Jackie Gingrich Cushman

During my grammar school years, my father was a college professor who perpetually ran for Congress. My mother taught high school math. My first job (non-paying) was handing out bumper stickers and brochures for my father in shopping centers throughout the rural 6th district of Georgia. It was hard for people to turn away a 7-year-old girl asking to “please vote for my Daddy.”

After six years of campaigning (and losing twice), my father won. The last year he ran, he borrowed money so he and my mother could campaign full-time, while my grandmother stayed with my sister and me. We never went hungry, but there was not much money. My mother tracked our expenses down to the penny.

My first paying job was cleaning bathrooms at the First Baptist Church of Carrollton. A bit conflicted over whether to be proud that people noticed how clean the bathrooms were or embarrassed that they knew that I cleaned them for money, I was however glad to get a paycheck every two weeks.

My second paying job? A skating waitress at the Sonic Drive-In. The first day on the job I spilled a Strawberry Shake over a car. It was a rough start but I improved.

Working was never optional for me. In high school, I babysat, worked as a bank teller and scooped ice cream into cones. I saved much of what I made to pay for college (loans and my parents helped too). Once in college, I worked the switchboard answering calls before making my way to the fraternity court for fun.

Summers during college included working one, sometimes two jobs at a time, and saving money for the fall semester ahead. I graduated during the recession of the late 1980’s. Unable to find a job, I went back to school and earned my MBA in finance, accruing more debt.

I finished in 1990, tens of thousands of dollars in debt. But by now I had better credentials and the economy was doing better, too. I began working full-time as a valuation consultant and also began working toward earning the Chartered Financial Analyst Designation. After three years and many hours of study, I earned it. Since then, I have continued to work hard.

On a personal level, I have always found hard work to be good for the soul. It is good to be helpful, to provide service, to make products for others.

It is my belief that this is also true at the national level -- that we are best as a nation of makers, not takers.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.