As insincere as it may have sounded, former President Bill Clinton’s famous line, “I feel your pain,” gained great traction as he portrayed himself as “one of us.” Being a Rhodes Scholar and former Arkansas governor , it is somewhat of a PR miracle that he pulled it off and points out just how great a desire constituents have to identify with political leaders.
Looking back on my life now as someone who wants to represent you in Congress, I believe I can make a better case than Clinton. I really do feel your pain, because I have really been in pain — the kind of pain many of you are feeling today due to high unemployment, a down economy and a tax and spend Congress that is adding to the burden almost daily.
When I graduated from college in 1976, my great desire was to complete a 90-hour graduate degree, gain acceptance to a solid doctoral program, complete a Ph.D., and teach at a university as a career. After meeting and marrying my wife in 1978, I faced the inability to fund my studies and provide the basic needs of life. The Jimmy Carter economic debacle ran up unemployment in Memphis, and the unions struck International Harvester and Firestone, driving them from the community forever. As a result, we relocated to Atlanta where most of my family lived and where I could have a better chance of finding work.
I gained experience in healthcare consulting in Atlanta, and then relocated to Nashville where I soon opened my own physician recruiting business. With the help of an investor, we built the business into another associated business, employing at our largest 16 people. Economic circumstances related to the healthcare industry caused us to close our businesses in 1995, and the experience taught me many valuable lessons about hiring the right people and planning for downturns in the industry. I turned this lemon into lemonade by learning a new trade, cabinetmaking, and grew it into a sales and design career.
So you may be saying to yourself, “Hartline, how can you feel my pain? Have you been out of work for eighteen months and behind on your mortgage? Has the bank ever wanted to repossess your car? Have people sued you for money you owe or have you sued others for money they owe you? Has your family ever had to do without or felt like God has deserted them? Have you felt that kind of pain?”
Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I have experienced each of those things. My career as a small business owner has had its typical ups and downs, highs and lows. At one point, business got so bad that friends suggested I declare bankruptcy and put my problems behind me. As a matter of principle, however, I chose instead to pay off my debts, which I did over a period of time and have since successfully moved on to a career as a cabinet manufacturer’s rep and kitchen designer, as well as serving as an adjunct professor in ethics and theology at Lipscomb University.
I know what it is like to recover from despair and succeed again. There is a path to recovery with the help of friends and attention to hard work. A number of people I owed money to 15 years ago and repaid are friends and acquaintances today.
I believe it is important to share with you, the people of the 5th district, the extent to which I really do feel your pain and my commitment to you as your next Congressman to reverse the policy trends that are contributing to it. If any of the above-mentioned situations resonate with you, please know that I will be the kind of U.S. Representative that encourages economic growth and promotes job creation through a revised federal tax structure. I will vote to stop the deficit spending that stifles local economic growth, work to reduce the debt that is crippling the ability to borrow money, and encourage energy independence that will grow jobs and lower energy costs. I will seek to close the border to decrease unemployment among citizens and will talk with my constituents on a regular basis to hear their concerns.
I also believe these experiences as a small business owner will make me a more understanding citizen-legislator, more in touch with my constituents. Voters all over the country this year have been sending a message to entrenched, arrogant, and out-of-touch incumbents that they would rather have someone representing them who really does feel their pain. I’m betting the 5th congressional district of Tennessee will be sending the same message to Washington in November.
Tags: Jeff Hartline