Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said Thursday that financial debt is not something that should spark shame, reflecting on her own experiences.
“I grew up poor. I made poor choices in college. I got into debt,” said Abrams, speaking at the Women in the World conference in Manhattan.
“I got myself out of that debt,” she continued, then joked: “I still owe student loans, but those just seem permanent.”
Abrams speaks openly about this because, as she says, “I fundamentally believe that debt is not a shame. It’s a reality for more than three-quarters of Americans.”
Speaking of how debt can be inevitable for some, she said, “They don’t ask you if you’re poor before you get cancer. You can defer tax payments. You cannot defer cancer treatments.”
The average American household has $8,284 in credit card debt, according to a December report, and millennials alone face $1 trillion in debt, much of that in student loans. Politicians are not immune to these struggles.
Abrams said she recently paid off her tax debt, but other deficits remain. Her brother has long struggled with mental illness and drug use, a reality that has put him in and out of prison. When her parents decided to take in his young daughter, Abrams decided she would help out financially—even if it strained her own wallet.
“When my niece was born, I didn’t want her to grow up wondering if the lights were going to get cut off or if the water was going to work,” said Abrams. She chose to help out financially, “but I’m still responsible,” said Abrams. “It’s my obligation to make sure I pay my debts, and I do.”
Still, Abrams doesn’t believe debt should disqualify anyone from having ambitions.
“Being poor, being in debt, having fewer resources than others,” said Abrams, “does not make you less.”