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My letter to Charlie Rose ...

Charlie Rose

May 5, 2016

Public Broadcasting Service
2100 Crystal Drive
Arlington, VA 22202

Attn: Charlie Rose, The Week


I woke up and was going for a quick mid-night snack. As usual, my wife the night owl was watching your show. So, I watched a little as I ate. You were interviewing Sara Blakely (founder of Spanx and now ranked by Forbes as the 93rd most powerful woman in the world). It was inspirational and now I’ll probably spend several hours writing and rewriting this letter.

I was also inspired when you interviewed Tavis Smiley. He spoke of wanting to end poverty by, I think, the year 2025. I spent hours writing and re-writing a letter to Tavis about Gurinder and Surinder Bajwa. They were boys living in India when men came into their home and murdered their father. They moved to America. By the time I met them, they were about 19 and 20 years old. During the process of helping them buy a home, they delivered 12 months worth of banks statements to me. The oldest statement showed about $23,000 in the bank. Twelve months later, their most recent statement showed over $52,000 in the bank! These were just two young men who worked full time jobs paying about $10 an hour. They also went to junior college full time. They were building a life for themselves, their mother and their brother.

While ordinary people can't expect to duplicate the success of people like Sara Blakely, surely people struggling to get out of poverty can emulate what these two young men have done. I figured Tavis Smiley would want to tell their story to the world so that others might follow their lead. All I got was a letter from one of his assistants. It told me how they read every letter they receive and how much they value the input of people like me. I never heard another word.

We relish the success of people like Sara Blakely but can we ever hope to emulate that succes? On the other hand, people like Gurinder and Surinder are our neighbors and friends. They are the everyday role models that can inspire the world by inspiring their families, friends and those they meet. They’ll change the world one person at a time.

So, tonight, I am inspired to write to you. Please continue to interview people like Sara Blakely. They are amazing and inspirational. But think about occasionally interviewing the “everyday” success stories of my friends and acquaintances – people I can relate to.

There’s also Salvador and his wife. I first met him when he asked me to show him a home I had listed for sale. He spoke limited English. So I met with him and his "interpreter." His interpreter’s English was little better than his own. I’ve grown up here in Yuba City and I’ve worked in the fields. I can’t begin to tell you how many people like Salvador that I’ve met. I'm sure he and his wife never graduated from high school and maybe not even from the 8th grade. They came to America at young ages and worked in the fields.

So, there I was, meeting Salvador for the first time. Within five minutes, he told me about his daughter who was a student at the University of California, Davis. Her success was clearly a source of great pride. It was more than that for me. It was as if he had opened up a window into his soul showing values he and his wife held dearly and had instilled in their daughter. The American dream was alive and well. Though they didn't have much education, they wanted better for their children.

Salvador's daughter is studying micro biology and now, about two years since our first meeting, she is finishing up her junior year. She’s looking at medical schools and wants to be a doctor. Salvador and his wife have another daughter about to graduate from high school. She will be attending Sacramento State University in the fall. Salvador and his wife still work in the fields. They also now own three homes free and clear. This family’s story has to be told.

My final vignette is of Jose and Maria Chavez. Jose came to this country when he was about 17 years old. He also worked in the fields and never graduated from high school though he has now obtained his GED. He’s married with five children. He and his wife eventually started a farm labor contracting business. They employ about 2,000 people over the course of a year and have about 900 employees at the peak of the season.

One thing successful people share in common is that they have taken responsibility for their own destiny and most embrace some pretty simple principals;
  1. Value education and study hard in school. Even the successful immigrants like Salvador and his wife, who have little formal education, value education and have instilled that value in their children.
  2. Work hard and do your very best at whatever job you have.
  3. Be honest and treat everyone fairly.
  4. Never stop learning.
  5. Don't get pregnant out of wedlock (or don't get your girlfriend pregnant).
  6. Love, respect and be committed to your spouse and family.
  7. Don't abuse alcohol.
  8. Don't use illegal drugs.
  9. Be frugal, save every penny you can, analyze decisions carefully and invest wisely.
  10. Choose your friends and mentors carefully.
America is full of poor people who have achieved success following these simple principals. The immigrants, especially, are a testament to that.

America is also full of rich people and the children of rich people who went broke because they didn't follow these principals of success. I see a fair share of those people as well.

In the America in which I live, people control their own destiny by the choices they make. To be sure, we still have our fair share of poverty here but Yuba City is also filled with people who have achieved success. I regularly meet people who are lifting themselves out of poverty. Particularly noteworthy is that a large percentage of these people are working at relatively low paying jobs. It is humbling to see how much success can be achieved when people embrace the simple principals of success outlined above.

Please come to Yuba City some time and let me introduce you to the people behind these everyday success stories. Or, at least, invite some of these people onto your show. Get into the details of their lives. How did they do what they did with such low incomes? If America’s middle class is going to be rebuilt, these are the kind of people who are going to do it. Their stories have to be told.

Maybe Charlie Rose will never see my letter but you did. Maybe this will be another letter just like the letter to Tavis Smiley. But, at least you’ve read it and I hope you will be inspired by it.

Lloyd Leighton
1212 Highland Avenue
Yuba City, CA 95991
(530) 671-6152

NOTE: The sentences "Maybe Charlie Rose will never see my letter but you did. Maybe this will be another letter just like the letter to Tavis Smiley. But, at least you’ve read it and I hope you will be inspired by it." were included in the original letter to Charlie and were for the benefit of the assistants that screened his mail.


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Address: 1212 Highland Avenue
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