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from Sharing in the American Dream

Colin Powell

Colin Powell's life is a true American success story. From a humble childhood in the New York neighborhood of the South Bronx, Powell rose to become one of the most powerful and influential people in American politics.  Powell began his thirty-five year career serving as a soldier during the Vietnam War.  He rose quickly through the ranks to assume the most powerful Defense Department position--Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff--shortly before the Persian Gulf War. Powell's calm voice and steady presence were reassuring to many Americans during the nation's first major war since Vietnam.

In 2001, Powell became the first African American to serve as Secretary of State, an official appointed by the President to make key foreign policy decisions.

In 1997, Powell found the volunteer organization America's Promise to give other children the same chances to succeed that he has enjoyed.


Over 200 years ago, a group of volunteers gathered on this sacred spot to found a new nation. In perfect words, they voiced their dreams and aspirations of an imperfect world.  They pledged their lives, their fortune, and their sacred honor to secure inalienable rights given by God for life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness--pledged that they would provide them to all who in habit this new nation.

(aspirations: strong desires or ambitions)


They look down on us today in spirit, with pride for all we have done to keep faith with their ideals and their sacrifices.  Yet, despite all we have done, this is still an imperfect world.  We still live an imperfect society.  Despite more than two centuries of moral and material progress, despite all our efforts to achieve a more perfect union, there are still Americans who are not sharing in the American Dream.  There are still Americans who wonder: is the journey there for them, is the dream there for them, or, whether it is, at best, a dream deferred.

(deferred: delayed)


The great American poet, Langston Hughes, talked about a dream deferred, and he said, "What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun, or fester like a sore and then run?  Does it stink like rotten meat or crust and sugar over like syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags, like a heavy load. Or, does it explode?"...


So today, we gather here today to pledge that the dream must no longer be deferred and it will never, as long as we can do anything about it, become a dream denied.  That is why we are here, my friends. We gather here to pledge that those of us who are more fortunate will not forsake those who are less fortunate.  We are compassionate and caring people. We are a generous people.  We will reach down, we will reach back, we will reach across to help our brothers and sisters who are in need.

(compassionate: deeply sympathetic)


Above all, we pledge to reach out to the most vulnerable members of the American family, our children. As you've heard, up to 15 million young Americans today are at risk...


In terms of numbers the task may see staggering. But if we look at the simple needs that these children have, then the task is manageable, the goal is achievable.  We know what they need. They need an adult caring person in their life, a safe place to learn and grow, a healthy start, marketable skills and an opportunity to serve so that early in their lives they learn the virtue of service so that they can reach out then and touch another young American in need.


These are basic needs that we commit ourselves to today, we promise today.  We are making America's promise today to provide to those children in need. this a grand alliance. It is an alliance between government and corporate America and nonprofit America, between our institutions of faith, but especially between individual Americans.

(alliance: a group united for a common goal)


You heard the governors and mayors, and you'll hear more in a little minute that says the real answer is for each and every one of us, not just here in Philadelphia, but across this land--for each and every one of us to reach out and touch someone in need.


All of us can spare 30 minutes a week or an hour a week.  All of us can give an extra dollar.  All of us can touch someone whole doesn't look like us, who doesn't speak like us, who may not dress like us, but needs us in their lives. And that's what we all have to do to keep this going.


And so there's a spirit of Philadelphia here today. There's a spirit of Philadelphia that we saw yesterday in Germantown.  There is a spirit of Philadelphia that will leave Philadelphia tomorrow afternoon and spread across this whole nation--30 governors will go back and spread it; over 100 mayors will go back and spread it, and hundreds of other, leaders round this country who are watching will go back and spread it.  Corporate America will spread it, nonprofits will spread it.  And each and every one of us will spread it because it has to be done, we have no choice. We cannot leave these children behind if we are going to meet the dreams of our founding fathers.


And so let us all join in this great crusade. Let us make sure that no child in America is left behind, no child in America has their dream deferred or denied. We can do it. We can do it because we are Americans....