An Oasis in the Desert—Mr. Romney Meet A 47% Family

In a recently discovered Mitt Romney video he characterized 47 percent of Americans as people who “believe that they are victims” who would never take personal responsibility for their lives, the hard working American families I know defy Romney’s description.

Mr. Romney, let me introduce you to the Canty family here in Atlanta. The Cantys’ are Nandi, a Spelman College graduate, her husband Leslie, their 13-year old daughter, Ellise and her 2-year old sister Jaya. The Canty family is looking forward to a long awaited economic recovery but until then they are taking responsibility for providing their daughter with what they believe is her best possible chance to succeed. For them that means a quality education in a boarding school some 1700 miles away from home.

Ellise was a student at the Coretta Scott King Academy for Girls when I visited last October 11th on the national Day of the Girl celebration. A few weeks later her mother emailed me because she heard I was a fencer. Her daughter had been interested in the sport for a while but she didn’t know how to introduce it to her. I was happy to make the introduction and welcome her to the Atlanta Fencers’ Club and she began her lessons at a reduced fee because her mom was unemployed. Ellise had been applying to boarding schools around the country and had been rejected by a few so she was starting to get discouraged. But this not a story about fencing or rejection, it is a story about a family’s commitment and personal responsibility to open the window of the world to their child.

Nandi Canty’s email to me: “I have been meaning to write you and tell you the good news. The last couple of months have been unexpectedly crazy around here. It must seem like we just dropped off the face of the earth but a lot has been going on.  We finally received word that Ellise has been accepted into boarding school. She will be attending Verde Valley School in Sedona, Arizona. She is very excited. It’s a great little international boarding school. They are the top boarding school in the country offering an IB (International Baccalaureate) curriculum. We have been blessed. Because of her academic record, the school is providing nearly 74% of the cost.  We had no idea where the remainder would come from but it’s working out.

I think when we last spoke I wasn’t working. Well, about two months ago I took a position as a case manager at a private high school for nontraditional students. It is a part-time position and the money is not very good. But I really enjoy what I do. I enjoy the difference I’m able to make in these young people’s lives. So it’s been good. The bad part is that with me now working my husband has to work in the evenings, so we have no way to get her to fencing. We own one car. The good news is that the boarding school has a fencing program. Hopefully, they will still have it this year. She definitely wants to continue the sport. Fencing has been a great experience for her. I definitely watched her come out of her comfort zone to try to embrace something new. I think that will be a great preface for where she is headed. She will have so many opportunities for new experiences there. Fencing has given her the courage to do it.

Ellise has a flair for creative writing and started a Facebook blog to update her family and friends while she is away at school—– A Chronicle of the life and times of Ellise Canty at Verde Valley School, truly a Diva in the Desert. Here is one of her latest post.

Ellise: “Sorry I haven’t been posting recently. I have been really busy. Time here is going by so fast. This was mid-term week. I just got back my science midterm. I made a 99%! It was the second highest grade in my science teacher’s first and second classes. In math, I got a 90% on my class presentation. Again, it was the second highest out of both the math1/freshman class and math 2 class. I’m still trying to figure out who beat me! In English, I am doing very well. My teacher commented that I am very organized and consistent in getting my assignments in. She recently graded one of my creative writing assignments and commented that I did an excellent job. She said I am natural storyteller. She’s looking forward to reading more of my writing. In History, my presentation on Obamacare went really well. My teacher commented that it was one of the best of the class. I have recently started a blog about the history of the United States and China relations. I’ll share the link with you guys later.”

Mr. Romney, whether parents are in the 99% or the 47%, most are hard-working, some are two parent homes, they aren’t “victims” and many are just trying their best under difficult economic circumstances to provide for their families, make sacrifices for their children and find support and strength in their families and friends—-not in the government.

They are taking responsibility——Mr. Romney meet the Cantys.


Beverly Isom

Blogging While Blue



  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    Beverly, what about this family makes you think they are in the 47% to which Mr. Romney referred? They have enough money to pay nearly 26% of the cost for their daughter to attend an out-of-state boarding school (plus travel costs, etc. I assume) and take fencing lessons. They obviously pay income tax (unlike 49% of us) and don’t seem to be receiving government support.

    • bloggingwhileblue says:

      The reason some people didn’t pay federal income tax is because many were unemployed like the mother in this post. Like many, this family is waiting on that to change when the economy rebounds. While the mother is working now, it is only part-time.

      That Romney made a parallel between the 47 % thinking of themselves as “victims” who were entitled to assistance because they refused to take personal responsibility for their lives was another critical point that this family illustrates is not true.

      • Beverly Isom says:

        Burroughston Broch–we have updated the post because the school paid 74% of the cost and the parents are working on paying the other 26%….but let’s not let the numbers get in the way of the real reason for the post……what constitutes middle-class and struggling class is in a variable dead heat.

      • Burroughston Broch says:

        What makes you think they don’t pay income taxes?
        The father is working (no mention of him being unemployed) and the mother is now working after being unemployed.
        The school’s boarding tuition is $43,000/year (according to Wikipedia), so the parents are paying about $11,000/year as their share, plus travel, clothes, and everything else. Probably at least $15,000/year for the school. Plus they are paying for fencing lessons.
        In addition, the parents have themselves to keep plus a younger child.
        I admire their sacrifice to provide for their daughter, but they have money and income, and are paying income taxes. They are not part of the 47% Mr. Romney spoke of.