experienced by people of color. Instead I knew I had to come out from behind the color of my skin and share how stereotypes affected me. White people, after all, are confronted by bias too.

“I sometimes feel insecure, “ I said, “being around so many wealthy people and I’m having trouble with my extended family who think I’m being uppity by sending the kids to a private school.”

I had just returned from my grandmother’s funeral in McAdoo, the small eastern Pennsylvania town that grew from a coal-mining patch community. For decades, coal was a thriving economic engine that had supported my immigrant family. When the coal ran dry sometime after World War II, the progress train left town, leaving behind slag heaps and blackened cavities in the earth. Some family members continued to work as wildcat miners. Others branched out into trucking, steel mills and manufacturing jobs. One grandfather became a chicken and potato farmer. A great-uncle opened a local grocery, Bodnar’s market. Despite the economic devastation brought on by the end of the region’s mining era, my family was trying to grow.

My father even won an ROTC scholarship and served with his young family on Clark Air Base in the Philippine Islands, which served as the logistical hub for the Vietnam War and the place where F-4 fighter planes took off for secret bombing missions. That war ushered in newer mores that seemed to break everything apart. My parents divorced. My single, working mom moved away and raised my sister and me in a little apartment in a small Connecticut town. My father relocated to Texas. My grandfather’s farm couldn’t keep up with the competition from industrial agriculture. Local unemployment numbers grew and insidious mining-related illnesses plagued my family – black lung, emphysema, kidney disease, brain tumors and other cancers, as well as psychological problems stemming from depression and alcoholism. Everybody chain-smoked.

Yet, this area of Pennsylvania and its people – my family – remained the place to which I always returned home. I still played with my cousins while the adults shared meals on picnic tables set up outside until long after dusk. We picked blueberries and mushrooms, hiked through the woods to watch the deer, helped my grandfather heave coal into the furnace and learned to use my grandmother’s black sewing machine, decorated with gold.

Soon enough, I was accepted on a scholarship to Wesleyan University, one of the first universities to seriously strive for economic diversity in education. Of course, everything changed for me. I met people who had lived in different countries; studied philosophy, intellectual history, languages and improvisational dance; I discovered that I too could have dreams, even preposterous ones. Hard work and possibility defined my emergent self, rather than obstacles and limitations.

McAdoo began to look smaller and more frightening, especially since it seemed to have stopped moving forward in time. The houses, cars and the people became grayer and run down, as though from the set from an old movie. My parents’ homes started to feel complicated and hard. At 18, my mother had a newborn. At the same age, I was a sophomore at one of the best universities in the country. After a certain point, I realized that my parents couldn’t possibly understand who I had become and needed their scant resources to support their own growth. I had no choice but to continue the journey my parents started and take the dreams of immigrant miners further along the path to success. I have remained steadfast in this quest despite the embarrassment of many, many social mistakes - gesticulating so hard I knocked someone’s plate out of their hands, dressing in a long plaid skirt, thick sweater and wide, flat shoes for date night, and once mistaking the Hamptons for a rock band. My friends assumed eccentricity caused my worries. The reality was the possibility that I wouldn’t be able to pay tuition, despite working two jobs.

For these reasons, I often felt inferior and not as good as others because I came from a different class. This bothered me. Aren’t most of us on different points of a trajectory toward increased freedoms? Don’t many people still struggle with the challenge of being members of a much more entitled – and confident – society than the one into which we may have been born? Why did some people seem to act as if they were better than me?

I didn’t think it was all in my head. Some people managed class differences by eschewing anyone who reminds them of their own diverse pasts. White people can easily pull off that conceit. My grandmother, however, always reminded, “Don’t forget where you come from.” I have therefore struggled to live in both worlds, my McAdoo and my New York City – an urban dweller with small town values. Society depends as much on the traditions and values of working class culture as it does on the innovations inherent in upward mobility. Those often-disparate places reverberate inside most of us like two rhythms beating as one heart.

I eventually earned my doctorate in clinical psychology and now assist other people trying to manage their multiple cultural identities, a psychological reality that has become increasingly common in a more global and integrated society. This is especially true of my practice because I have a sliding scale fee structure. My relatives have welcomed me as “the first doctor” in the family. And now that my grandmother has died, this “doctor” wants to remain connected to my “first family.”

I am going to start sewing again, using my grandmother’s hand-stitched guide to turn old patterns into clothing for our modern New York children. I will also openly join the school diversity committee, out of respect for the multiculturalism of everybody’s family story, including my own.

The opinions expressed on this commentary are solely those of Susan Bodnar.

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Filed under: How we live • Race • What we think
soundoff (445 Responses)
  1. Will Wear

    The thoughtfullness and enlightened nature of the responses on this blog make me want to leave Facebook and rejoin the blogshere !!!

    November 26, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      As with all families, the story has many different pieces and I am still trying to learn much of it. My father's side are all Eastern-European. My mother's side are all Italian. There were, by the way, a few thousand Orthodox Jews working in the mines in the anthracite region.

      November 26, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Beata

    You should always remember were you came from, but never forget who you are now.

    November 26, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Medstudent

      My situation is most analogous to the children of this author; my grandparents lived in Wilkes-Barre, PA, also in coal country. They served in WWII and Korea, and worked in construction and refrigerator repair. Wilkes-Barre is where my parents grew up, and they were the first in their family to go to college. They moved away and were really successful, and I was able to go to a private school and university, and now am attending medical school (on a full academic scholarship). They've given me huge opportunities, and I've worked tooth-and-nail to make the most of them. I am driven by how much my family sacrificed for me, but I can never really claim to be "from" Wilkes-Barre; it is a town I visit only 4 or 5 times a year, and never lived there. I want to embrace my roots there, but that generational separation makes me feel like a fraud- my actual childhood was spent at private schools and living in a big house. It is an awkward cognitive dissonance. All I can do is keep visiting my grandparents while I can, study hard, serve in the military after medical school, and try to help as many people as I can with my life.

      November 26, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
      • Susan Bodnar

        Thank you Medstudent. It is not common in our society to acknowledge the influence of grandparents and their communities, but their impact can be as powerful as parents. The dissonance between the different places you know, almost like different parts of you, is so hard that most often it doesn't get discussed.

        November 26, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Yes, thank you.

      November 26, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  3. tjk

    my grandparents were from audenried and i remember the awful stories they told about the coal mines; the sicknesses, the dirt, men coming out mangled and deformed...just terrible. they were fortunate to get out (using the gi bill) and establish themselves in the quintessential 1950's suburban neighborhoods of western ny but they never let us forget the hard work of our family members and our working class background. even as grandchildren, we learned the value of hard work.

    November 26, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      I understand. When you grow up hearing theses stories about the dangerous lives of miners and other workers it makes a strong impact. It becomes very important not to take things for granted, and to take seriously the value of hard work.

      November 26, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. herbert

    Most Human Resources experts today will tell you that the diversity issue ran its course and it's now passe. We have moved on to evaluating people based talent, experience, skill-set, and performance. Color, race and ethnicity are not considerations. The whole quota thing is dead.

    November 26, 2011 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  5. Palustris

    Wonderfully written! I read it yesterday and again today. I believe any American existing today who has immigrant roots can relate to your story, myself included. It is also a reminder of how anyone in this country who is dedicated and self disciplined, no matter how humble their beginnings, can move up.
    Btw, you look just like your lovely grandmother!

    November 26, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Thank you! I do think that many people find it difficult to make sense of their immigrant roots. Culture has changed so fast. We get swept along into the future, trying to somehow keep looking behind us at things we still value.

      November 26, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Lou

    Thank you for your thoughtful article. It resonated strongly for me as my mother's family is from Plymouth, a Wilkes-Barre suburb. I grew up in Manhatten and my father, mother, and brother would often drive to visit my mother's large extended family for events and holidays in Plymouth-wonderful memories. My mother left her geographic roots at 21 to become an Army nurse and served in London during WWII. She met my father on leave and he, being a native New Yorker, did not want to move to a small town in PA and so settled in a modest tenement near NY Hospital to raise my brother and me.
    I have often thought of the diverse transitions my mother went through to leave the place of her upbringing, the only one of her 3 siblings to leave Plymouth. I also think of her father, my grandfather, who left Austria at 14 to work at the coal mines in Northeastern Pennsylvania in 1906. I was told my grandfather was not happy with his job of separating coal and wanted better. As a result, he acquired an itinerant sales job selling accordians to Eastern European immigrants throughout Pennsylvania. He later went on to own a few laundry dry cleaning stores in the Plymouth area, enabling him to provide for a growing family though the Depresssion and later. I too, left home at 18 to join the Navy and went on to acquire a degree and had a successful business career.
    Your roots, understanding where and from whom you come, can shed light on what direction to take your life. Embrace and be proud of your heritage; speak openly about it. It is in that understanding that the hopeful promise if America can flourish in your life and your children's lives.

    November 26, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Thank you, Lou. I understand your family very well and think that it is important to remember the story of how we all got to be where we are. Many people's relatives were able to endure very difficult jobs because they imagined that they were doing them for the future generations. I think that still happens today.

      November 26, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. james

    Why struggle from where you came from? Wrap where you came from around you like a warm blanket and parade around in it, showing it off with pride, because you are the definition of being an American. People who treat you differently because of where you come are only showing their insecurities.

    November 26, 2011 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      I'm not sure why anyone's multiple backgrounds are a struggle. Perhaps it may be connected to the fact that people get very wrapped up in day to day existence and don't have the opportunity to make use of their personal histories. But yes, embracing these many parts one's self is the right approach. Thanks!

      November 26, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Cathleen

    I loved this. I'd love to hear more about your family. More articles? A book?

    November 26, 2011 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      I am carefully listening to the people who are responding to this article to think about the best way to take the next step regarding what is happening here. I am very impressed and moved by people's stories, and think that they very much need to be told in some way. Thank you!

      November 26, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. AGuest9

    Susan, you are an escapee. You are a survivor. You got out. We proudly look back upon our heritage, but know that our parents' and grandparents' sacrifices so that we could get out and be successes in the larger world were truly worth it.

