LETTER: The Trump I Knew

Letter-to-the-EditorNEWTo the Editor:

On March 22, I sent a Letter to the Editor entitled “Trump for President” to all the editors of Greenwich’s newspapers.

Greenwich’s editors are all great. They are responsive, fun to work with, totally committed and super creative.

I was met with total silence, which is very unlike my editorial friends. No hard feelings. At this point, not one Republican, I believe, in Greenwich was going on record to openly support Trump for President. Greenwich seemed to be a red town that was blushing. At least this was what was in the air.

But, I had met Mr. Trump, 18 years before, in person, in NYC. He quietly, boldly, and generously gave me and my best friend his time and mentorship. He told us to think like leaders, that if we wanted to help the poor (we were social workers and we told him this is what we wanted to do with our lives) to transform their lives, not just burn out, we had to emanate hope and partner to help others realize economic freedom.

Being idealistic 20 year olds, we had moved to East Harlem and the South Bronx, working alongside the great champion of social justice at that time, Father John Grange, the humble South Bronx native who stayed in his boyhood neighborhood to serve thousands of working poor families in the poorest congressional district in America. Everyone who knew him believed he was their best friend and for two years he was my mentor along with President Elect Trump.

Father Grange gave my friend and I a storefront (in NYC free real estate is big) so we could run a social service organization without worrying about paying overhead. Every once-in-a-while, he would come over to our community house, give us his old, dented van and tell us to take a day off and go sight seeing in Manhattan to keep up our cheer. He knew that serving and living with the poor required one to love the world and enjoy the world so you can pass this on to others.

President Elect Trump did the same, only in his own way. He told us to become real estate investors and to empower poor by telling them about private property ownership, what we now know is the single most important factor in eliminating generational poverty in America. He loved to give advice that empowered others and had no skin in the game. He joked to us, that he hoped we would one day become his competition! My best friend quit her social work job that day and got her real estate license from a night school in the City.

Our brains changed that night. We heard a vision of helping others that was not Colonialistic but Lord Actonish. Giving power over to others. Almost 20 years later, President Elect Trump’s wisdom is embraced by academia and social change agents as standard. That next day, I gave $200 dollars to 10 poor families to help them start small businesses. Our street was transformed with new flower vendors, shaved ice carts, two new restaurants (in the back of Bodega’s–where the best food in NYC is found!), a wedding gift business, two import- export businesses and a home-based sewing shop for special occasion accessories. President Elect Trump was right: listen for other people’s passion and support them at this POINT.

My best friend and I had literally spent five years working in the streets of the South Bronx in order to help folks wherever we could, helping to start outreach community centers like Refuge House, two inner city libraries, a center for immigrants, teaching ESL, teaching citizenship classes at night in Catholic School buildings that allowed us to teach rent-free, tutoring at-risk children in the basement of St. Jerome’s Church and Our Lady of Refuge. But, before we met President Elect Trump, we feared our service might just be a drop in the ocean of need. He changed our thinking so that we realized we could support others–with small acts–to realize big dreams.

President Elect Trump told us to sit at his table. He stared at us.

Melania told us about her pride in America. She glowed at his side while he emanated a sharp wit that revealed him to be the incredible listener that he is. A person who will bring up a good quality in you that he gleaned from watching or listening to you months or years before!

We sat, eyes wide open, with our hands underneath our laps, not touching the meal that was served at the dinner party that night.

The next day, President Elect Trump called us on our clunky cell phone. He asked us if we had thought about what our passion and purpose in life was? We muttered, “Ugh, yeah, I think so.” He answered, “Well you had 10 hours to think of it since I last saw you. Now, get on it!

It was like everything was new and everything was a possibility. The follow up story is even more interesting but I’ll save it for later.

Sometimes to be funny, or to be a smart aleck, we called Mr. Trump, “The Donald” only to be corrected, each and every time. Yep, even with this one-liner President Elect Trump was modeling for us that we should expect and give respect to our elders, to our mentors. That respect in working relationship leads to prosperity and success.

That night, a night in which we found ourselves at President Elect Trump’s table helping to raise money for a charity in East Harlem, I was pushed to dream bigger.

Now, would you do the same for a struggling young adult in your life? My dream for Greenwich is for the RTC members to create a 2 week summer host program (sort of like the Fresh Air Fund) for students in Greenwich who live in low income housing, who are Title 1 recipients, whose families receive Free and Reduced Lunch, to spend two weeks with RTC members in their homes in Greenwich, two weeks with the First Selectman’s family, two weeks with Livvy Floren’s amazing family, two weeks with you.

For these two weeks, we would look at a young Greenwich student whose family lives at or near the poverty line, look them in the eye and model to them that the purpose of life is to find one’s passion, to serve others with this very passion.

Because, at heart, this is what a “Republican” is. A person who believes that every individual can be a leader.

This is the Trump I knew and why I was not surprised he became President.

Jodi Weisz


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