Imagine how magnificent our world would be if every person got at least one good chance in life and made the most of it. It’s easy for me to envision this right now, after I spent last week attended Harvard graduation events. The speeches, the exemplary lives honored and the hope for the future on display everywhere inspired this.
I was at Harvard’s commencement to celebrate with the Honorary Degree recipients. The group of ten included two of my friends, who also have been featured in Make It Better : Patricia Graham and Renee Fleming. A third recipient – Honorable Deval Patrick. – has a strong Chicago connection. He descended from slaves, grew up on the south side and was the first person in his family to attend college. After completing his eight year tenure as Governor of Massachusetts last year, Deval dove into the innovative and hopeful field of social impact investing at Bain Capital.
Of course, the other honorary degree recipients were inspiring too. The entire list also includes:
Svetlana L. Alpers
Wallace S. Broecker
Linda B. Buck
Deval L. Patrick
“We got our chances and lived up to them.” -Honorable Deval Patrick’s acceptance on behalf of all honorary degree recipients.
This is the statement that got me thinking about the possibilities inherent in our American society to give every person around the world at least one good chance in life. We have the wealth, freedom, democratic structure and abundant good intentions to realize this magnificent dream – sooner, rather than later. The dream to give every person at least one good chance, every family at least one good resource to help, and every child a caring village of support.
Every child should have at least one person who sees their potential and helps them develop it. Every family should have at least one good community resource to help them with whatever struggle they face. Some type of committed, loving community should be available to everyone.
Our country’s vast resources can and should more readily align around the most effective problem solving programs and institutions to accomplish this. Honorary degree recipient Patricia A. Graham serves as an example of someone who has consistently worked towards this and has had great impact.
“She not only illuminated the history of education, she made it.” – Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust’s comments about Patricia A. Graham.
I couldn’t be more proud of my association with Pat Graham. I’m so fortunate to have her as my Godmother. She is also a role model for everyone else, as well. Her career as a teacher, historian of education, federal agency director, author, first female dean of Harvard, president or chair of multiple foundations, corporate board member, highly prized education expert nationally and internationally is extraordinary. She used each role to create more opportunities for women and the indigent while she also helped the politically displaced receive a better education while exercising common sense and wisdom on behalf of each institution. She lifts up each person and program she touches.
Pat’s vision and influence is intertwined with America’s growing determination to better educate every child. It was particularly delightful to hear President Faust declare Pat a maker of history. Pat’s example continues to inspires me in my own life and my Make It Better publishing journey. I hope her extraordinarily well-lived life will inspire you too.
“She is both diva and divine, known for her arias, but not for her airs.” Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust comments about Renee Fleming.
Opera star, literacy advocate, National Medal of Arts recipient, author, crossover singer, teacher, fashion icon, champion of new music, TV host, Creative Director of Lyric Opera of Chicago, proud mother of two. Renee Fleming is all of this and more.
She describes her work as “beauty, humanity and history every day, combined with the joy of singing.” This may be true of all great opera singers. What inspires me about Renee is what makes her different from other divas – her focus on including the most meaningful facets of a well-lived life that aren’t related to singing, despite the demands and opportunities of being “The Voice.” Renee once explained to me that few international opera stars marry, have children and enjoy a great relationship with their offspring; they are too busy enjoying the opportunities and demands of an international career.
Renee has always prioritized her kids, given back, focused more on others than herself, taken risks, tried new things and helped others. She’s a natural collaborator and an out-of-the-box thinker, working ever smart to grow new audiences for the music she loves and new opportunities for the next generation of artists. This is exactly the type of thinking and opportunity creating we need to achieve my dream of giving every person at least one good chance in life.
“It’s much better to fail while daring greatly than to be a bystander.” Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean Jim Ryan, quoting Teddy Roosevelt. Watch his speech here.
It’s such an exciting time. New technologies accelerate our knowledge and our ability to connect every day. Good people can spread good ideas faster than ever too. For this reason, in my own small way, I have dared greatly too – with Make It Better Media. This has been a journey inspired by a belief that paying good fortune forward is the best way to grow something of enduring value. With the help of so many good people and the inspiration others like the honorary degree recipients, I’m living a worthwhile dream.
As Make It Better Media accomplishes its’ mission to be the most trusted, easiest to use community resource and magazine that helps our audience make their lives and the lives of others better, we’re growing a valuable network of good. More good people, finding more good ways to help, giving at least one good chance in life to those who need it the most.