    November 26, 2011 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Yes, and I am thinking abut how to give the people of our immigrant heritage more credit and to turn them into role models particularly for our younger people today – including my kids – who are facing serious social and economic challenges. Thanks!

      November 26, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Kate

    I came from a family that was poor and struggling. It motivated me to make something of myself, earning my PhD and a professional position in academe. The trick is trying to pass along those values of hard work to the next generation who has reaped the benefits. I don't really care 'what' my children become in life, as long as they work hard for it. But social class is alive in America and does impact their options, like it or not.

    November 26, 2011 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      It is so important to pass on the values of hard work at the same time that we also want to pass on to our kids opportunities that we, our parents or grandparents might not have had. I agree with you that there are strong class issues in this country. While there is a great deal of possibility, there are tremendous psychological divides – sort of like behavioral things like what kind of beer people drink, as noted on these comments – that make it hard for people to make use of opportunities available to them. And sometimes the opportunities aren't always there.

      November 26, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  11. WyoWind

    Great article. My father-in-law was from the coal mining area of Pennsylvania near Uniontown. He and his brothers (and sister) all left the area to serve in WWII and Korea. All of them benefited from the GI Bill (one of the most enlightened government programs ever put in place). He later became a professor of library science and I took classes from him in graduate school. Through it all, he never forgot where he came from. Susan, thanks for your words and insights.

    November 26, 2011 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Thank you for the story of your father-in-law and for the reminder about how helpful some of these social programs can be. He sounds like a great teacher in more ways than one!

      November 26, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Famous Person #11

    You sound like you think you're smarter than everyone else and then you add insult to injury and act like returning to your roots makes your arrogance okay. Just kidding. hahaha I know what you mean! haha

    November 26, 2011 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  13. 0Patrick0

    More Americans from 'normal' backgrounds need to hear stories like this to appreciate the trials of the human condition with which so many of their peers struggle. My wife came from such a background: Born in a western KY barn which was her dirt farmer parents' home–it burned to the ground Christmas eve when she was 8–she lived out her subsequent inner city life in poverty, her father ever jobless, her salt of the earth mother begging for food on the streets. The father was abusive and hateful of everyone–Catholics, Jews, blacks, women. My wife left home at 18, supporting herself all the way through graduate school, and then we married. It took me the whole of our marriage–she developed breast cancer in her thirties–to help her accept the success of her life, such that she could be a bigger person than her father by shedding first her bitterness, then her indifference to him, and finally having the kindness in her to forgive him in his dying only a month before she herself died. I was ever greatful for that strength of character she inherited from her mother; it helped her become a model for our young children that will forever stand them in good stead throughout their lives. And it gave me the memory of how lucky I was to have been married to someone such as she, even if for so brief a time.

    November 26, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
    • cathleen

      Your story seems fictional. Why would you force your dying wife to forgive an abusive man that failed to provide for his family? Do you think they are united in death? Your wife seemed wonderful but she may have had more peace applauding her father's death than forgiving his life. Some things are not forgiveable.

      November 26, 2011 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
      • Forgive

        I can't think of a single example where a person benefitted from holding onto hate. It may seem to feel good at the time but it rots one's soul to the core. Time spent hating is time that could have been spent loving (yes, perhaps a different person). The first step in forgiveness is giving up all hope of changing the past. So forgive; it's good for you and everyone around you!

        November 26, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Karen

      What a beautiful tribute. I am sorry for your loss.

      November 26, 2011 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Thank you for sharing the story of your wife. She seemed like a strong character. I am sorry you lost her but happy that you knew and loved someone so special. It is true that when parents go through hard times they can become so stressed that they become abusive even to those they love most. It is terrible but it is human. It takes a good deal of inner work to break out of that cycle, and even more to forgive – but it does enable a life that is free.

      November 26, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Tiffany

    Boy, it's as if you opened a door into my soul, defining the struggle you so beautifully describe. I grew up in a small SW PA town, Carmichaels, surrounded by coal miner's children. My "playdates" were on porches of row homes that seem to fall into the weaving roads which led to the Mon River in Nemacolin or on sprawling acres of land where we ran and discovered. We live in the wealthy Main Line now and my children get dropped off at estates for playdates. My children are being raised so differently. Aren't we fortunate, though, to have experienced both?

    November 26, 2011 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Tiffany, I really understand you, from row houses to estates. Anyone who grows to know life's greatest expanse is lucky, although the road from row house to estate is often complicated and tricky. I'm not sure that as many get to embark upon that path as would like to. I wish that were different.

      November 26, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Nanticoke Boy

    Thank you for this great article. I too grew up in a small patch town and was the only one in my family to pursue an education beyond the valley. I settled in a vibrant Philadelphia suburbs and can't image ever living in an area so physically and emotinally depressed as the coal region.
    I recently drove down Route 309 and ate lunch in a tired little diner in McAdoo. Wonderful food and interesting people.

    November 26, 2011 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
    • AGuest9

      The Valley "makes" you move on.

      November 26, 2011 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Yes, McAdoo, and the nearby towns of Treskow and Junedale, have some very interesting and wonderful people and I include my family among them. But it is hard not to notice how depressed the area is, and that makes me sad. It is so hard to imagine that entire industries can just move away and leave people behind!

      November 26, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  16. jos

    Dr. Bodnar,

    I'm envious of you and the many like you who learned the value of hard work at a young age. I grew up a spoiled brat and it hasn't served me a bit in terms of living up to my potential. When most peoples' brains are wiring themselves as a result of a good, hard work ethic, I was getting handed anything I wanted for free. My struggle against physical and intellectual laziness often makes me feel like a loser. I wish my parents had made me work at home and work a job. At least I can try to help my own kids- by giving them plenty of jobs to help the family, opportunities to serve others, and finally, they can support themselves, at least to some degree, through college (even though Grandaddy has provided the college fund).

    November 26, 2011 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
    • alice

      Assuming that this is not a troll post...your problems are easy to solve.

      Don't act spoiled. Stopping the whining about having so much handed to you, as if that's a bad thing, would be a good start.

      November 26, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
      • jos

        I meant no disrespect to anyone.

        November 26, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      This is a side of things most people don't get, I'm sure. Hardship does create a kind of inner confidence that is unshakable. And having too much too easy doesn't allow anyone to truly believe in themselves, people in that situation always think that their genuine accomplishments are due to the money. I think the answer is in a kind of balance, or in the concept of equal opportunity. What doesn't help is the stereotypes people in different economic brackets have about each other.

      November 26, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
      • jos

        Thank you for all of your thoughtful responses to all of us.

        November 26, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Barbara

    Thank you from small-town Ohio and the "sticks" of Michigan! I went away to school at 16, where the rest of my classmates all seemed to have long ago read books I'd never even heard of (only later learned it wasn't true of all) and spent decades trying to fit in. My friends still don't get the poor-white suburb or the backwoods-white background I come from, and I'm still trying to straddle the worlds, especially now that my parents are gone.

    November 26, 2011 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      I truly understand how hard it is to make sense of both worlds, especially if your parents are now gone. There are many people trying to sort out this exact problem. Funny that the dialogue isn't as public as one would think, given how many are in this situation.

      November 26, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Adam

    Ms. Bonder, this was an EXCELLENT story. My parent both came from rural coal mining "patch" towns in SW Pennsylvania and came to Cleveland in the late 50s as that is where the opportunity was. Mom's parents were from Croatia and Dad's from Serbia. (what a combo!). They met in '62, had me in '63 and I grew up in Parma, Ohio, a suburb that is often joked about. Dad was a factory worker and mom, a secretary. An only child, I have a zillion cousins though and was one of the first to obtain a higher degree. As a young man who was realizing he was "different", I needed to get out of Cleveland and settled in Washington DC. THAT is where my world opened up to different cultures, foods, conversations and experiences. In my late 20s I met someone who worked for the cruise lines industry and decided to work on board. Over a two year period, I traveled extensively. What an experience that was.

    I met my partner in 1994 and settled back in the Cleveland area where I am now. It's home and I'm proud of it. Luckily for us, we do live in a beautiful home in an affluent suburb. Unlike many of my neighbors, we clean our own house, snowplow our own driveway and rake our own leaves!

    I know where I came from and where my folks came from. God, I would give anything to go back to Nemacolin, PA, (where Nana and Grampa raised my father), and buy that old house. None of my cousins kids even know about it. Boy the memories there. The same with growing up in the Cleveland area....I might not live in DC or Miami any longer but am proud to say I'm a Clevelander...which is often the butt of many jokes. I find people who bash others based on where they grow up or live is a true sign of ignorance. Thanks for such a great article!!!!

    November 26, 2011 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Thank you, and I really appreciate that you have shared your story! I also understand missing an old house. There is one of those in my life, and I still go visit it, wistful and longing for the memories that lived there. There is so much about the bigger, more open world that is irreplaceable;there is also so much about the people we loved back in those small hometowns that is equally irreplaceable. We need both, right?

      November 26, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Morgan Christopner

    I grew up in Nanticoke, PA (Sheatown) not far from McAdoo, but oh so similar. The white paint of all the houses had a tinge of grey in the accents from the coal dust that pervaded the area. Not only did the poverty of the area affect my general sense of self esteem as a young man, but being artisitic by nature in a region committed to sports and hunting also punched my ticket to get out of there ASAP. As I relax into the comfort of middle aged success, having made my mark as a playwright and actor, I have now come to not only appreciate my upbringing but to embrace it after years of "keeping my history in the closet". The people we are today are shaped by the experiences and lessons we've learned along the path. I have begun taking my partner of 23 years and his family back to Nanticoke on holidays to buy the fresh kielbasi and Polish pastries of my youth that are the parts of that upbringing I cherished and which remind me of the love around the family table at holidays. I look around that struggling small town today – another victim of the economy- and I am proud of the people who spent most of the 20th century laboring to provide the fuel that moved this nation forward. I grew up in a town where people struggled to provide for their family, wanted better for their kids, proudly learned the language of their new nation and literally used coal to keep the home fires burning during the Industrial Revolution.I am no longer ashamed of my upbringing – I am proud to come from my small town in Northeast PA. Thanks for this great piece, Susan.

