An Open Letter to President Barack Obama
by Jack Latta
Dear Mr. President,
First, I would like to say congratulations on your recent re-election. I found your campaign to be one of promise and hope for America, where everyone regardless of race, creed, religion, or sexual orientation are given the same opportunities to succeed. It’s one of the things I admire most about your presidency.
I am writing you today because I would like to draw your attention to a region of America that is short on those opportunities, mired in soul-crushing prescription drug abuse, consistently under-performing education, rampant unemployment, and poverty. My home.
Eastern Kentucky, sir, is one of the poorest regions in this great country. According to recent surveys, the 5th Congressional District of Kentucky has the most intense and widespread poverty of any district in America. It’s not for lack of trying, sir, but there are painfully few opportunities. Those industries that we have clung to over the years — tobacco and now coal — have turned out to be bad bets. But we’ve tried to make the most of what we had lying around. That’s our way.
Your vision for the future of coal appears to be bleak. I believe your policies concerning coal are a sincere attempt to do what is best for America, working to eliminate environmentally damaging coal fire plants. But you can’t and you shouldn’t fault people here for feeling unfairly targeted by these policies. You may note that Floyd County, a historically Democratic county voted nearly 3-1 against your re-election. Those votes are a direct reflection of the decline of the coal industry.
We’ve worked and depended on the mines that produce that coal for two generations. It shouldn’t take your economics adviser long to ascertain that destroying an already impoverished region’s sole industry will decimate communities and have a trickle down effect on all other business.
So my question to you sir is this. If not coal, then what?
I invite you, Mr. President, to visit the 5th Congressional District of Kentucky, an honor you have yet to take. Meet a hardworking industrious people. A people who have worked tirelessly in some of the worst conditions for over a century. A people who take care of their own; no one sleeps on the streets here. We are a people, who frankly, sir, simply need an option, and we’ll run with it. Help us. Give us a direction.
All we ask is that if you must strip us of our past, please help us find a path to a future.
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