Kerry Healey on the importance of a good job in the pursuit of the the American Dream
“Having a good job is one of the most important things that this country can provide for people who are looking for the American Dream, because it provides financial security,” says Kerry Healey, president of the Milken Center for Advancing the American Dream, created to advance ideas, share experiences, and offer tools to help everyone prosper.
WorkingNation sat down with Healey at the Milken Institute Global Conference 2021 in Beverly Hills as part of our #WorkingNationOverheard interview series. With Charting a New Course as the guiding theme, thought leaders and innovators shared ideas about the changing economy, worker development, education, tech, philanthropy, and more.
“A lot of times people think about the American Dream as something that entails great wealth. But what we find when we talk to people is that all they’re really looking for is the financial security to be able to overcome a hurdle,” says Healey referring to an unexpected expense such as a car accident or the loss of a job.
Healey says purpose in work is also part of that dream. “I had the experience of going into the workforce when I was 15 for minimum wage, which was not quite $2 an hour, because my father had had a heart attack and he could no longer work.” She says, “I felt, as a young girl, that I needed to help my mom. I knew that I needed to save for college. I didn’t want to ask for anything. So I wanted to provide for myself. And I saw very quickly that actually any job can give you dignity if you’re doing it for the right purposes.”
Healey says that experience at a very young age has stayed with her throughout her life. “I’ve been able to have jobs that were better paid, thank goodness, due to educational opportunities. But I never lost that sense that whatever you’re doing can give you dignity if you put respect toward it.”
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