Keeping the Dreams Real

From Bill O’Reilly’s article, “What President Obama Can Teach America’s Kids”:
“Consider the odds. The United States is a nation of more than 300 million citizens. Only one person is currently the Commander in Chief. That man had no fatherly guidance, is of mixed race, and had no family connections to guide him into the world of national politics. That adds up to one simple truth that every American child should be told: ‘If Barack Obama can become the President of the United States, then whatever dream you may have can happen in your life.’ It all depends on lessons learned.”

Is anyone else tired of this “you can do anything you dream” bullshit that we, the spoiled children of “the greatest country in the world,” have been spoon-fed since we entered grade school?

It doesn’t “all [depend] on lessons learned.”  Yes, quite a bit of what one can achieve depends on lessons learned and effort put in–but quite a bit else depends on ones’ affinities, character and even physique. Examples of individuals who have overcome incredible adversity to rise to a position that once would have seemed impossible do not prove that every individual can overcome any and every adversity.

In fact, I think the majority of what one makes of oneself depends, not on “lessons learned,” but on the ability to constantly engage, over the whole of one’s life, in a 3-part process: first, recognize where your talents lie; second, recognize your deficiencies and which of them might be overcome; and third, embrace both your talents and deficiencies in order to make the absolute most of yourself and your life.

Or maybe all we really need to do is change the way we evaluate the meaning of achievement. Achievement is not becoming some specific type of person or reaching some specific position; it’s achieving joy, positivity and the ability to transmit both to others. I could never be a professional ballerina with any of the top companies of today, because I don’t have the flexibility, and that’s an insurmountable physical limitation I became aware of long ago.  I can, however, recognize that I possess natural talents in other arenas and that I’ll be able to contribute more to the world (and to my own ultimate sense of accomplishment) if I pursue those talents.  Of course, sometimes recognizing one’s talents can lead, in unexpected ways, to overcoming the original deficiencies; for example, perhaps I could pioneer a highly-reputable dance company comprised of graceful and well-trained–but relatively inflexible–dancers.  (I wouldn’t, by the way, be the first to try.)  I also wouldn’t necessarily succeed.

I’m not saying everyone should give up on activities they love just because they don’t happen to be skilled at them. I stuck with ballet for 15 years (over the course of which it was made very, often painfully, clear that I was not professional material), and I still take classes whenever I can.  And if I had truly felt that nothing could make me as happy as dancing, I’m sure I could have found a smaller company to join somewhere. That is what’s so cool about this country and many other parts of the world: there’s both enough variety and enough freedom of choice out there that we can all at least give a fighting chance to whatever lifestyle suits our fancy. But I could never be a prima for ABT, and not everyone (or anyone) who wants to be president of the United States could make it there for all the effort and “lessons” in the world.

I just think–or I hope–we can all learn to love what we can do and make the most of it–for our own sake and everybody else’s.

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1 Comment

Filed under Opinion & Essay

One response to “Keeping the Dreams Real

  1. Kathleen

    That is what’s so cool about this country and many other parts of the world: there’s both enough variety and enough freedom of choice out there that we can all at least give a fighting chance to whatever lifestyle suits our fancy. But I could never be a prima for ABT, and not everyone (or anyone) who wants to be president of the United States could make it there for all the effort and “lessons” in the world.

    Very well put. It made me a little misty thinking about how great it is to be able to pursue what you want to, to your satisfaction rather than another person’s definition of success.

    And I agree with you about that everybody can be president b.s. It teaches kids to evaluate themselves based upon certain markers of success that are biased and inaccurate. Why can’t a kid aspire to be a really awesome baker and still feel like he/she is doing something amazing?

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