As part of a family who grew up living on the edge and seeing the reality of supporting my own family, I appreciate your sensitive approach to what can be the painful topic of family finances. It seems amazing to me that our "moral decay" as a nation should be only contributed to issues like abortion/birth control or gay lifestyle when the true decayer of families is the inability to pay bills and support each other financially. Some people (and statistically mostly men) do run when the preasure gets too high. As a nation whose history is to pay for war toys I believe that the price we really pay gets taken from our futures as families (no matter what kind of families we choose to be). As well, it is interesting to see the backlash of NAFTA against immigrants who live everyday falling off that edge. Maybe a good follow-up would be to see what our politicians are actually doing about these problems. Again, thank you for an insightful and non-judgemental look into the lives of a growing class of Americans.
I was impressed to see that there are parents out there instilling the same values in there children that I try to install in by child.
I am a single parent who survives on one paycheck and often try to make it clear to my daughter the importance of an advanced education. I let her know that this type of education will be based are her hardwork in school.
I would definately have to agree with the last comment about the declining paycheck.
It would benefit the large corporations in this country to take a look at what
CEOs are paid in other countries. Instead of always trying to downsize through
layoffs, these corps. should consider downsizing some of those large bonus/pay
checks to their VPs.
I understand the fear of not knowing where the food to feed the family is going to come from; how to pay the mortgage and the doctor bills; and trying as hard as you can, but seeming to just spin one's wheels. I was so proud of Jackie and Claude's sons for seeing the whole picture - and of Jackie and Claude themselves for their positive outlook and attitude. Both families have gone through (and are still going through) a lot and, to their credit, have persevered. I shudder to think how many times these two stories have been repeated all over America - and how many times the outcome has been in the negative. What ever happened to job security, and is there any way to resurrect it?
West Palm Beach, FL
I turned on PBS for a few moments tonight, looking for a break before I wrote yet another job application. Thank you and Jackie Stanley for inspiring me to keep on.
Tonight's presentation of two families affected by the Briggs and Stration layoffs is worth taking note. It was both heart warming and heart-breaking to watch these two wonderful families. They demostrat qualities that have made America great with dedication to family values, hard work, and hopes that their lives and the lives of their children will be better tommorrow. We Americans collectively share these beliefs.
What we also share is the day to day struggle of life and its challenges. Most of
us forget that there are others in this struggle that work hard, pay taxes, go to
church, and yet still don't advance in this race we run. We need to be reminded of
good fortunes so that we better appreciate them. And also, we are reminded that our
country has many people, like these families, that don't run for office, shoot a
shot, or make millions of dollars as a CEO who we can use as role models. Thank you
your interest in the common man.
The two families highlighted in your series touched my soul deeply; their struggles to remain a family and surmount their misfortunes gave me a much needed "booster shot" of hope for the future of family unity. They persevered where many fear to tread. I pray for their future good fortune. THEY are what "family" is all about; I salute them.
In regards to your Bill Moyers piece on unemployment in Milwaukee:
If ever we saw all of our dreams dying, it had to be watching those with
strong backs and bright minds relegated to minimum wage simply to meet
budget. The amount of money being made in this country is astounding.
How about we take some of that back, that which we've earned. Let's
suggest to various CEOs that they have obligations greater than personal
compensation and profit. The fact that your story was centered in
Milwaukee was important to me. My grandfather worked there as both a
beat cop and milk man to raise a family of children, who went on to
success and families of their own. I'm not sure I can rely on the gift
of promise like my father could. We're inheriting different worlds. As
a well educated and skilled worker, I do not allow myself any fantasies
when it comes to the stability of my situation. I know somewhere
somebody has found my needs irrelevant to the bottom line. I'm cannon
fodder. I worry about my ability to earn a decent wage as I start my
family, and sit in utter awe at the families surviving on less than I
make. I can't believe that some of the these buttoned down capitalists
still have the nerve to tell us this is the fairest way to get the world
I have never written in response to any program or article; however, as a public high school English teacher, I feel compelled to let the Stanley family know that they have pro- vided me with a much needed sense of hope.
I am impressed with and encouraged by Klaudale Stanley's assertion that each child is the most important determinant of the child's success, and with his mother's oberservation that the child's attitude is a direct result of the parents' attitude.
I want to tell the Stanley family that although they are very much focussed on themselves, although Jackie Stanley rightly asserts she is only concerned with her own family ("As for me and my house..."), she should know that in taking care of her primary responsibility, she is taking care of her neighborhood, her community, and her country.
I hope you are able to forward my message of thanks to the Stanley family. In a job where I spend more time processing attendance forms than I do grading essays, in a society which confers upon me the role of counselor, probation officer, referree, narcotics detective, and foster parent, I feel perhaps my job is not as futile as I believed.
I keep thinking of Keith Stanley's refusal to have his dreams beaten down and of the
certainty that they will achieve their goals. I will hold onto those thoughts.
become part of my September ritual when I sit down and remind myself of all the
should return to the classroom.
Bill Moyer's "Living on the Edge" program was WONDERFUL! I was enthralled. Not since "28 Up" have I been so mesmorized. This type of longitudinal study is far and away the most valuable and insightful. By the way, I would like to convey to the Stanley family my greatest respect for their steadfast values and commitment to doing the best that they can! Seeing their valiant struggle can only inspire viewers and provide a needed testament to the belief that the worthy will persevere. I greatly admire them.
Viewer feedback from original December 12, 1995 broadcast of "Living on the Edge"
As usual, Bill Moyers and Frontline were superb tonight.
