May 5: The Real Story

… and this is what our world needs– for all of us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, connecting one heart to another, and acting to make our dreams take shape.

Last week, at The National Constitution Center on Independence Mall in Philadelphia, USA, more than 1,000 flags hung across the 90 foot floor to ceiling windows, around the 200 foot balcony rail, and across the pipe framework set up just for them and for the dreams they carried.

Last week hundreds of students, teachers, mothers, fathers, principals, administrators, and friends gathered to celebrate those dreams and what they stand for.

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Last week, volunteers arrived very early to set up tables, put out markers, organize games, create group art, connect the technology, staff the registration desk, and do whatever it took to make this happen for everyone from 11:00 am EST to 1:00 pm.

And then it all came down. Flags packed, some left as Travel Flags for the coming year, tables cleared, flag display nets down, hooks and suction cups removed, bags loaded out, and volunteers off to a well deserved lunch.

But the real story I learned started way way before all that.

To me, the real story started in Dallas, Texas with Candice Lindsay, an art teacher who found out about this program based in Philadelphia for kids sharing dreams.

Her school is located in central Dallas and serves children from 4 to 11 years old. Most of them walk to school. Most of them speak Spanish as well as English. Almost all of them qualify for a free lunch at school, an important part of their daily nutrition. Their principal is Alberto Herrera, and he understands this group. I met him when we all went out to dinner the Friday before the “big event” on Saturday.

For me, meeting Alberto Herrera, the principal, meeting Mike Daleo the PE teacher, and once again meeting Candice Lindsay, the art teacher and dream booster, as well as Shannon Kline the first grade teacher and Social and Emotional Learning Campus Champion–was the big event. For me, learning their story was more powerful than a thousand thousand flags of dreams.

Mike, Candice, Shannon, and Alberto ( left to right) at Eakins Oval in Philadelphia

A few weeks before I had had the privilege of standing before the whole school and community guests at the culminating program of Ecole Nouvelle Zorange in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I told the students that anybody can have a dream, but it takes hard work to make it real.

These educators from Dallas and their community were the example to me of the hard work to make it real.

When I met with them on Friday, I found out how they had started working last September with the Parent and School committee to show their students, each one of them, that their dreams matter.

That group organized school movie night –every week. For $3 you could come to the school on a Friday evening, bring a pillow, sit on the floor of the gym, pay a little more for some popcorn, and watch a family friendly movie projected on the wall. You could watch the same movie at home, but it wouldn’t be the same.

And so they started raising money to send each one of their 650 flags with dreams and 4 of their teachers to represent them in Philadelphia. That’s a lot of $3 contributions.

3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 . . .

In about January, Candice Lindsay started making hand stamped Dream Bracelets resembling like this.

For each one, often while the child watched, she would custom stamp the letters D R E A M into the metal of a washer connected to a colorful band that the student would wear. And she sold each for $5. She made about 500 of them, each by request. That’s 2,500 hand stamped letters in metal. She said her arm got tired sometimes.

Between these two efforts, and the effort of the school to have each and every one of their students create a flag for their dreams, the vision–the dream of bringing those dreams to Philadelphia, to make them and the community of Ansom Jones part of something bigger than themselves–started to take shape.

And at about 9 am on Saturday, May 5th, the team of four dedicated educators started the work of installing those dreams for all to see across the floor to ceiling window 90 feet long that faced the mall ending with the building where the USA started, Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

They filled that window, all 90 feet of it, so that, looking out to Independence Mall, you saw a wall of dreams that knew no bounds, that travelled from Texas to Philadelphia to shout out that this is what independence is all about, this is what the USA is about at its best, and this is what our world needs– for all of us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, connecting one heart to another, and acting to make our dreams take shape.

That’s a story I won’t forget and will keep on telling and building as you join me in the effort.

How fitting for Cinco de Mayo and Independence Hall, and every dreamer who aligns their values to their actions anywhere in the world.

Thank you, Ansom Jones Elementary!

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