MPIPersona Project
Lya_Cattel/iStock

Derek

Portrait of Derek
Age
32
Race
White
Hometown
Chesterbrook, Pennsylvania
Now lives
White Plains, New York
Job Title
Director, Executive Communications
Income
$100,000
Education
BA (Political Science), MA (Geography)
Group
Creative Traded
Occupation
Management
Industry
Food Processing & Manufacturing
Artifact: American Flag

Artifact: American Flag

For me, the American flag represents a sense of pride and where we came from, rebelling against the British: We are American. We’re strong. We’re patriotic. Sometimes I think people wave the flag to justify certain things. I think I’m one of those Americans who kind of has a foot in each camp: I’m not a full blown apologist for the more Imperial mistakes that we’ve made. But on the other hand, I do recognize a lot of the flaws in our society as far as being a little less understanding of opposing views: opinions are right because we say they are. I take pride in an America that is able to lead and make smart decisions, which is why I’m frustrated when we don’t.

Mission-driven professional, ready for a change
“I think that my role in society will be more than shilling for a product just to turn a profit. I can afford to make less for something that’s more mission-driven. Right now, I just don’t feel like I’m contributing to the economy — or to my country — in the way I want.”
person washing a car Naypong/Shutterstock.com

Community | Race

I’ve always carried a working-class attitude with me. I just prefer to identify with people who don’t have too many things handed to them on a silver spoon. I think it stems from my parents — my dad was a probation officer for 30 years and my mom was a school counselor. They both had good, middle class jobs. When I was growing up, my dad got me a job working at a car wash with some of his parolees who came out from the city. You had a lot of Latino and African American guys washing the cars of better-off white Americans. Through conversations with the guys, I really started to understand how society works. Like Mikey. He was 13 years old with a 1-year-old kid. I was 16 and the idea of having a child blew my mind. Just listening to their stories, what they were going to do on the weekend, it was very different than how I thought about things, especially about the future. These guys didn’t really know what they’d be doing in six months. They didn’t seem to have many long-term plans, at least not ones they shared with me. I’m more interested in speaking with people who work at car washes than those at a Fortune 500 company. They’re just more interesting. They have more struggles and more stories to tell. They are more rounded people usually than folks who just walk a straight path and accept things for the way they are. Of course, one day one of the guys showed me his gun on the way to the train station. That’s a story I still haven’t told my mother.

reflecting pool at the Washington Monument JoeSpahn/EyeEm

Economy | Work

I don’t really know what my own role is in the overall economy, per se. It probably stems from the fact that I don’t really feel like I’m contributing like I want to right now at my company. It is one of the biggest companies in the world, but I feel more at home with a greater purpose in what I do. I think government service or some sort of non-profit service has gotten more important to me. I worked in Washington before this job, as a senate staffer, and I could see going back.

Mission-driven professional, ready for a change
“I think that my role in society will be more than shilling for a product just to turn a profit. I can afford to make less for something that’s more mission-driven. Right now, I just don’t feel like I’m contributing to the economy — or to my country — in the way I want.”
person waiting at crosswalk severin/EyeEm

Government

Government doesn’t really touch me directly. Obviously, I’m not on Social Security because I’m not 65-plus. There are certain people who are more affected by government, whether they’re poor or they’re veterans or they come from a different country and need help getting set up. So government touches their lives directly. I suppose it affects me in the sense that my taxes can go up or down a little bit, but if you are more self-sufficient in society, government won’t really touch your life until you hit a certain age.

“I suppose [Government] affects me in the sense that my taxes can go up or down a little bit, but if you are more self-sufficient in society, government won’t really touch your life until you hit a certain age.”

Politics

Honestly, I don’t think that our democracy works. I’m a big believer that if people don’t understand the issues, they won’t participate. We should be well-educated on the issues to make the best decisions. When you’re more educated as a voter, then the candidates have to be better as well and so does the media. That’s when democracy works, because then people are making better decisions, are more confident in their leader, less skeptical and more willing to trust. Trust is also a big problem right now. People don’t trust each other as much as they once did. And it gets back to trust in Congress. It gets back to trust in the Presidency. It gets back to how they feel about their neighbors, for instance, all the way down to that level. I want more from this country and society in general. Voter participation and civic awareness are big issues for me. Everything is politics. “Politics” shouldn’t be a dirty word.

group of four people using mobile phones and tablets Tijana87/iStock

“We should be well-educated on the issues to make the best decisions. When you’re more educated as a voter, then the candidates have to be better as well and so does the media.”

Education

I think education is something that should be happening every single minute of the day. It helps you become a well-rounded person. I studied abroad in Australia — almost everything I learned about myself comes from that experience. Unfortunately, I think our lifestyles today keep us from attaining that well-roundedness. Everyone has a smartphone these days — and having that interconnected society is great. But I think it leads to self-selection of information. This means you wind up with people who not only disagree, but don’t even understand why they disagree. They can’t possibly build the bridges necessary to improve our society. I want to help build those bridges.

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