In 1931, two years into the Great Depression, James Truslow Adams wrote about the fundamental idea that "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement." He called that idea “the American Dream.”
More than 80 years since Adams coined the phrase, that dream remains far too remote for far too many young people in America. Every year, 750,000 students don’t graduate high school on time. And 5.6 million young people between the ages of 16 and 24 today are not in school or work. These young people are significantly more likely to have health problems, rely on public assistance or end up in jail.
That’s why America’s Promise is working to create an America where every young person has the chance to succeed, and every adult shares the responsibility to make it happen.
Last night, at the historic Howard Theater, we honored five adults who are doing extraordinary work to help young people in America pursue their American Dreams.
We honored a senator who has spent decades working to improve public education and a CEO who has led his company to invest $350 million in kids and education and inspired tens of thousands of his employees to become mentors. Two philanthropists reminded us that it’s the donations of time that may count most. And a combat veteran, youth advocate and author who wrote about his role model received an award from that same man: General Colin Powell.
General Powell, our founding chair, and Mrs. Alma Powell, our board chair, presented the Promise of America Awards to, as you may have guessed, Senator Lamar Alexander, AT&T’s Randall Stephenson, Beatrice and Anthony Welters of the AnBryce Foundation, and Wes Moore, the founder and CEO of BridgeEdu, host of PBS’ American Graduate program, and author of “The Other Wes Moore” and “The Work: My Search for a Life that Matters.”
Last night, we congratulated these heroes and noted the progress we’ve made together. But more importantly, we reminded ourselves of James Truslow Adams’s idea of the American Dream, and recommitted to our mission of making the promise of America real for every child.
I hope you’ll join us.