    November 26, 2011 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      It's funny how we must have been composing our stories at the same time! My partner of 17 years and I went back to Nemacolin, PA where my father grew up in SW Penn. Unlike his family, wealthy attorneys, doctors and venture capitalists, Both my parents and I grew up quite differently. My dad is a hunter as well, along with most of my male cousins. They had one child and I wasnt into it. I was "different"! My father and mother are both incredible people though and have grown with me over the years. 25 years ago I would have never imagined that "one day" I would be spending Thanksgiving with my partner, his elderly mother, and my parents together. Isn't it funny how people grow when they are educated and accepting?

      November 26, 2011 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
      • Morgan Christopner

        LOL Adam, great minds think alike. My partner adn I are ont he other side of the state. We live in Buck Hill Falls in the Poconos and keep a place in center city Philadelphia. I love seeing my small town through his eyes. The Polish heritage I disdained as a kid makes his eyes light up when we walk into the small butchers for kielbasi back in Nanticoke. Morgan hrvnix@aol.com

        November 26, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • duryea

      I grew up in Duryea, Pa and was raised by my maternal grandparents. I remember my grandfather and uncle going to work in the coal mines every day and coming home as black as the coal. I remember bracking coal with my grandfather. The memories I have of my childhood are wonderful and even though our family was not rich by any means, my grandparents raised two happy grandchildren.

      November 26, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  20. ruthann

    I came from nothing and soon learned if i wanted something i was the only one who was going to make it happen. After a 2 yr degree in marketing i started making my something to the point of feeling safe and stable for life. Not to mention 2 great kids in there somewhere and they wdnt have to work like i did and feel the pain and suffering along the way, The fear of being poor like when growing up kept me motivated to stay ahead. From age 18-45 I enjoyed the fruits of my labor and rested knwoing i had made smart choices. After 30 yrs of marraige ended in divorce I found i had nothing. I went back to work at 2 jobs to simply be able to feed my kids and pay rent etc. Bottom line is i came from nothing, made something and i am back to nothing-actually financially worse than growing up as a kid. My 2 kids pay 100% of their own college and expenses. They got jobs at 16 and like a gal above count how many hours they have to work to keep thier things paid. Sometime it is a hard pill to swallow and i cant let myself think about it. Even after 4 yrs the money part is like an open wound that just happened. What ive learned is that i got the kids, we are all healthy, the house payment is made every time on time, lights are on, water in the shower, food in the pantry and most of my friends still l love us! Im still the same person inside frome when i was poor, wealthy and now poor again! Oh! btw, im much smarter about people now and what is fake:)

    November 26, 2011 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      The reality is that when you don't come from a well resourced background anything can come along and take away everything that you have accomplished. The latest economic crisis has affected many people in that way – they worked hard and lost almost everything through no real fault of their own. You are no alone with this battle, and it sounds like you are doing everything you can and I believe that will help get you through this very rough patch in your life.

      November 26, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  21. cathleen camp

    I came from a white immigrant disfunctional family where there was no love, no cohesiveness. I felt insecure and wanting my entire childhood because there were no family gatherings, or a permanent home, (we moved to a different apartment every year including a different school district). Despite being a confused unhappy kid, I was very smart. I knew enough to get a college education. Today, I am a successful owner of a company, have two children attending elite colleges, and a loving, educated, husband. My children have wonderful childhood memories, one home where they grew up in, and felt secure and loved unconditionally. I resent my mother deeply now that I am a parent. I feel nothing toward her or my extended family. Even though my adult life is fulfilling, I am an empty shell inside.

    November 26, 2011 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
    • jos

      May you feel the love of your Creator today, Cathleen. I believe (though if you don't, I respect you) that we live in a fallen world. I'm so glad for your children that they grew up with your affection. Take pride in that!

      November 26, 2011 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
    • bjon

      So when will you let it go? There comes appoint in everyone's life when they have to accept the past as it was and move on. My folks didn't do the greatest job, but God bless them for giving it their best shot!

      November 26, 2011 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
      • cathleen

        I can't move on. I wish I could forgive my mother and keep in contact. In truth, I am my mother's daughter. I am hard and uncaring toward her. I can flip the switch with no guilt. I may not know or care when she dies. I have moved on.

        November 26, 2011 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
      • vidi

        It's is much easier to let it go when you know that your parents gave it their "best shot." Perhaps Cathleen's parents didn't give it their best shot. It sounds like they didn't care at all. It seems to be very hard for most people to understand that there are parents who really don't care about their children, and those children are left scarred to their cores. I commend Cathleen for going on and making a good life for herself and her children despite what was done to her.

        November 26, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  22. herbert

    To make my way in the world and gain acceptance, I have always totally denied and hidden my early life of abuse and poverty. I've been successful beyond belief and am entirely disconnected from my family and my past. I am completely miserable and still filled with hatred toward my family for what they did to me.

    November 26, 2011 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
    • jos

      {{{{{{{{{{{{herbert))))))))))))))))).... (that was a hug)

      November 26, 2011 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
  23. Reggie

    Mama used to tell me to remember my roots. Being from the Deep South, from farmland and mill villages, and having the only doctorate in my family gives me a sanguine perspective of and resonance with the author's message. For those of us with roots to recall, it gives us context for our path. I think that context is worth remembering, even when hopeful or discouraging or somewhere inbetween.

    November 26, 2011 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      I very much agree with you. Thanks.

      November 26, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  24. mike gulash

    Still live there and so does my parents , town grew up lots to do there now ... and if not your only 4 miles from Hazleton PA...

    November 26, 2011 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Yes, I see changes all the time when I visit. I feel proud of my cousins who still live there and are contributing to re-invigorating the community again. Thank you!

      November 26, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Kvek

    Thank you for this. My father, a Hungarian refugee, hid his past (difficult, but not super poor) from our family, and I grew up assuming my parents had grown up just as I did (private schools, DC suburbs, stay at home mom). My son's father grew up in incomprehensible (to me) poverty, also in Hungary. Just yesterday, he was describing to us that from the ages of 8 to 9 1/2, he owned one pair of pants that had come via hand me down from relatives working in Iraq, a black and white plaid affair held together with pins. I hear the stories, but I don't have any sense for what it's like for him to make his way here in NY, carrying this first 20 years with him. He tells stories, but wants desperately to forget where he came from. We have a spoiled Brooklyn boy who also hears the stories and carries on with some interest in the story (my ex tells a good one), but also an eye roll. Have you found any meaningful ways of sharing where you came from with your kids?

    November 26, 2011 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      I too want to thank Susan for writing this. It reminds me of how we all, especially those who grew up with little, tend to spend time thinking about those times and challenges. It also reminded me of the segment on last evening's CBS Evening News that focused on the two young children in Florida who are living with their father in the back of a van truck. The expression of determination in that young girl's face in embedded in me...and her words at the end of the segment to children her age who have a home and warmth and meals...stressing to quit being so spoiled and be thankful for what they have was just amazing. With that in mind, while its fine to take some time to explore our past, let's spend more time doing something for the millions of children who today are living in poverty every bit as difficult as what any of us experienced years ago. One challenge is to as a family agree to spend a lot less on meaningless gifts for each other this year and instead to make certain it gets to someone who really needs it and will appreciate it...and if you do, you'll have a much happier and more memorable Christmas.

      November 26, 2011 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
      • pam

        mike, that is what i do every christmas, i find a family that needs help and i do that! talk about feeling good that i could help out someone in need is an awesome feeling!

        November 26, 2011 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
  26. kate

    I think having classes is a good thing.. with people striving to move up, down around. if we are all equal then there isn't much to strive for. I grew up in a railroad town in upstate NY, but went to a poshy high school in Connecticut 'cause my mom wanted 'more for me' this school's girls made me hungry for Aigner purses, 'nice' cars, beautiful homes, but I was never really allowed into the rich girls homes.. it made me strive harder for success, and I am successful today.

    I miss those days of big turkey dinners with family, friends, filled with laughter and high powered emotion.. My sons were brought up in a posh home with the trimmings of the rich, free cars, free college, I would take my little railroad town anyday.. money can make your comfortable, give you an easy life, but it does not make you happy.

    November 26, 2011 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Wehndalesta

      It's so annoying when a "rich"(or whatever) person says money doesn't make you happy. Who says we strive to have money make us more happier? We strive to have more money to make it EASIER for the opportunity to be happier in areas that brings you down: unemployed, owing bills, wearing worned out clothes, buying cheap fat filled foods, living in an apartment complex, etc. I certainly am not looking at money for happiness, but for me to be able to have less worries about the aforementioned things above.

      November 26, 2011 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
      • bjon

        So, reach back and embrace them...today! All the anger and hatred in the world (yours) hasn't helped, so try love.

        November 26, 2011 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
      • herbert

        You say try live as if it's like putting on a new shirt. When it comes to human emotion, one size doesn't fit all. Each of us is affected in different ways. One person may overcome his/her past; another may not. To simplify this is to trivialize it.

        November 26, 2011 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
  27. TommieFremont

    As the author mentions, most colleges and universities strive for economic and regional diversity as well as racial diversity and grant scholarships and make special recruitment efforts to balance their classes accordingly. There are many whites who quite justly, I believe, benefit from these policies. Of course if you are white, no one ever questions what your test scores or grades were. Or ask whether you are there because your father bought a library or is a wealthy alum.

    Great piece by the way. I find it insteresting that as a professor at a college of education you have chosen private school fior your children and wonder is that because you feel that the quality of education is much higher or because uou don't want them to feel the same class insecurity that you felt.

