letters | A land of opportunity?

American Dream is a mirage to the working poor

Tom Keane’s call for more opportunity in Boston (“Vibrant civic life closes gap in opportunity,” Op-ed, Oct. 29) says more about why we will not close that gap any time soon than how we could. Describing the American Dream, he writes that “if we work hard and play by the rules, we — or at least our children — can make it.” Then he narrows the “rules” to: “If good jobs are available and people are sufficiently educated to hold those jobs, then that equates to an opportunity for people to earn a living and become part of mainstream America.”

Does that mean those people who work hard at supposedly low-skill (though needed) jobs, such as child care and elder care workers, janitors, hospital orderlies, security guards, and food-service workers, do NOT deserve that opportunity to earn a living or be welcome in “mainstream” America? It should come as no surprise that most of them are no longer earning a living wage or benefits, and are unwelcome where better off people live and play.

Their children will lose their opportunity as well. Teachers can only teach so much to kids whose parents are never home because they work multiple jobs and have no sick time, and who live in substandard housing with inadequate nutrition.


When I was growing up in the 1960s, working hard was a road of opportunity for all, even if they were unable to master engineering, or had undervalued skills, such as caring for children or the sick. If we raise the minimum wage and give workers earned sick time, we will do more for opportunity in Boston than we could any other way.

Harris Gruman