J.D. Vance: America's forgotten working class
J.D. Vance - Author
Former Marine and Yale Law School graduate J.D. Vance writes about how upward mobility really feels. Full bio
I went to a nice restaurant,
the waitress walked around
I'll take some white wine."
stop with the fancy French words
and sauvignon blanc
that I would take the chardonnay,
the easiest one to pronounce for me.
as a law student at Yale,
I'm a cultural outsider.
or from San Francisco.
struggling in a lot of ways,
of the broader struggles
and divorce have torn apart families.
sense of pessimism that's moved in.
in these communities
for a lot of these folks,
in their own communities,
to that struggle.
for a very long time.
that doesn't have a whole lot of money.
and even, sadly, my own mom.
that I saw in my own family,
by a lack of money,
of access to resources and social capital
when I was 14 years old
to happen to this kid?"
that I would have struggled
that's very core
are going to live a better life,
to live a materially better existence,
in the circumstances where they came from.
we've learned, unfortunately,
as we'd like it to be in this country,
it's very geographically distributed.
and their part in the American Dream.
in southern Ohio,
that kids like that will rise.
in those parts of the country
economic or structural.
terrible economic trends,
like coal and steel
for folks to get ahead.
where the really talented people,
high-skilled work at home,
or non-profit where they're from,
and taking their talents with them.
in a lot of these communities,
the educational leg up
to have opportunities later in life.
these structural barriers.
and my community,
something else mattered.
but it was no less real.
a very real sense of hopelessness
that their choices didn't matter.
no matter how hard they worked,
they tried to get ahead,
to grow up around.
to very conspiratorial places.
political issue that's pretty hot,
you might think that affirmative action
to promote diversity in the workplace
as a tool to hold people like you back.
a member of the white working class.
that isn't just about good or bad policy.
that's actively conspiring,
and financial power
that conspiracy against you --
when you grow up in that world,
"I'm not going to work hard,
it's not going to matter."
after the traditional markers of success,
or a prestigious job,
about those things are unlike me.
a family member asked me
to get by the admissions committee.
that there was a liberal box to check
insecurity in these places
to be somebody you're not
to that hopelessness,
and you want to make the good choices,
for yourself and for your family,
to even know what those choices are
in a community like I did.
to law school to be a lawyer.
as research consistently tells us,
have bigger endowments,
from Yale for myself,
in need-based aid,
when I got that letter and said,
that for the first time in my life,
to that information
didn't have access to that information.
how to shoot a gun, how to shoot it well.
a damn good biscuit recipe.
is frozen butter, not warm butter.
the good decisions
in this 21st century knowledge economy.
that we gain from our informal networks,
and family "social capital."
wasn't built for 21st century America,
that's really important that's going on
doesn't like to talk about,
adverse childhood experiences,
for childhood trauma:
put down by a parent repeatedly,
or abuse alcohol.
of childhood trauma,
commonplace in my family.
commonplace in my family right now.
were going to raise them in a way
a good wage in a steel mill.
to a lot of the childhood trauma
my grandma set my grandfather on fire.
I'm gonna kill you."
that that affects a child's mind.
as especially rare,
Children's Trust Fund found
multiple instances of childhood trauma,
for upper-income kids.
instances of childhood trauma.
to the kids who experience that life.
more likely to go to jail,
to do to their children
very worst gift to our children,
just another statistic,
from college, I went to law school,
is that my grandparents,
of setting someone on fire fame,
by the time I came around.
to do the things that kids need,
did two things that really matter.
that allowed me to focus on homework
should be focused on.
this incredibly perceptive woman,
a middle school education.
that my community had for me,
the deck is stacked against them.
that life wasn't fair.
the reality that their choices matter.
to strike that balance.
was the United States Marine Corps.
as a military outfit, and of course it is,
was a four-year crash course
how to do laundry,
how to manage my finances.
my community didn't teach me.
to go buy a car for the very first time,
low, low interest rate of 21.9 percent,
to sign on the dotted line.
and get a better deal."
to that knowledge.
a financial calamity, frankly.
is that I had a lot of good fortune
an important role in my life.
from Ohio State, from Yale,
that social capital gap
apparently, that I had.
aren't going to have that good fortune,
really important questions for all of us
how we're going to give low-income kids
access to a loving home.
to teach low-income parents
with their children,
about how we give social capital,
who don't have it.
how we teach working class children
and financial management.
to this problem,
anxiously awaiting their dad,
when he comes through the door,
why she doesn't cook him dinner,
no hope for the future
wants to live a better life.
to show it to them.
starts asking better questions
to more of our communities
to have a very significant problem.
About the speaker:J.D. Vance - Author
Former Marine and Yale Law School graduate J.D. Vance writes about how upward mobility really feels.
Why you should listen
J.D. Vance grew up in the Rust Belt city of Middletown, Ohio, and the Appalachian town of Jackson, Kentucky. He enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school and served in Iraq. A graduate of the Ohio State University and Yale Law School, he has contributed to the National Review and is a principal at a leading Silicon Valley investment firm. He is the author of Hillbilly Elegy, a number one New York Times Best Seller. Vance lives in San Francisco with his wife and two dogs.
J.D. Vance | Speaker | TED.com