    November 26, 2011 at 7:52 am | Report abuse |
  28. Rags

    A very well written experience. It's a life experience that is too common but that really builds character. Many of us were raised that way due to the times and are proud to have gained the strength that comes from growing up that way.
    Too bad some readers have negative comments, most likely caused by inexperience and having been raised in a privileged environment.
    Of course, some dummies will bring politics into any story whether it's called for or not. Those are the true losers in this world, whereas people like the author are winners – without a doubt.

    November 26, 2011 at 7:46 am | Report abuse |
  29. Robert Fries

    Dr. Bodnar.
    Thank you for your message. My mother, Julia Hysick, was born and grew up in McAdoo. Her father was a coal miner who died of black lung. She was one of eleven children who lived there. At fourteen, to help with finances, she moved to NYC and accepted whatever work was available to her. Her other sisters did the same.
    Even in tiny McAdoo there were neighborhoods of Polish and Italian descent who kept to themselves.
    As a boy, whenever I returned there, usually with my cousin, Marion, we would roam the railroad tracks and the old mines of the town. And, go to mass at the old, large Greek Catholic church. Not much entertainment in that old, crusty town.

    November 26, 2011 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
  30. rand

    You should take pride in all that you've achieved and never be ashamed of it..................this story is what America is all about. It's a rags to riches story that never could have happened in any other country.

    November 26, 2011 at 7:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Sral Rolyat

      It is a interesting story. However, stop regurgitating mindless drivel about how America is the land of opportunity. The U.S. has the lowest social mobility of ALL industrialized nations. Saying a story like this could ONLY happen in the U.S. perpetuates a falsehood that diminishes the expectations we have for our nation and continues to inhibit accurate discourse on the nature of our economic and social problems.

      November 26, 2011 at 8:05 am | Report abuse |
  31. WestTexan

    I too lived the American dream, making the journey from the working class to the middle class.

    I worry, though, that today's young people don't have the same opportunities that I did. Kids from working class backgrounds these days graduate university with huge debt loads, and then can't find a job in their career field.

    The post WWII era was a boon for working-class kids like myself and for intergenerational mobility, but I fear that boon is coming to an end.

    November 26, 2011 at 7:42 am | Report abuse |
  32. Cheryl

    Who's the racist?

    November 26, 2011 at 7:40 am | Report abuse |
  33. VT69

    WOW, I just started seeing a CSW because of my children hood in VT and where I currently live in the east coast. The two are polar opposites. I can't tell you how much your story helped me to know that there are others who truly feel the way i do – you can't forget where you came from, it shaped who you are today but to fit in the place where you are today – is very hard. The insecurity can be overwhelming. I would love to hear more about your life and how you learned to come to a point of happiness and contentment. Please keep writing...

    November 26, 2011 at 7:38 am | Report abuse |
  34. Sam

    Thank you for the article, but wow some of these comments!
    My family is similar but not exactly the same. Both my parents are from Nebraska; my dad grew up in a blue-collar house, bounced from one side of the country to the other and never finished trade school; my mom grew up in a divorced family that had the most bizarre periods of prosperity and economic turmoil, and like my dad she never went to college. Illnesses have totally changed our family dynamics over the years (I lived with my maternal grandmother while I was in high school and we lost our house to foreclosure when she lost her job in '05).
    I graduated from a "public ivy" two years ago and I experienced first-hand what it was like to be the only person in most of my classes who actually knew how much my tuition was and how many hours I had to work the last week of the month to pay for rent. And now that I've graduated I have the hardest time talking to my family about my plans because in a way I feel guilty that I've had opportunities they never got. I'm the first person in my immediate family to graduate from college (although my brother and sister are both at prestigious universities), and while my siblings and I have benefited from our mom's meager life insurance (cancer) , I still had to work full time to pay for my tuition. I have a great job waiting for me in Canada as a teacher, but I feel like when I leave I'm abandoning everything I've known to start a new life. And after the worst Thanksgiving of my life, I discovered that my dad's entire family resents me and thinks that I've somehow been "given" everything I've worked my butt off for– and to be honest that ticks me off! I've always been conscious of how little my siblings and I had growing up, and I can't believe how well rounded they are even after all the trauma we've been through. We didn't get to college because we can pay for it, I would hate to see what my sister's student loans are going to be after she graduates from U of Chicago– we only made it because my grandmother pushed us to excel in school.
    Thank you so much for the article. After the holiday from hell, it helps to know I'm not alone when I feel like I'm fighting some sort of class war everytime I go home.

    November 26, 2011 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
  35. Sunny 62

    How sad, your view of this country and administration.....I don't think there is one rascist bone in the Obama's....I am white, grew up on a farm in the beautiful mountains of WV.....still think of it as home after 46 years in Pa...I go back several times a year to that farm, where we grew in love of one another, our country and most of all our Lord....I grew up the best of ways....I would not change a thing....I was taught to love others for who they are....not the color of the skin....and that was in the 60's where black people were told they could not drink from the same fountain I did and go to the same bathroom I did and eat in the same little resteraunt as I did.....I hope we learned from that...."all men/women are created equal"...it is up to you as to what you do with your life, you can "think" I can never do anything better than this, or you can go out and work for what you want....but do it honestly with hard work and always, always remember where you came from and appreciate it and most of all remember the Lord, God walks with you through all your life, helping, guiding and sustaining you.....God Bless us all!....In the eyes of God "all" are loved!

    November 26, 2011 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
  36. Shannon


    November 26, 2011 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
  37. RickinJP

    Thanks for sharing this story. I grew up in a place considered by many to be less than glamorous. In my youth, I was probably a little ashamed of my origins. Leaving a small, agricultural town to live in a metropolitan city seems to bring those feelings out in a lot of us. Luckily, I recognized the mistake of trying to hide from my upbringing. Childhood in an area that is less than prosperous can be just as special and wonderful a time as childhood anywhere else. Friends are friends and family is family, regardless of socio-economic standing. For those of us lucky enough to have been surrounded by people who love and care for them, wealth really doesn't matter. Only happiness does.

    November 26, 2011 at 7:34 am | Report abuse |
  38. mountainmornings

    Thank you for your intriguing essay. Class structure is rarely discussesd among white upper/mid/lower Americans. I was adopted from Scranton PA and raised in a 4 BR house with love. I married into a relatively wealthy family that was shattered financially and emotionally by the divorce of my in-laws. I have felt "less than" by careless comments many times, but have raised my children to remember their roots (coal mining Irish immigrants) and to stand up for social justice. Unfortunately today, a college education is not a sure ticket to the American Dream.

    November 26, 2011 at 7:33 am | Report abuse |
  39. Ravi

    Very Beautiful personal story rendition. It goes beyond the narrow definition of Diversity and glad to read such a beautiful story with full of values. We are all different and thats what makes it more interesting & beautiful.

    Unfortunately our society as a whole has forgotten the Roots and its true Values. It feels like there is going to be a new Renaissance in thinking but unfortunately with every new awakening there will be pain. Hope we will enter a new Era where we Empathize more vs Ridiculing others.

    November 26, 2011 at 7:29 am | Report abuse |
  40. ERIK

    WTH is a coal "patch" community? I am from the heart of coal country in West Virginia & I have never heard that term in my 50+ years, but the author uses it as if it is universally accepted terminology.
    Otherwise, an excellent article.

    November 26, 2011 at 7:29 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      I too struggled with the term and am from West Virginia. I did a quick look on the internet though and found this explanation of "Coal Patch" with some awesome pictorials to boot. http://kycoal.homestead.com/CoalPatchTowns.html

      November 26, 2011 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
    • jos

      Coal companies built “coal patch” or "coal camp" villages and towns near their coal mines throughout Kentucky and other coal mining states. Coal patch villages and towns differed from other villages and towns in that they were not incorporated, did not have elected officials and were wholly owned by the coal company which controlled who lived within their confines. The coal company generally provided lots for churches and schools to be built.

      November 26, 2011 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Isabella Binney

      A "coal patch" community is a term unique to Pennsylvania. Because you are from W.VA. it is not familiar to you.

      November 26, 2011 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Herb

      A coal patch community is a town built by a coal company to house its miners. The company owned all the houses, and, consequently, owned the miners, as employment status determined being permitted to live in the houses. After WW2 the government forced the coal companies to sell the houses, separating shelter from employment status. There was also a company owned store, the only place to shop, with overpriced shoddy goods, a practice also stopped by the government.

      November 26, 2011 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  41. Sunny 62

    I thought the article was excellent, only someone who grew up in the area or one similar, could appreciate of what she is writing....The past can be something to motivate you to achieve beyond your dreams.....many young people today are handed things on a silver platter and even cheat to get a good SAT score...They don't even want to work for that....My Mom would say to us 8 children growing up....hard work never hurt anyone!....and she was right, I think I was more thankful for what I had growing up "love, faith and strong religious values" /after I was grown......those are missing in most of the families today, so it scares me as to what this world will be like in another 15 years when this country is run by a generation of people who expect everything to be handed to them without an effort.....I am glad I will not be here!!!

    November 26, 2011 at 7:17 am | Report abuse |
  42. RickinJP

    Wow. What a harsh response to a simple discussion. There was nothing snobbish about anything said in her article. She is working to reconcile the differences between her childhood experience with her adult life. She is speaking only of the inherent difficulties of attempting to achieve and maintain what is often a precarious balance. Perhaps your experience has led you to a different mindset regarding your origins, but what is it that makes you believe this kind of criticism would be helpful? For whatever it's worth, we should be applauding an American who has achieved considerable success and has not forgotten from whence she came. All too often we see people allow success to obscure humble beginnings. Thanks to Ms. Bodnar for sharing her story.

    November 26, 2011 at 7:11 am | Report abuse |
  43. Dr Bill Toth

    The great thing about the past is that it is over and it probably didn't happen the way you remember it. The future is yours to create. Live With Intention, DrBillTothCom/blog

    November 26, 2011 at 6:58 am | Report abuse |
    • ruthann

      Excellent point!

      November 26, 2011 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
    • jos

      Insensitive, dismissive, yuck.

