Windham, NH small business owner Al Letizio has made headlines on the national stage for his “We Did Build It” sign. Please see this morning’s Eagle Tribune piece below for more coverage of how thousands of small business owners and supporters across the country are reaching out to Mr. Letizio in support!
Windham man puts his beliefs on his sign
08/23/2012 12:05 AM
WINDHAM — Around Windham, people know Al Letizio Jr. is passionate about his beliefs.
Now people around the country know it, too.
Letizio’s roadside protest of President Obama’s motorcade is generating thousands of calls, emails and letters. He is hearing from people in Washington and Texas and Florida.
“Overwhelmingly positive responses,” Letizio said yesterday.
The negative ones — they are a little incoherent, he observed — Letizio can count on his hands without using all his fingers.
“The theme is thank you for speaking up for those of us out here who are working hard and doing our best to contribute to the economy who are being demonized by the president,” Letizio said.
He is a colorful, outspoken former School Board member and civic booster who showed up at the inaugural high school graduation this year to give each graduate a commemorative silver dollar.
Letizio also is a small business owner, up from Italian and Irish immigrant roots, who cares deeply about making it in America. Entrepreneurs and successful small business operators speak to his heart and soul.
So, what he heard from the president this summer really troubled him. It troubled him enough to get outside his Route 111 business last Saturday with a big sign and a message for the president: “We Did Build It.”
Letizio had spent a few weeks reflecting on comments Obama made on a campaign swing through mid-Atlantic states last month.
Obama was trying to make the point that everyone is in this together and people owe success to one another, but it turned into his Todd Akin campaign moment with the small-business community.
“If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen,” Obama said.
Friends have chided Letizio for taking the comment out of context, but he’s gone back, read the text and watched the video. He still can’t believe a president would say those words.
“Each time I came back with the same message,” he said.
Letizio sees Obama’s remarks as one of those unscripted political moments that are truly revealing of character and philosophy.
“You can really read what was in the guy’s heart,” he said.
What Letizio read is a lack of understanding on Obama’s part of what small business means to the economy and what goes into making them a success.
“What he really means is others deserve the fruits of our work efforts,” Letizio said.
So, Letizio took his protest to the street Saturday. He had a “We Did Build It” protest sign from the Romney campaign. The “we” sentiment was important to him, he said, because he knows his family and his more than 40 employees have helped the business succeed, that he doesn’t do it on his own.
The food sales and marketing business is by the crossroads of Interstate 93, so he soon had company from Romney supporters, what he calls “an organic gathering.”
He estimates the crowd swelled to 60 or 70 people when the motorcade rolled.
“We were no more than 20 feet from him,” Letizio said.
That put the protestors 20 feet from the traveling White House press corps. Letizio soon found himself discussed on the website founded by the late conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart and appearing on Fox News with Greta Van Susteren.
“She did ask tough questions,” he said. “I was honored to be on her show.”
Since then he’s heard from America: the barber, the auto mechanic, the college student.
“They’re just calling to lend their support,” Letizio said.
It has been, he admits, a real trip for a guy who considers it a privilege to live in this country.
“Thank God we can get up and speak our minds,” Letizio said.