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Velma Hart: My New Reality

More than 14 million Americans are unemployed today and that number is growing. In that reality, five people I know lost their jobs last week. One of them was me.

Many of you have heard about me. Two months ago, I told President Obama in a televised town hall meeting that I was exhausted from defending him and the mantle of change that I voted for.

While not exhausted now, my exhaustion stemmed from an avalanche of criticism and harsh judgments from everyone from friends and colleagues to policymakers on Capitol Hill, even though President Obama has had many supporters over the past two years.

Our country desperately needs change. We need to change the way we talk to each other. We need to change the way we make decisions. We need to change in earnest what we truly value. We also need to act more responsibly, both personally and as a government, than we have in recent years.

It is unacceptable for our political leaders to spend all of their time attacking and attempting to undermine each other, and little of their time finding ways to solve our country's problems and move this country forward. It is also unacceptable for us as American citizens to overextend ourselves on the credit front, to live beyond our means and to act irresponsibly with everything from the way we manage our budgets to the way we take care of the environment. On some of these fronts, I’m sure, I, too, am guilty.

It is also troubling to see business leaders be ineffective stewards of their organizations and not take decisive actions proactively to thwart potentially negative outcomes that almost always affect people in the end. For example, how many times was the banking industry warned that its practices were too risky and too dangerous? How many times was the insurance industry warned that its practices were too risky and too dangerous? How many times were certain auto makers warned that they were not keeping pace with technological change and the global need to produce cleaner, more energy efficient vehicles today? What’s the magic number of warnings before a company takes action?

Sadly, nobody knows.

The result is the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression and a chess game like none other where American citizens are the pawns.

In this context, we are not only the pawns of big business, but the hostages of a gridlocked government.

As such, I suddenly find myself having to look for work again as just another pawn of those who hold the power to make change. And wonder very specifically as to how the way of life of millions has and will continue to be affected. Still I remain optimistic and very hopeful even in the face of this reality that I have walked so closely in helping others.

I have now joined the ranks of my unemployed friends and family members, who up until now I was able to support financially and in other ways in recent years. Now I am no longer able to provide that support. So as I look forward to the 112th Congress I wonder, what’s it going to take for them to understand and feel our reality, put their political theatre aside and take concrete steps to move this country forward. Steps that will put people like my friends, family, me and the millions of other Americans back to work again? I am waiting, hoping and praying.

Velma Hart is the former CFO of AmVets