      November 26, 2011 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Isabella Binney

      Dr. T – Your comment manages to undermine everything this good person has shared with us. She is obviously living her life beyond those memories, but to suggest that they probably aren't true is a cruel and belittling thing to say.

      November 26, 2011 at 8:13 am | Report abuse |
    • herbert

      You sound like some stereotypical therapist who has led a privileged life. Had you lived through the childhood terrors that I experienced, you'd know it is that simple. To suggest that "positive thinking" is all it takes to overcome a horror-filled childhood of poverty, abuse, and neglect is profoundly wrong.

      November 26, 2011 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
  44. Paul

    An article about her feelings of inferiority makes her arrogant?

    Perhaps you are referring to her mention of her children going to an elite private school, and her earning a PHD. I guess those weren't relevant to the article?

    You sound like what I imagine some of her hometown folks feel- scared, resentful, and envious of someone who has worked her way out of the situation she was "expected" to end up in, unlike youself perhaps?

    November 26, 2011 at 6:13 am | Report abuse |
  45. Paul

    I would love to agree or disagree, but I have no idea what you are talking about.

    November 26, 2011 at 6:07 am | Report abuse |
    • RickinJP

      That is precisely what I was thinking. What is the point of C's commentary?

      November 26, 2011 at 6:56 am | Report abuse |
  46. MaryRose

    Similar to you, I came from a small farm in PA, knowing how to muck out stalls, shell limas, grow and can just about everything. I was bought two pairs of "good" blue jeans at the start of each school year, and they lasted through (with patches) to be my cut off shorts in summer. We even raised our own beef. We scraped by. My Ph.D. is from a similarly respected NY grad school and I am a well respected member of the professional community for the past 20 plus years.

    I've found - somewhat strangely, that while I have only pride in where I came from and that I put myself through all those years of school (often not knowing how I would make the next semester's tuition...working all the way) that others - the wealthy others - don't view hard work and persistence as positive! I was even told once that "If you have to work to pay tuition, you don't belong here". Shocking, as I was raised to believe hard work was a positive attribute, and putting yourself through school was a point of pride, not something to be hidden!

    I simply felt sorry for those who somehow missed the message, America is founded on good hard work and respect for those who work the land and put food on YOUR city table. I've told people in business settings that I can throw hay bales (back when they were bales, not those huge spirals left in fields) with the best of them and still do high level statistics. Think I'm a little odd...no problem! I still laugh over when I saw "snapper soup" on the menu in NY for the first time and wondered out loud where they found all the snappin' turtles to supply a restaurant!!

    I'm proud of who I am, and how I got to where I am. Anybody who doesn't think pulling ones self up by the bootstraps is the American way can go muck out a cow stall!!

    November 26, 2011 at 5:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Veronica R.

      I have come across so many people who could never conceive of my low income, inner city upbringing. Most often they are the people that have not had to experience what it feels like to "need" they can only answer to material wants. Very sad indeed. Yet here I am, a suburban mother of three, with a graduate degree and a very good career and life. I never doubt that it was my upbringing to work hard, be honest, and treat everyone with respect even if you may not receive it in return. I have 4 other siblings and only 1 will ever acknowledge in public what our roots are. Of the 5 of us, it is the two of us who openly acknowledge and discuss our past that are the happiest personally and in our family lives with the most well adjusted children. Go figure.

      November 26, 2011 at 7:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Scarlett

      Well said! Those who look down on others because they weren't born into privilege simply don't get what America is all about. If you want aristocracy, move to England. I would much rather hire a person who worked hard to succeed than one who simply had Daddy write a big enough check to open doors ...

      November 26, 2011 at 7:50 am | Report abuse |
      • John

        AMEN and very well said!

        November 26, 2011 at 8:03 am | Report abuse |
    • John C

      Too many people think,feel that you're domed to a life of failure if your parents are poor growing up..It comes down to the work ethic, ambition.We had a neighbor, in DC with 11 kids .He was cab driver and of course she was a stay-at-home Mom...All eleven of them went to College- most graduated – and all had great jobs..There's too many loser stories in the newspapers nowadays...

      November 26, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  47. charles


    November 26, 2011 at 5:29 am | Report abuse |
  48. Michael Downend

    My new play, THE HAZARD, deals with this. I grew up and live amidst the widely-mixed population (name a nationality–you’ll find it represented here) of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area in which Dan Flood, John L. Lewis, E.C. Stoner, Black Jack Kehoe, Russell Bufalino, Joseph Mankiewicz, Mary McDonnell, Jerry Orbach, Jack Palance, George Catlin, Franz Kline, Qadry Ismail, Jason Miller, Joe McDade, Jesse Fell, Ben Burnley, Joseph Murgas, the anonymous coal miners, the ancient and modern Wyoming Valley native Americans–the list goes on–are or were the influences, heroes and villains of the narrative and for the record not the least of which were my ancestors from County Roscommon, Ireland, Yorkshire, England and Kent, England, Pétange, Luxembourg, and Brussels, Belgium and last but not least, Mr. Peanut who was born in Wilkes-Barre.

    November 26, 2011 at 5:21 am | Report abuse |
    • jos

      Wow. Riveting plug.

      November 26, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
  49. Aubyn Grandison

    Hello Dr Bodnar, I liked that you highlighted your origins which later influenced or played a role in your own success…but I have some points within your article to highlight that might bring up other questions. I respect the fact that you came from a blue collar family and worked your way to a prominent status within your occupational forum. It is considered a true American dream to do and accomplish what you have done. My mother, a single parent and a public school teacher moved to the United States in 2001. Two years later she got her master’s degree and now she’s doing a Ph.D. program. Shortly after I arrived in the country where I enrolled in college graduated and now I am doing my masters. I get that we all dream of bigger things. We all strive because we feel that we need to become more. But my question is, are we doing more harm to the next generation by letting them not know or understand our roots of origin? The reason I say this is because I believe your committing a social mistake-on your own. You are proud that your children are attending a prestigious academy and I am happy and everything but at the end of the day, did they get there solely by their hard work or sense of blue collar inferior origin? After all in your article, it is implied that you’re coming from such.
    It is your feelings of inferiority that made you a success and by rearing your children with the false sense of financial security (your success not theirs)...You are dooming them to not be self-reliant like you were. Your grandmother told you “don’t forget where you came from”. But what would she say to your kids, the next generation, being that they might/ might not be in touch, reality with inferiority. Your upward social mobility is a congratulatory achievement. I ask you though, looking at your children, what will their influence be to soar, exceed your own expectations of them as your parents did if your no longer considered lower class, inferior?

    November 26, 2011 at 5:15 am | Report abuse |
    • holla

      I think this is a great point.. How does one, who has made great progress from humble origin, pass that message to kids? In my opinion, Sending them to private schools and talking about grand parents toils or their own hard work, will not send a message to kids.. Nor can the parents live a life of penury to teach their kids.. I am not sure what the right approach is.. anyone?

      November 26, 2011 at 6:13 am | Report abuse |
      • PZ

        As the old saying goes, "if you keep doing the same thing, you will keep getting the same results." Some recipes in life should not be changed as often as they are. That is why people have no values in this world.

        November 26, 2011 at 6:21 am | Report abuse |
      • Mark

        I think the answer to your question is service to others. I too came from a very poor family. My father died when I was 6 and my mother raised us on welfare checks until Alzheimer's took over her mind. I put myself through college and then with my wife built a great life for our family. Our two boys were taught from the beginning that what we have was earned by hard work and that they must help others along that journey. Feeding the homeless, helping neighbors, and all types of service projects were a steady part of their childhood. Both became Eagle Scouts and are now on their way to becoming Doctors. Teach your children though your actions that service to others is how we give thanks for the good things we have.

        November 26, 2011 at 6:52 am | Report abuse |
      • Pat

        That's the problem in the world, people aren't thankful for what they have, they keep wanting more and never seem to be satisfied or happy enough.

        November 26, 2011 at 6:57 am | Report abuse |
      • Sunny 62

        Excellent point!....I don't think you can teach young people to appreciate what they have and the privileges they have unless they see the other side....Mission Trips (working ones) where they can meet the people and realize how little they have, but they still have dreams.....Don't make it so easy on the children....make them work during the summer vacation......not sure private schools will teach much compassion and love for others who live "on the other side of the railroad tracks"..

        November 26, 2011 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
    • RickinJP

      Very well put, Mark. I believe one of the best ways to teach is by example.

      November 26, 2011 at 6:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      You hit the nail on the head here. I totally agree with your assessment.

      November 26, 2011 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
  50. GeoLogic

    The underlying tragedy is that talented people leave hard-to-reach areas to live in convenient high-infrastructure coastal cities. In this way, all the blood sweat & tears of the pioneering generations were more or less in vain. While the laws of economy are indeed ruthless, a simple highway, airport or tourist site development may change the total picture. The price for leaving roots is derision. Having survived that, people seldom go back to use their resources to further develop their region of origin, because that is felt as a personal defeat.

    November 26, 2011 at 4:39 am | Report abuse |
    • RickinJP

      While it is true success in many instances requires relocation, to be derisive of those who make the choice to leave their hometowns to achieve their dreams is just wrong. A place is often defined by what is done or has been done there. Though it is sad, a spent coal-mining town is very possibly destined to be nothing more than that. This lady had an opportunity to apply an intellectual gift in a manner to improve the lives of others. There are those who would argue she should be working to help those back home, but in her instance, opportunity was elsewhere. She is still helping humankind through her work. What difference does it make where she is providing that help?

      November 26, 2011 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
      • amanda

        If leaving their hometowns to achieve their dreams is just wrong, then, there would be no human migration in this world..

        November 26, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  51. Grazyna

    Dear Mrs Bodnar, very true and very American.

    November 26, 2011 at 4:29 am | Report abuse |
  52. mejo

    Nice story, mine is similar. Unfortunately, this sort of thing willl most likely never end, only get worse.

