March 31, 2011
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As some of you may know, each year thousands of young adults from across the country apply for one of the most competitive and coveted internship programs in the nation – a White House internship. There are only 140 spots available and each applicant goes through a rigorous application process that makes getting into an Ivy League college seem like a piece of cake. I am told that the essays are judged for grammar, and that each applicant is assessed against their commitment to public service and their leadership potential. Most of the applicants come from elite academic institutions and my guess is that they are not short on support to help raise their profiles amidst the fray. I could imagine helping my own son or daughter find just the right adjective to spice up their essay to differentiate it from the rest. I could also imagine combing through my contacts file to see if I knew anyone who could advise us on the best way to win this brass ring for the little Chertavians. Well, I am pleased to say that two of Year Up’s students stepped up to the plate and grabbed that brass ring for themselves. They competed and beat thousands of other applicants on their merit, and earned the opportunity to serve their country as White House interns. Like all of the young adults that we have had the honor to serve over the past decade, we know that they are the true assets in our society, and our goal must be to provide them with the access and opportunity that they deserve. It is ultimately a self-motivated goal, for we need their talent and leadership to ensure that our country remains competitive and our standard of living continues to rise.
Last week, Year Up had its Board meeting in the nation’s capital at the Year Up National Capital Region (NCR) site. We were honored to receive a tour of the White House by…..drum roll please….these two Year Up students. What an inspiration! With security badges fluttering in the breeze, our two students deftly guided us forward amidst the metal detectors and security officers. Think of the circle that this represents. From a founding class of twenty-two students on the 5th floor of a Boston brownstone to being hosted by two of our wonderful students as we walked through the rooms of the most influential building in the world. Dr. King once said that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. On this day, I could feel it bend….just a little, but it did bend.
As we walked through the rooms of the White House, I was reminded that until very recently all of the faces on the walls were of one color. That is no longer the case, and whatever your politics may be, we are a better nation as a result. I wondered how our two interns – both African American, both from very low-income backgrounds – felt as they walked alongside our Board members, and listened with us to the stories of our nation’s founders. I am hopeful that they felt that the American Dream was not a dream but a reality; a reality for them to grasp and to enjoy. I wholly recognize that two students do not change a country, and this small bend in the “arc of the moral universe” may well be imperceptible, although as long as we keep walking, as long as we keep bending, we have hope, and with hope we have a future.