When I was growing up in Dublin, my favorite tv show was Fame, a drama about high schoolers attending a performing arts school in New York. I dreamed of going to a school just like the New York High School of Performing Arts where everyone—no matter what color, creed, sexual orientation, talent or personality— could express themselves through dance, music or acting. Truth be told, I also had a huge crush on Leroy. For the 12 year old me, living in a small home in a gritty housing estate in Dublin, the tv show made me believe that America was a country where dreams could come true. Students in Fame dreamed of becoming dancers, musicians, actors and then they made it happen. America was the land where people were free. America was the land where everyone could make their dream come true. I wanted that.
I emigrated to Washington DC in 1993. Now, thirty years later. I am so incredibly grateful to say my dreams did come true here in America. I became the documentary filmmaker I dreamed of. I met the man of my dreams!! Kim and I built Lion Television, a successful film production company in New York City and LA. And of course, Kim and I worked hard to create and build Green Our Planet, which is now, thanks to you all, our amazing team and board, one of the largest and most successful garden and hydroponics programs in the United States, serving hundreds of thousands of students across the country.
But you know what I discovered is not true about America? Everyone does not have access to the same opportunities I had. Everyone cannot necessarily make their dream come true. I am white. I am Irish. And with that comes a lot of privilege in America. The truth is, if I were black or brown or Asian or impoverished growing up in America–my story might not be so successful, so rosy. That’s the sad truth I discovered in my 30 years living in America.
But the story does not end there. Because the best part about our country (I became a US citizen) is that our story is always evolving and changing. There have been leaders who have shown us the way towards a better America, a more just and equitable America. And one of the most successful is civil rights leader and orator, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King shared his dream about a just America where every human could thrive and live out their dreams. Dr. King captured all the possibilities for change in his quote, ” The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.”
We can continue Dr. King’s dream of a better America where everyone has the opportunity to thrive, where everyone’s dream can come true. At Green Our Planet, we dream of empowering students across the country to become the next generation of scientists, conservationists, entrepreneurs, farmers and chefs. We dream of empowering communities to turn food deserts into food forests. We dream of creating joy and justice in schools across our country, especially in schools where students have less opportunities. We are part of the continuation of Dr. King’s movement. We continue to strive to turn his dream into a reality.
Please join me in celebrating Dr. King and his beautiful legacy this Monday by doing some act of service in our community or walking in the parade or maybe reflecting on how this year you can work alongside millions of people across our nation to help bend the arc of history toward justice.