    November 26, 2011 at 4:14 am | Report abuse |
  53. Sam

    Dear Dr. Bodnar,

    I am truly grateful that you have taken some time to write about your diverse background and how it has shaped your perspective in life. Furthermore, it is even more encouraging to see that you've reconciled your past and present lives.

    I am the first in my family to attend medical school as well and I am currently interviewing for residencies. My parents are first generation immigrants from Korea and both have engrained the value of hard work for a "better" life. This all-too simple formula opened opportunities for myself but it gave me the wrong expectations as to what a "better" life actually meant. Though I have forged new friendships with my amazing peers, I often felt inadequate, lonely, and insecure about my family's farming and blue collared background. Presently, I am in the process of reconciling this – to embrace the opportunities that were either afforded to me or earned.

    One of my favorite topics that I love to discuss in my interviews is that of my parents' backgrounds and how it has shaped me as a person. My father is an auto-mechanic and had lost his business due to the Los Angeles Riots. He subsequently worked odd-end jobs as a house painter and gas station mechanic long before opening up another small garage in Los Angeles that is currently paying our mortgage. My mother always dreamed of being a teacher. Her English is a bit limited which is why she does her best to attend evening courses for adults at a local community college. After a lot of reflection, I realized that these two individuals have raised me to become resilient, resourceful, and thankful.

    To my parents, a "better" life meant financial stability, nicer clothes, a bigger house, etc. Though medicine will not afford me a glamourous lifestyle, it will invariably lead to a more comfortable life. And yet, I still have periods of emptiness and moments of doubt that my path will lead to a happier life. Your story is an inspiration for me to focus on the strengths that I have gained from my background and combine this with my newer self to find self-confidence. At this point, a better life for me entail, in part, giving back to my parents for their years of faith and hard work. Thank you so much for your inspiring story and reminding me that there are many traveling or have traveled on a similar path in life.

    November 26, 2011 at 4:04 am | Report abuse |
    • mejo

      Thank you Sam for a wonderful story. Sam is my dad's name also. He worked his tail off to raise us well, and now, fortunately, my job I have by aquiring the education I pursued allows me to help them out in thier later years.

      November 26, 2011 at 4:20 am | Report abuse |
  54. Gemma

    This story caught my attention because I grew up not knowing where I belonged. My Mother studied art in college and designed clothing and painted. She grew up not really worrying about money at all. My dad picked cotton as a child, suffered depression and seizures and social stigma. I loved them both but to this day I know very few of my dad's relatives because he was ashamed of them. My Mother's family encouraged me to go as far away from my dad as I could. Sometimes I think back on what brought them together as a young couple and I wonder what they saw in each other - how they accepted the differences, or if this even played a role in their relationship.

    November 26, 2011 at 4:03 am | Report abuse |
  55. Roc

    I don;t relate to people who feel bad about where they came from, as if they had a choice. My past was the worst, dirt poor, abandoned, abused, filthy, starving from age 2 until I left home at 14. Today I can sit down with anybody from any status in life from homeless to billionaire, mix with any social set from poor toothless to celebrity elite. Wake up people – those feelings of shame for where you came from are of your own creation.

    November 26, 2011 at 3:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Pete

      A person of character, honesty, temperance, and integrity need not feel small among others regardless of wealth, social status or race. Happily, these things still matter most in America.

      November 26, 2011 at 3:54 am | Report abuse |
  56. DNA

    I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like you very much. And your relatives are correct. You are "uppity."

    November 26, 2011 at 3:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Floretta

      The Earth will continue to revolve whether you like her or not, DNA. No big deal.

      November 26, 2011 at 6:56 am | Report abuse |
  57. DNA

    You really want to embrace your roots? Enroll your child in public school.

    November 26, 2011 at 3:23 am | Report abuse |
  58. Erik N.

    Dr. Bodnar,
    Thank you so much for writing this article. I am proud of my roots in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area of Northeastern PA. While I will admit that I thankfully have not experienced a great deal of intentional discrimination, I have been forced to deal with numerous stereotypes and derogatory comments about my home. Just because someone successful doesn't come from money or a big urban center doesn't mean that they shouldn't be treated equally once they have, and I use the term loosely, "Arrived". If anything, these people should be treated with the same respect as anyone else. The backgrounds of these individuals are just as sacred and special as the backgrounds of those who started with advantages.

    November 26, 2011 at 3:19 am | Report abuse |
  59. zoundsman

    Ashamed, ashamed, ashamed-was how I felt about my past. People don't realize, you feel the vibe even as a 1st grader.
    My parents struggled hard to support 5 kids on blue collar jobs, but it takes a long time to grow up and appreciate all of it. College set me apart from them. They saw me as the same ol' kid, and confusion ensued. It came down to the anxiety
    I had growing up, and the anxiety I created when I came back from college-they not knowing how I changed. I'm older
    now, and all I'm left with is regrets I never told my dad how much I appreciated his struggle to get the family through all
    of it. High class antics be damned-all theatrics and poof. The salt of the earth are worth understanding, having patience
    with, and loving the best.

    November 26, 2011 at 3:14 am | Report abuse |
  60. Merrilee

    Enjoyed your article immensely, and the reminder to embrace my roots rather than ignoring or forgetting them. Very similar story- first in my family to go to college, attended an amazing undergrad somewhat by chance (W&J), and ended up earning a PhD and teaching at a small college, although I'm in rural PA and not Manhattan. This piece has me thinking about ways to teach my 8 year old about his history, and to embrace the diversity in the students I work with every day. Thanks!

    November 25, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
  61. David

    Ms. Bodnar, thank you for your article. My grandmother always made sure I knew my roots. Being Southern, it's like breathing really. I have her rocking chairs, the keepsakes from her mantle and an oil painting of the farmhouse where the previous three generations of my family lived. I'm the first in my immediate family line to have attended college and I'm blessed to have been successful so far in life. I've seen relatives who try to pretend they come from a different background but that only leads to misery and self-delusion. I think seeing the journey unfold is more exciting when you know your starting point and embrace it.

    November 25, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Thank YOU! A grandmother's ricking chairs are a wonderful! Wonderful to hear how proud you are of your heritage and your embrace of all the different parts of you.

      November 25, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
      • Jesse

        Hey, I grew up in a very small logging town on the Oregon Coast. I've only had a couple of years of college but I served 22 years in the Navy and went up thourgh the "Hawse Pipe" to become a Navy Officer. I have never felt inferior to anyone, even those Annapolis boys with all the privileges. My waitress mother always let me know that my honestly made money was just as good and anyone elses. We have heavier things to worry about folks but we really should always remember our roots, the dirt they were planted in and the people in our lives who nourished them.

        November 25, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  62. Susan Bodnar

    Agreed. We sang God Bless America before our meal last night, and we meant it.

    November 25, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  63. Tracy

    Very insightful commentary. I have a similar background - raised in a very rural, poor with 6 siblings, and I, too, have struggled to feel at ease among my new economic peers. As the first in my family to go to college and then to law school, my family no longer knows what to make of me. Yet, my economic "equals" really aren't on the same playing field as me, either. While we may earn similar salaries, they do not have the widened perspective of having experienced poverty. For them, to travel, to have excess, to inherit wealth is what they have grown to adulthood experiencing. For me, it such a foreign luxury, that i still feel guilty spending money on expensive items or trips and I fear every day sliding back into poverty. That fear drives my ambition. My counterparts, on the other hand, know no fear and are boldly successful because it never occurs to them that they would be anything else. They have the resources and support to make it happen.

    November 25, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Thank you for filling out this dimension of the story. You said it really beautifully!

      November 25, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  64. Susan Bodnar

    Mike, I do understand how this article could seem. I was worried about writing this because of exactly your reaction. In truth, these divisions are rather artificial and many of us, including me, can testify to that truth. I am very proud of my life now, my family, and where we all came from; complexity doesn't lessen the love.

    November 25, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  65. realist512

    Observation. I have found that some persons who would never use a derogatory word about a racial minority use hillbilly, white trash, red neck, etc. As someone from a small WV town, I have found myself resenting these words. I, for one, am proud of memories of rural America. I hope that none of us forget where we came from.

    November 25, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      You are correct in this observation, and that is why it is good to bring the issues of rural vs. urban, and class, out in the open.

      November 25, 2011 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  66. EVW

    "My son's new elite Manhatten private school." There's a phrase most Americans can surely relate too. Bet you have a ton of diversity worthy of a committee. What's to discuss? Whether Buffy's land rover is making Condrad feel inadequate because he only has a mercedes?

    November 25, 2011 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      I too once believed that there was a world of obnoxious Buffy and Conrad's that didn't include me. Writing this piece came from a desire to begin a dialogue about these issues. I'm glad you posted this feeling. Its very much a part of how people's life experience these days.

      November 25, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  67. Jason

    Thank you for this article! It is unfortunate that there are so many people waiting in the wing to attack the very mention of a positive story relating to White history. Baby-steps I guess... Thank you for reminding America that we weren't stamped into existence right next to the money at the US Treasury.

    November 25, 2011 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
  68. Bill Mosby

    Dr. Bodnar, I hope somebody warned you not to read the comments to anything you get published here. If not, perhaps you can use many of the comments as raw data for a targeted marketing campaign for your services.

    November 25, 2011 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Nature Lover

      Bill Mosby Did you perhaps go to school briefly in NJ in the early 70s? Roy is looking for his letter sweater. Speaking of where we came from.

      November 25, 2011 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Thanks, Bill. The comments are okay. This is a divisive issue and I had a feeling it might generate some complex reactions. I don't think we an begin this dialogue without some roughness around the edges.

      November 25, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill Mosby

      To Nature Lover: nope, it wasn't me. Good luck in finding it.

      November 25, 2011 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |

    <--I'm a mutt.

    November 25, 2011 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
  70. Red

    I don't have to join a Diversity club to define myself. My parents were blue collar workers in factories and even with some college I was never any better off than they were, in fact I made less money than they did. I don't feel sorry for anyone, life is a stuggle for the majority of people regardless of race and economic background.

    November 25, 2011 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      I agree.

