Preface to '47 Days That Changed America'
There’s a scene in the movie, Network, where Peter Finch screams, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not
gonna take it anymore." This phrase aptly summed up my feelings, as I boarded the train in Trenton for
my daily commute to work in New York City on September eighteenth. I didn’t pick this day to start writing
this book; on the contrary, I think the day picked me.
A few days prior to this date, Lehman Brothers collapsed and American International Group (AIG)
was effectively taken over by the U.S. government. Thousands of good, hard-working people
were affected by these events, and their lives were thrown into a state of disarray. It just so happens
my employer is AIG; thus, an increased level of uncertainty entered my life.
The Lehman and AIG events are emblematic of a financial system that is showing signs of crumbling,
and you don’t have to be employed by one of these financial institutions to be affected by its reach.
Against this backdrop, the presidential election campaign was in full swing, with both candidates
having been sent off from their respective conventions a few weeks earlier with visions of a November
fourth victory dancing in their heads. The adopted buzzword for this election was "change," and both
campaigns had latched onto this theme since it had been identified as something we Americans were craving.
Change can mean different things to individuals, ranging from a simple desire to see a new administration
take office to a more urgent need of finding a stable job to help provide for their family. I can’t provide a
pure and concise definition that eloquently describes what it means to me, except to say that I wasn’t
happy with the current situation. Fear of an impending, nasty, and deep recession dominated my thoughts,
made more urgent and complicated by my employers’ recent new-found relationship with Uncle Sam. My
nervousness and apprehension were reaching a fever pitch, and based upon observations and discussions
with friends and business associates, I had a lot of company sharing this same level of unease. This
common denominator bound us together, and the election offered us a ray of hope that the change we
desperately wanted was on the horizon.
My wife and I have five children, and we want their futures to be as successful as possible, in the same
way our parents wanted this for us years ago. We were both born and raised in middle class families in
Philadelphia, growing up in what are referred to as row homes, and have never forgotten this upbringing.
We have done fairly well, with the primary driver being the work ethic we learned during our younger years.
We’ve achieved a higher standard of living than our parents, but only because of the support they provided
and the foundation they built for us while we were growing up. Recent events have caused me to question
whether the attainment of a higher standard of living is slipping away for my children and their fellow
generation “Y” compatriots, with the root cause of this gloomy outlook a failure on my generation’s watch to
address the serious issues confronting us. We have many challenging issues, and while our political system
provides us the means to deliver change, it repeatedly ignores the warning signals and defaults to the
Most people are aware of the major problems presented to us, such as Medicare, Social
Security, Healthcare, and Energy, to name but a few, yet our elected politicians choose to take the path
of least resistance and defer the hard choices to their successors. We’ve reached the point where inaction
isn’t the viable alternative it once was, and we need our elected officials and prominent business leaders
to find bipartisan solutions to the pressing issues that need to be addressed. The government takeover
of my company and the financial system springing a major leak are what led to my frustration level boiling
over, and were the major drivers influencing me to write this book.
When I began writing this book, there were forty-seven days until we elected a new president, and
hopefully ushered in a new beginning that not only promised change but delivered it, as well. I invite you to
join me as I chronicle these next forty-seven days, and spill out my emotions and observations as I
describe the financial meltdown and discuss how it affects me and middle-class America, how it feels to
be an unwelcome employee of the public sector, and also come to terms over reconciling which candidate
is more likely to drive the change we want, starting on their inauguration day. I viewed this as the most
important election in my life, and treated it with the urgency it deserved. My hope was that my fellow citizens
were doing the same.
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