Monday, November 9, 2009

Tony’s Blog: Yes We Can

November 4, 2009: One year ago today, Barack Obama was elected the first African-American President of the United States of America. A few months ago, before that, on August 28, 2008 he was placed into nomination by the Democratic Party. I remember that day well. It was also the day that we started our program at Lincoln Family Center, a predominantly African-American faith-based organization. Here I was - standing in front of a congregation of a church named after Lincoln, speaking to 25 African-American adults who had signed up to become mentors to ‘at risk youth’ in their community, on the electric night of the nomination of the first African-America President, and 45th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech.
Wow, beat that for serendipity. These wonderful people stole my heart and shared their enthusiasm for the evening and their desire to do good in this world. Over the next 9 months they shared their wisdom and their love with 25 young people who desperately needed to be recognized by a community of adults. It worked. The program produced epiphanies, break-throughs, hope and lasting relationships that will be responsible for keeping these young folks on a better path in life.

I share this story now because it is emblematic of the struggles we face as a nation. The program has run out of funds and is now on hold. While Goldman Sachs is doing better thanks to the American tax payer, many non-profit organizations seeking to serve youth and bring this same kind of good into the world face the closing of their doors. The bail out left us behind. Those tax payers who were forced to bail out the financial ‘fat cats’ are struggling too much with their own survival to give to organizations such as YMC and Lincoln Family Center at the same levels as they have in the past. Just one of the tax-payer funded bonuses at Goldman Sachs could sustain the program at Lincoln for the next 50 years. Instead, we’ll keep plugging to raise nickels and dimes and revive this valuable life-changing endeavor. Next Saturday, Lincoln Family Center will be hosting a Pancake Breakfast to raise some of the money. If you are free that morning, and hungry and would like to subject yourself to the smiles, laughter and love of these wonderful people, come by, share a few dollars and get uncomfortably full on pancakes and eggs. We’ll be there to say “thank you” and maybe even venture a prosaic “yes we can”!

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