      November 25, 2011 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  71. Mikey Hobuht

    Hello. Your article caught my eye for a number of reasons. I also grew up in PA coal country in the Shamokin area. Second, your name is very similar to a name I knew there, Bednar. I appreciate you writing it because I think we all have those feelings once we move away, "get educated", and then go back. For me, I love to go back. I even make it a point to support local businesses there, and get back there as often as I can. I found the reason to be that the hard working tendencies of the region are inspirational to me, and have much to offer the world. It is also, at least to me, what it means to be an American. When you think about what it took for so many people from so many countries to make it in places like Shamokin and McAdoo, then you realize that it is the very symbol of diversity and that hard work that will bring us back to rise to the top of the heap again as the USA. Thanks for your article.

    November 25, 2011 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Thank you.

      November 25, 2011 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  72. JoAnne

    As a Hazleton, Pa resident, I understand your feelings, Ms. Bodnar. Hazleton, a few miles north of McAdoo, and a city that emerged from those same coal-mining roots, was culturally diverse, with Polish, Slovak, Irish, Italian, Lithuanian and other immigrants living peacefully in the same small community. And these immigrants put a heavy emphasis on education and "bettering" yourself while still not forgetting "where you came from". In addition to an economic improvement, it is a mental "rags to riches" theme as well. Thank you for the reminder to never forget who you are or where you come from...the past is always a part of who you are.

    November 25, 2011 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Thank you. My mother's side has family in Hazleton, the Yale family. Maybe you know them?

      November 25, 2011 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
      • JoAnne

        Only to the extent that there was a boy with that last name who went to HHS, I believe class of '62

        November 25, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
      • Susan Bodnar

        Was his name Robert?

        November 25, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  73. Jim S

    This is a wonderful story for Thanksgiving. Thanks. Very much reminds me of my central PA roots and journey to where I am today. They say you can never go home, and I agree. But a part of you can never leave either.

    November 25, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim S

      ps. you bear a striking resemblance to your grandmother

      November 25, 2011 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
      • Susan Bodnar

        Thank you, and I am very flattered to have a resemblance to my grandmother!

        November 25, 2011 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
  74. lance corporal

    wow that level of anger must be displacing something

    November 25, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Daydreamer

      It's the conservative mantra of the day: if we're angry, we must be right.

      November 25, 2011 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
    • mejo

      Where, exactly, did you find anger in that article?

      November 26, 2011 at 3:57 am | Report abuse |
  75. o.t.

    This story is wonderful because it is so typical in America. This is what liberals deny, and Obama is destroying.

    November 25, 2011 at 7:59 am | Report abuse |
    • barbag

      Really? It's his story too. Grow up.

      November 25, 2011 at 8:13 am | Report abuse |
      • joxer

        Kenya is his history.

        November 25, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Vic Simpson

      damn, I wish you Americans would realize it's the Republicans that are creating havoc with their dirty tactics

      November 25, 2011 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
      • dan

        No excuses, it is not the Republicans or Democrats that are ruining the country. It is time to stop this bipartisanism and start making this country great again.

        Be a leader, make the change!

        November 25, 2011 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |

      See, I knew that rational, normal people read these articles, not just the extremist "too much time on my hands" haters.

      November 25, 2011 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Moms Hugs

      President Obama is the epitome of diversity & education in America . Yes, his father was African from Kenya but educated at Hawaii & Harvard, yet had nothing to do with his upbringing. His mother & her family were of European descent from Kansas & lived in Hawaii where both she was educated. From the time Pres. Obama was 10 years old, his maternal grandparents raised him until he left for college. His college education and working with the poor in Chicago led him to earn a doctorate of jurisprudence at Harvard. If we learn nothing more from advances in the sciences of DNA and genetics, we can at least come to realize our president is a great example of being an American in the 21st Century!

      November 26, 2011 at 7:52 am | Report abuse |
  76. Vic Simpson

    yes, never forget where you come from... but I was curious why you didn't mention where your family immigrated from.

    November 25, 2011 at 7:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Father's side – various countries in what was then Austria-Hungary, including Czechoslovakia. Mother's side – All Italian. The piece referenced my father's side because of my grandmother's recent death.

      November 25, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
      • Floretta

        Sounds like us – my paternal grandfather's family were Austro-Hungarian who emigrated by way of the Chelsea section of Boston and moved to Clarks Summit PA for mining. My great-grandfather died when my grandfather was 9 and as the oldest, with a widowed mother and 2 younger siblings, he went to work in the mines in the earliest years of the 20th century. Moved to CNY for the shoe factories, met and married a French Candian blue-eyed blonde, which union produced 5 children incuding my father. He "married up" as they say; my mother's family, all Irish, were middle-middle class merchants (saloon-keeper, feed and grain store, coal company, auctioneers) to their lower middle class factory workers. My maternal grandmother's strongest regret was being unable to complete school as her mother died when Gram was 14. She saw to it that all 5 of her children finished high school – in fact, they all went on to college and post-graduate degrees, and every one of her 22 grandchildren completed college. I feel badly for the privileged few I've met; they haven't a clue about what matters in life, lack ambition beyond the next family merger upwards, and are not the folks you want by you in a disaster or nuclear winter. But I don't travel much in their circles, so it may be a distorted look from the outside in. Not for me, in any case.

        November 26, 2011 at 7:09 am | Report abuse |
      • Eileen Hawthorne

        Thanks you for this fascinating article and a wonderful trip down memory lane. I actually worked in McAdoo from 1976-1980. Was your father a pattern maker at the textile factory? I worked for Pligrim Sportswear and used to travel from NY to work with the pattern cutters and sample sewers. l worked in NY, grew up in a small farming town in NJ and spent many days in McAdoo and Hazelton. Talk about cultural confusion! I often felt like I was 3 different people. Now I live in a small farming community in Iowa which is actually more culturally diverse than any of the other three. I try to teach my children to accept all people for who they are as people and not for from where they come. My mother used to tell me that no one can make you feel inferior unless you allow them. I often think fondly of the time I spent in McAdoo and of the people I worked with there.

        November 26, 2011 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  77. robert

    ...indeed my heritage is beautiful to me...psalm 16

    November 25, 2011 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar


      November 25, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  78. OnTheCainTrain

    After being in America since at least the 1810's, from my family I was the first generation to get a college degree – at no cost to my parents. I am so thankful for the opportunities I've had, as you must be too. My wife and I aren't rich, but we are very happy.

    November 25, 2011 at 6:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar


      November 25, 2011 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  79. Glenn

    This was an enjoyable read. My take on it is that "most Americans" have had this type of transition within their family during this past century. So, if it really claims to be a statement on diversity, well that is a very different matter. If we are all willing to finally put to rest this "diversity" nonsense, I believe we will all start to grow again. The "diversity committees"no longer serve a purpose at work or school. We should all free ourselves from the bonds that tie us down.

    November 25, 2011 at 6:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Right, the point of diversity today is that everyone belongs to it and that is a better position from which to deal with the great divides that get in the way of what can be best about our society.

      November 25, 2011 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  80. Lori

    Reminds me of my Kentucky upbringing...

    November 25, 2011 at 6:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      I'm so glad!

      November 25, 2011 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  81. Peter

    "Don't forget where you came from" as long as you moved up the social ladder. Many of the current generation get to look back at how far they have fallen. That might be worth forgetting.

    November 25, 2011 at 6:43 am | Report abuse |

      Every person I know has nicer things than their parents, and lives a more relaxed and comfortable life. I don't know why every one is buying into the political hype about a declining America when our disposable income is so high. Think I'm wrong? Go to the mall, or look under the Christmas trees of your friends.

      November 25, 2011 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
  82. Ken

    Dear Ms. Bodnar,
    My apologies for the moronic comments your article has elicited. I for one would like to thank you for a wonderfully poignant article that reminds me of my mother and father-in-law who recently celebrated 66 years of marriage. He is a WWII D-Day vet who came home to north central PA and went to work in hauling coal and timber. His dad was a coalminer, my mother-law's dad was a farmer. They sought and achieved a better life for themselves and their children. But they return every year to their roots. They live a life today that does as your grandmother advised you; always remember where you came from. Thank you again for such a timely and appropriate article.

    November 25, 2011 at 5:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Thank you, and I appreciate your concern about the comments but they also matter to this dialogue. Congratulations on the anniversary of your parents!

      November 25, 2011 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  83. Chas

    Why not send your children to the local public school? Do you not have faith in the NYC school system and the terrific public school teachers in NYC? Don't you want your kids to get along with others from the neighborhood? And instead of "openly" joining the private schools diversity committee, why not join the public school’s PTA and see diversity up front and personal? Do you suppose that underneath your white skin there resides an elitist hypocrite?

    November 25, 2011 at 5:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      (chuckle) I went to public school,and my cousin,who is a teacher,also went to public school. She is sending her one kid to private school,and will send the other one when that one is older. I asked once,"if I went to PS and you went to PS and we both turned out OK,why not send your kids to PS?"

      She said that she felt that they "couldn't get a quality education there". WTH? Sooo glad I won't have to deal with the 'kids' thing!

      November 25, 2011 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      An elitist hypocrite? I don't think so. Of course, I have tremendous conflict about choices for my kids' schools. What is important to me is that your comment belongs here because you are expressing a big part of how we feel about each other. Like most parents I want the best for my kids, and like most Americans I want to build a society that gives the best to all.

      November 25, 2011 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  84. thinquer

    "Ethnicity and Family Therapy" by Monica McGoldrick. A fascinating study of how our ancestral culture affects
    us many generations after being assimilated in the Melting Pot. Humerous and Poignant. -1st Generation Irish Girl

    November 25, 2011 at 5:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Yes, it is a great book. I also recommend it.

