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presidents who experienced povertyGrowing up poor can place hindrances and obstacles on the path to one’s success and achievements in life. It can hurt education opportunities, employment opportunities and recreational activities such as hobbies and skills. However, there have been American presidents who experienced poverty at some point in their lives. Despite this, each managed to climb the political ladder to the top.

Here are five American presidents who experienced poverty:

  1. Harry S. Truman – Preceded by Franklin D. Roosevelt, he was the 33rd President of the United States. His presidential term last from April 1945 through January 1953. He is well-known globally for the establishment of the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine and NATO. Although Truman had a humble upbringing, he often had a chaotic financial situation due to his poor investment choices. He also had unsuccessful business ventures such as a men’s clothing store and a mining and oil company.
  2. Ulysses S. Grant – The 18th president from 1869 to 1877. Unlike Truman, he never had the opportunity to turn around his financial situation. He eventually became bankrupt after he lost $100,000 due to the fraudulent behavior of his son’s business partner. Grant was well-known for being a national hero following the Civil War after President Abraham Lincoln made Grant a brigadier general. It was only after his death that he was able to provide finances to his family, leaving them with around half a million dollars, sourced from his Civil War memoirs.
  3. William Henry Harrison – He was a farm owner so he was quite dependent on agricultural factors for his wealth. Unfortunately, while he was serving as the Ambassador to Colombia, the harsh weather destroyed his crops. This naturally steered to his failure to accumulate much wealth. Harrison was the ninth president for 31 days in 1841 before he died of natural diseases. While he may not have had much time in office to prove his capabilities, he had military experiences that stood out.
  4. Thomas Jefferson – One of the founding fathers, he was the third president of the U.S. between 1801-1809. He was the main author of the Declaration of Independence. Additionally, he served as the second vice president from 1797 to 1801. Although he started with affluence, he accumulated a lot of debt throughout his life. He was not able to take care of his debts as he could not find buyers for his land. As a result, his daughter did not inherit much and had to live off charity.
  5. James A. Garfield – He served as the 20th president of the United States in 1881 for around six months until he was assassinated. He had served as a general during the American Civil War and attempted to fight off corruption in the post office. Garfield was born into poverty and worked many jobs such as being a carpenter or a janitor so that he can get through college. Since he was dedicated to being a public servant, he did not have much room to be able to accumulate much wealth. By the time of his assassination, he was penniless.

These American presidents who experienced poverty shed light on the fact that even the brightest or the most capable among us who can lead a nation like the United States can be living in poverty. Economic empowerment and education opportunities can be presented to all talented potentials, thus eradicating global poverty and reducing global inequality in all spheres.

– Nergis Sefer
Photo: Google Images

Poverty in the United States
According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2014, 47 million people — or 15% of the U.S. population — were living in poverty. Additionally, poverty in the United States is 2.3 percentage points higher than in 2007, the year before the recession hit in 2008.

Furthermore, 2014 was the fourth consecutive year that the poverty rate has remained stagnant. While conditions are not worsening, they are not improving either.

What Defines Poverty in the United States?

The federal government’s official poverty threshold for 2015 was as follows:

  • Household of four (two children, two adults): $24,444
  • Household of three (one child, two adults): $18,540
  • Household of two (over 65): $14,326
  • Household of two (under 65): $15,871
  • One person (over 65): $11,376
  • One person (under 65): $12,331

Click here to see additional information regarding the poverty threshold.

Who Lives in Poverty in the United States?

Poverty does not affect all demographics equally. Numbers from 2014  show that 13% of men lived in poverty, as compared to 16% of women. Poverty numbers for married couples were at six percent, while single-parent families with no wife were at 16%. Single-parent families with no husband saw a poverty rate of 31%.

As of 2014, 21% of all children in the United States lived in poverty. About 15.5 million children, more than the entire population of Ecuador, lacked the required resources to ensure even a basic level of comfort and freedom from distress.

What Can We Do To End Poverty in the United States?

There are several things that can be done to help bridge the gap between the richest and poorest Americans. Here is a list of five tips to help get you started:

1. Volunteer

Be giving of yourself. Find a local Open Heart Kitchen to work in. You can also volunteer with an organization that provides tutoring or afterschool programs for children living in impoverished areas. Your compassion can help immensely.

2. Donate

Find an organization that helps fight poverty in the United States. Additionally, it is important to find one that expresses values and a mission that you care about. The Borgen Project may be focused on fighting poverty abroad, but the work that they do helps create jobs and stimulate the already-struggling American economy. As nonprofits, these organizations also rely heavily on donations to fund their philanthropic and humanitarian endeavors.

3. Contact Your Congressional Representatives

Congress is supposed to represent its constituents, so contacting them can make a difference. Writing a simple letter or email, or making a phone call to your representative’s office lets them know that you are a concerned citizen. If enough people contact a representative in support of a particular issue, it sends the message that it is something that he or she should fight for. Above all, representatives speak for the people who elected them, so your voice does matter.

4. Support Local Small Businesses

Shopping local helps stimulate the economy in your area. When independent businesses are successful, they create jobs. Donating and volunteering are great ways to help fight poverty, and they can be very fulfilling. But providing a person with the opportunity to work and learn business skills sets that person up for future success.

5. Support and Use Public Transportation

For many people, buses and trains are a primary means of transportation. Getting to and from work and school would be impossible without these things. It is also an industry that employs over 400,000 people and generates $58 billion in revenue annually. According to publictransportation.org, every dollar invested in public transportation yields around $4 in economic returns. In addition, public transportation also creates and sustains 1.1 million each year.

In order to eradicate poverty in the United States, we need to work together. We need to invest in people, providing them with the necessary skills and resources. As a result, they can better provide for themselves and their families. Contact your congressional representatives, serve your community or buy from a local small business. These are all simple things that you can do to assist in the fight against poverty at home.

-Aaron Parr

Photo: Ivarfjeld