‘Help poor realize American dream’

Published 10:37 am Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Star Parker

Politically conservative author and commentator Star Parker spoke to more than 100 people at the Kirbo Center on Bainbridge College’s campus on Monday night.

In an approximately 45-minute speech, Parker, the guest speaker at a meeting of the local Tea Party, blended thoughts on government, politics and morals along with her own personal experience.

Parker’s main argument was that government benefit programs such as welfare and food stamps can do more harm than good, in her view, because they discourage people from reaching a greater potential.

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She said that she herself was a young mother on welfare for more than three years in the 1970s, which gave her first-hand experience with its effects on society.

“Growing up, my family was poor — my dad was in the military, though, so I didn’t know we were poor,” Parker said. “Most of the poverty I experienced was self-inflicted. I was still figuring out who I was going to be and got involved early in self-destructive activity.”

Parker said she took illegal drugs, was sexually promiscuous and had a criminal record as a teen. It wasn’t until her fourth trip to an abortion clinic that her “gut feeling told her something was wrong with killing an unborn child.”

After she became pregnant once more, she decided to have the baby and applied for welfare benefits. It was during that period that she began transforming into a better person, she said. She began looking for a job in Los Angeles, where she grew up;  an interview with two black businessmen was unsuccessful because of her still-rebellious attitude, but their influence ended up making a difference in her life.

“They kept calling me, wanting me to go to church with them and that’s when God started working in my life,” Parker said.

She recalled one of those church sermons caused her to start thinking more about welfare.

“The pastor said, ‘Why are you still on welfare? God is your source, not the government. My God will supply your need.’”

It was then that Parker took a leap of faith and took herself off the welfare rolls, forcing her to get a job to support herself and her child. She landed a job answering telephones in the basement of a food distribution company. She was enthusiastic at her job, which she said was inspired by the Bible verse Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…”

Her boss took notice of how much she talked with customers and suggested she could have a career in sales and marketing. That was the impetus for Parker to go to college and get degrees in marketing and international business. After graduating, she ran her own marketing business for eight years and that led her to a job on news talk radio. She was eventually fired because she was too controversial at times, but she knew by that point that she could never go back to welfare.

Parker has her own non-profit think tank that looks at poverty from a different perspective.

“What can we do to encourage people to get hold of their lives?” is one of the questions that guides the work of her organization, which has been based in Washington, D.C., for the past five years.

“Charity is best served locally, at places like the Friendship House of Jesus in Bainbridge,” Parker said. “The first step of getting out of poverty requires personal steps and can’t be done for you by the government…That’s one of the reasons why we put time lengths and work requirements into welfare reform. When you know that you can’t receive the benefits forever, it makes you sit up and think about where you’re going in life.”

“I’m not just a conservative because it works for me personally,” Parker said. “I know it works for people in more humble circumstances. Fixing the system we have now will allow people who haven’t even had a chance yet to have a glimpse of the American dream. The answer to poverty is prosperity, faith, personal responsibility and freedom.”