      November 25, 2011 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  85. BOB

    until we stop saying saying white black red or yellow and refere to people as human being we will allways have problems the goverment and a lot of churches don't want the racism solved if we quit hating each other because of color or church we atten a lot of the problems go away for me there is a god and it is not me i have watched thosands of people find a god of ther understanding and make somting out of there lives we all can;t be movie stares or or rich ect ect find out what you are good at and go on with life to many people walking around with there hand out and are goverment gives them anything they want if you really have a god of your understanding in your life you really don't need the goverment to run your life they the goverment need to adress are money problems and war problems and keep there nose out of humanbeings problems

    November 25, 2011 at 4:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      yes. yes and yes! Part of recognizing a collective diversity is to open our eyes to each other's humanity so we can see each other not as extensions of skin color or economic status but as people!

      November 25, 2011 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  86. Art

    Psychology is one of the great medical rip-offs and should not be covered by government insurance, especially Medicare. If you want to do something constructive about people's heads become an ENT.

    November 25, 2011 at 4:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Ezo

      How exactly is this pertinent to the article?

      November 25, 2011 at 4:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Sral Rolyat

      You are a moron. After serving ten years in the Army during war I can say for certain clinical psychologists provide a vital service to our nation.

      November 26, 2011 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
  87. Nicholas Naranja

    Despite the letters that come after my name that show I'm educated, I am still a white-trash redneck. It just doesn't wash off that easy. I have a southern accent, I drink busch beer, I go mudding and I am a PhD. To this day, I feel more comfortable with other rednecks.

    November 25, 2011 at 2:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Art

      Do you have an PHD in Mathematics, physics, chemistry or reading writing and arithmetic?

      November 25, 2011 at 4:47 am | Report abuse |
      • Chris

        I personally lol'd at he "am a PhD"...

        November 25, 2011 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
      • DelFuego

        Just as I could say I am an MD, it is correct for her to state she is a PhD as it is to state you are a dork.

        November 25, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • zapatta

      Hey PHD.! I believe it's Bush beer. See, the name is capitalized. Oh, I'm a highschool dropout.

      November 25, 2011 at 6:12 am | Report abuse |
      • Bryant

        zapatta.... uhh.... its Busch..... sometimes its better to not say anything at all.. and let others wonder if your a fool...rather than to talk and leave others knowing for sure that you are one!

        November 25, 2011 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
      • kevin

        No it's actually Busch beer you tool lol. Maybe dropping out of school wasn't the best plan.

        November 25, 2011 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      I understand this feeling. Redneck is another one of those unfortunate terms that label people unfairly, Trying to make sense of all the different identifications one has can be challenging.

      November 25, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  88. Ryan

    Okay. First to those who are saying that GW Bush and the current President are the cause of your issues, um, no. YOU are in control of your life, not the government. You drop out of school and can't find a job – your fault. You lose your job and decide to live off the government and then cry when you can't afford somehting, your fault because you are lazy.
    As to where I come from, I am doing family history for me and my wife. She is descended from Chaucer and English and French royalty, and is distantly related to U.S. Grant and the Rockafellers. Her maternal grandfathers ancestors founded 2 communities in Massachussetts during the "Great Migration." My family fought in the Revolution and Civil War and there is a chance I am related to either President Jackson, or "Stonewall" Jackson. One of my ancestors was also one of the original settlers of what is now Tennessee. My family never had anything, and we have all worked for what we had, and what we have. We've served our country in WWI, WWII, Vietnam, and now Iraq/Afghanistan. We are far from being rich, but we are happy. We are Christians and that is what gets my family through everything we have been through. We trust in God, not the government, and definitely not anyone who criticizes everyone else. Be your own person, and if you don't like someone, tough. That's what being part of society is all about.

    November 25, 2011 at 12:55 am | Report abuse |
    • The Mendicant Bias

      That sounds...quite regal. As for me, I descended from a bunch of British-Indian SAS soldiers, and ultimately farmers. =)

      November 25, 2011 at 2:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Ed

      Sounds good Ryan but the truth of the matter is it is not always your fault, life does happen and things our leaders in our country do, do effect us. Now to Quit or just point fingers at the problem is not the answer. Our Strength and allegiance to Christ is. There for since it is by His grace we have this strength it is our responsibly to help those who are not as stronge.

      November 25, 2011 at 4:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      You don't trust the government but all or your relatives have benefited from the G.I. Bill. WOW. I'm so glad your christian god was able to help you make it into the "getting by" class like the rest of America. While your whole response is baffling, I would really like to understand how your pedigree and connection to possible war heroes has to do with you family's economic status. But please don't think I'm prejudiced against you because of your religion, I was also raised in a Christian family– Quakers who fled England to settle the Delaware Valley two centuries before the revolution. I am just easily insulted by people who benefit from the government (we all have in one way or another) but claim the government does nothing for them.

      November 26, 2011 at 7:59 am | Report abuse |
  89. Margeaux

    That is the same thing I tell my children; Never forget where you come from, and be proud of where you come from. We live in a rural southern state and speak with a "funny" accent; my son has an MBA and works at a large city corporation; he will sometines say he feels so "country" when he is among the "city" people. I always tell him he has worked hard for what he has and not to let the other people put him down; it is their insecurities that are showing.

    His friends love his accent and think it is great he grew up on a farm;he is probaly the most educated one in the family and is still the same, friendly person he always has been and loves all of his family. Not an uppity bone in his body.

    November 24, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Your children are very luck!

      November 25, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  90. Deby

    Abby, I, too, am the grandaughter of Armenians who fled from the genocide. Well said.

    November 24, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  91. Sudhir Kumar

    Life is what you make it and we have wallstreet and congress steal it from you and get filthy rich.

    November 24, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Art

      How true. Save a dollar now for ten cents buying power later. People are beginning to learn that they are owned and have been had by the fed.

      November 25, 2011 at 4:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Sudhir – many, many, many people feel this way these days.

      November 25, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  92. Gordon Peters

    That was wonderful Susan, I truly enjoyed it. Being the first in my family to get a B.A. and likewise my wife, we can identify with you in so many ways. We worked very hard to get where we are at, and like you may be considered uppity by our extended family. They have all had the same opportunities we have, just chose different paths and made many bad decisions, despite our best efforts to help them. Life is what you make it, we wanted to have a better life and we do.

    November 24, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Thank you for that piece of the dialogue. It is okay to want and work for better things.

      November 25, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  93. bspurloc

    if u r not with us then u r against us.... the war cry of bush the moron and the rules of the gop. the christian taliban movement will not tolerate out siders

    November 24, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      Hillary Clinton said on September 13, 2001: "Every nation has to either be with us, or against us. Those who harbor terrorists, or who finance them, are going to pay a price". "O con noi o contro di noi"

      November 25, 2011 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Eric Lawrence

      Hillary Clinton said the same thing. Look it up and let go of your generalizations and hatred.

      November 25, 2011 at 4:07 am | Report abuse |
  94. Just my 2 cents

    The beauty of this country is having the opportunity to try. Key to success is to learn to navigate life and adjust to changes. Change is a given, and it is just how it works in a democracy. You may always be outvoted, and outnumbered. So adjust...blame X and blame Y, why never yourself for not being realistic in your expectations and abilities? You think this is a rough time? Try Eastern Europe in the late 80s. I still have to see lines for food, and lines to get gas, and lines to buy shoes...I am grateful for being here.

    November 24, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Art

      Try China in 1965.

      November 25, 2011 at 4:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Me too.

      November 25, 2011 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  95. mm

    Jesus – George Bush did not make your life bad. You yourself made your life bad. Blaming a man for the ills of another man is childish and elementary. If you are not happy with your life, roll up your sleeves, regroup and make it better. Be a man, not a sissy. Obama is doing his fair share of screwing the country too, but watching your finances, getting an education and taking care of your health will allow you to thrive in any economic enviornment or era. You're doing nothing but making excuses. I believe they call people like you losers.

    November 24, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  96. SPOCK

    JESUS – You are so correct – W and Darth Vader want-a-be almost did this country in, they add the word "freedom" to all their senseless acts and the blind followers come out of the woodwork to cheer them on. They send over talking points to Fox and Rush and vise versa and the blind followers feed on them as facts – silly beyond belief. They want to chip away at social security but protect the super rich at all cost but accuse others of letting seniors die from not enough care.
    You know this is a great country when people have the right to be that stupid !

    November 24, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  97. fretlessbass

    "That war ushered in newer mores that seemed to break everything apart." Are you talking about black people there?

    November 24, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phil in Oregon

      No, I was there too. The moral fabric which held our society together through the World Wars and other good and bad times started to unravel. Now, with God systematically removed from everything important, people are becoming selfish, lustful, greedy animals who don't give a rip about the guy/girl next door. It will get worse before it gets better.

      November 24, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
      • Person in NC

        I have to disagree. There are more causes to moral decay than your suggestion of god being ripped out of everything. As long as there have been people, there has been selfishness. And, FYI, people are allowed to pray in public settings. Representatives of the 'state' are not allowed to lead, especially if espousing one religion over all others. Read the case!

        November 24, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      I don't understand your reference to black people here. I meant more what Phil said about how our country changed. I might say more broadly that something happened during Vietnam that caused the lapse of many important ethical and moral values.

      November 25, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
      • DNA

        What "important ethical and moral values" are you talking about. Statistics show that crime rates, both violent and property related, have dropped, per capita, by a great degree since the era of the Vietnam War. Maybe you mean those horrible notions of "feminism" and "gay rights" Is that what you meant?

        November 26, 2011 at 3:31 am | Report abuse |
  98. will

    Hey Jesus.... The great thing about America is freedom. You're free to whine (that's easy) You're free to try and work to change things you disagree with (that's difficult) And, if this isn't your America, you're free to leave (that's preferable).

    November 24, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pat

      I agree totally.

      November 26, 2011 at 6:52 am | Report abuse |
  99. D

    Wow Lady, I like your article. It does truly remind me of what my Mother used to tell me... and it was very much the same. I did struggle as you did, with the different segments of society as a result of the opportunites I've enjoyed. But I've learned, it is who I am, and that in combination with many other things, makes it all worth something, to myself and yes, even once in a while to others. Best.

    November 24, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan Bodnar

      Thank you!

      November 25, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
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