I publish this essay on the day America celebrates its independence. Independence,as defined in the dictionary, means to be self determined, not requiring assistance, showing a desire for freedom. Many Americans feel neither independent nor free.For them, independence is a myth.

Without wealth or the prospect of prosperity, independence is merely a word. I actually believe today that freedom means 'self-determination.'

Prosperity precedes independence.

Many Americans have been excluded from wealth and independence. I am not just talking about “the poor.” I refer to a class of American’s, representing about half the population — the teetering class — people who live with a wobbly sense of staggering uncertainty. Those who make $50,000 a year or less, with "too much month at the end of their money."

This class has become well documented in recent films, such as, “Spent: Looking for Change” about Americans who have been excluded from traditional banking and forced into predatory financial traps. These financially-underserved Americans spend over $89 billion annually in financial service fees and interest. That translates into just about $40,000 in financial service fees per person over a lifetime.

The problem is that this is half the American population that keeps America strong.

We should not pity or discard the working poor, the struggling class and the teetering class, we should be cheering for them, and trying to find ways to support them. As they are driving the largest economy on the planet. And in the vast majority of cases, great wealth began with dreamers and left-out immigrants, the so-called once-poor, from what was then the American under-class, aspiring and striving for somethingbetter. Basically, Americans with WILL.

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John Hope Bryant is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), and is the only 2010-2012 bestselling business author in America who is also African-American. His newest bestselling book is HOW THE POOR CAN SAVE CAPITALISM(Berrett Koehler Publishing). Bryant is a Member of the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans, and co-chair for Project 5117, which is a plan for the rebirth of underserved America.

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