Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Quest

The President made the following remarks as part of a White House celebration of Broadway Theater on July 19, 2010

“Over the years, musicals have also been at the forefront of our social consciousness, challenging stereotypes, shaping our opinions about race and religion, death and disease, power and politics. But perhaps the most American part of this truly American art form is its optimism.”

My Mom, for years, was an accomplished director in community theater in the greater Cleveland area. A career highlights was a production of Man of La Mancha in a little theater called Clague Playhouse. Then theater couldn’t have had more than 250 seats at full capacity. I was still in High School at the time, but couldn’t help being impressed by her attention to detail and her command of the material. Rehearsals were thorough and all the players were well prepared for opening day. Her direction, notably the brilliant collaboration with her musical director, resulted in rave reviews. I remember it like it was yesterday, even though in reality it was easily more than thirty years ago.
If you know the play, you know it is a great inspiration. Don Quixote spends so much of his time chasing windmills (he says are dragons) and accepting the Knighthood (Knight of the Woeful Countenance) with a shaving basin (he believes to be a golden helmet) and befriending Sancho Panza (as his loyal servant) in a series of fantastic adventures. Though delusional, our hero helps the entire cast of characters (and indeed the audience) realize that pursuit of a dream can have an incredible and profound impact on all of those around you. The director (my mother) knew, all too well, of the power of this message.
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go
To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star
This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far
Today, Mom is advancing in years and suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. She wouldn’t remember the music or the play. But she fights every day and I’m proud of her struggle against the odds just like that play’s protagonist. I know I’m not alone in being inspired by her efforts so many years ago. I realize only now how really important and exponentially large that selfless contribution to community theater really was. It brings a smile and a tear when I remember it. I love you Mom.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Why so Optimistic?

A short answer:
There tens of thousands of individual volunteers in communities big and small who conduct thousands of service projects each year, serving millions (young and old) to make the world a better place. The investment is in hours and dollars, annually and the generosity is staggering. It is something, of which, we should all want to be a part. Together we can accomplish so much.
A longer answer (and mostly opinion):
The longer answer could very well involve a lot of anecdotal stories that help illustrate the goodness that comes from even the seemingly small acts of kindness. George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart in the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life is a illustration of the impact one person can have on so many others. He’s a great character who finds himself in a depressed state over a setback involving the financial institution he runs in the small town of Bedford Falls. Lucky for George, Clarence the Guardian Angel helps him see what an impact he’s truly had on his friends, family and neighbors. The movie is a holiday classic, but I invite you to view it any time of the year if you need a reason to reach out to people in need (Children in particular).
Life is not always easy. Interestingly, the impact we can all have is harder to see when all is well and there is no adversity. It’s when the going gets tough, and we face challenges (sometimes against impossible odds) that it becomes abundantly clear just how beautiful and precious life can be. Everybody needs help, some more than others. To borrow from a popular song: People who have people are the luckiest people in the world.
The glass is not half empty. There is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s always darkest just before dawn. Every dark cloud has a silver lining. Yikes, these clich├ęs are repeated so often you got to hope they don’t lose their intent and become empty sentiments. People want to be optimistic. It’s so very important not to forget why. We need to believe in the power of action, in deeds. They speak so much louder than words. Words are so completely inadequate to express what every Optimist knows in his or her heart. Thank You.