As the father in a family of four, working under scale for a left of center not-for-profit org, funded by the State of New York whose job is only a legislative vote away from being de-funded, I put myself in the same category of the families on the show.
Thank you for a sensitive portrayal. The faith, strength and tenacity of these people are truly inspirational.
I had not seen Frontline for a long time. I was flipping thru the channels this evening and found your show. Thank you for presenting your story in a calm and unbiased manner. I have gotten so tired of shows like 20-20 and 48-Hours that I have quit watching them. Your show is quite a change.
I have said for a long time that the 'blue collar' members of our work force are the big losers when companies take jobs overseas. What we have here is a double-edged sword. The United States is the only country in the world that has a middle class that can afford to buy the goods and services exported by countries full of people that can't afford to own that goods they make.
The United States cannot compete, in these industries, because we have to pay 'middle class' wages. The only way for the United States to compete is to get rid of the middle class (largely made up of 'blue collar' workers). This is happening slowly as these jobs are sent overseas and our middle class workers end up on 'Burger King' wages, struggling just to make ends meet.
A smaller middle class means less demand for the goods being made overseas and sent to the United States. The end result is that now the United States can compete, but there is no one left to purchase all the goods being made and sent in.
We end up with a world made up of the filthy rich and the filthy, and the American Dream truly dies.
Hooray for NAFTA.
As I watched your program, it was stunning to see the parallels between the individuals on the show and my life. I too struggled to get through college, and while I worked over 40 hours a week, I attended over 17 credits per semester.
Nevertheless, it was impressive to see the determination of the black men to attend college. It was more impressive to see that they as individuals would make the most difference in improving their lives-- not the government, not some civil rights organization. While govt. can help, the only true and effective difference that is made in life is through one's self determination, attitude, desire, and perspiration...
I wish all the boys luck in achieving their dreams to become a college graduate. The road is rough, but is worth it in the long run.
I am a resident of Milwaukee, and basically lived here most of my life.
Your program really struck home while I was watching this evening. My father and his father before him both worked union, and both experienced the unfortunate experience of lay off. I distinctly remember large vegatable gardens and wild game as staples of our existance as children, as well as the "tightening the belt" lectures.
Both my father and grandfather survived by starting their own businesses.
I have since gone on to college, graduated, and now hold a professional position, but guard the experiences of those before me. I fully intend to put those to good use.
I want to Thank You for reminding me that the Edge is not so far away.
Having spent a large part of my early life in abject poverty, later rearing two children alone on a single paycheck, spending a significant amount of time during the last 15 years in third world countries,and working with very financially disadvantaged families, I found it somewhat difficult to sympathize with the families on the program. The housing, the food, the manicured lawns, and automobiles the families enjoyed while "living one the edge" are so far from the realm of the real necessities for survival and contentment, that it disturbed me to see what the US has become during the last 50 years.
I would very much like to see a program of the real "Living on the Edge" so visible in the US, in the rural areas as well as the large cities.
It's amazing that an administration, such as ours, so concerned with "family values" is still so ignorant concerning the basic needs of the American family. How can parents raise good children when they don't even know if they can feed clothe or shelter thier loved ones? How can we remain competative in the global marketplace when every day is a struggle for a good percentage of the population? Everyone in Washington should spend some times with the families you profiled, not only will that clue them in on the root of this society's problems but it will shame them, because these people have shown themselves to be better negotiaters, more effective problem solvers and stronger fighters them any of them will ever be.
Thank you for presenting the cases of the two(2) families that were caught in that wonderful concept of "Corporate Downsizing" or should we say the firing of high paid people to be replaced by low paid people. These two families are really what America stands for and they should have the compassion of all of us. The Gringrich's of this country would not allow a safety net for any of us except the rich in troubled times.
Long Branch, NJ
I had just walked in the door last night after finishing my last undergrad course over a fifteen year period when my wife turned to PBS and the Frontline story of the two families. I have been working full time, carrying a full load at school, and we have a 7 month old baby.
After seeing the definition of hope in those two families, I realized just how easy my life is compared to theirs. If they could use a hug through the internet, here it is.
On the day that the Republican-led senate wasted time debating the ridiculous flag desecration amendment, you ran a story on two Milwaukee families who struggle every day to stay above poverty. No wonder the Republicans do not like PBS, you shame them.
Thank you, Bill Moyer and Frontline, for revealing what everyday life is like for working class people in this country.
Interesting piece you did on the declining opportunity in America. Also interesting was how you chose two families that actually "work" for a living. Of course everyone thinks THEY "work" for a living but the truth is alot of people "fanagle" for a living. That is, my de- finition of "work" is an occupation that in no way shape or form is an aspiration but a necessity. Aspirations ought to be something done for the rewarding experience it allows the person lucky enough to have reached it. If an occupation is an aspiration then being paid extremely should be considered a windfall. Funny, people are paid better at/in occupations that resemble avocations more than "work." Where is the scarcity factor as reward for doing things people avoid by training themselves at their aspirations. The afro-american family man who dug trenches no 4-year college graduate would consider doing for what he makes at the occupation he went to school for, made WHAT? $6. an hour. There's a crime of ethics in there somewhere, it's just buried so deep in expedient reasoning it'll never be found.
I just finished watching your program "Living on the Edge" about the 2 families affected by the Briggs and Straton lay-off. I thought it was a wonderful documentary. I was very moved by this people and how they live their lives. So much of what we see on television has little to do with real people in this country. The 2 families you profiled are real Americans with all their virtues and all their faults. I admire both families greatly and I want to thank you for introducing me to them. Please continue to create great television that focuses on what is real and keeps Americans in touch with one another.