Friday, February 8, 2008

Walking the walk into the next generation

I'll never forget the look on that kid's face.

On stage a lone man stood. His voice rang out, crisp, clear and strong. He was talking about how, for years, he was the property of another man. How he wasn't able to chase his own dreams. How, no matter how hard he broke his back in the fields, the money he earned went into another man's pocket. How all he knew was this life....

It wasn't possible for this man to dream about anything much different since this was the only life he knew. Eventually, through various circumstances, this man woke up a free man for the first time. He asked the audience to imagine how that would feel. The kids joined him in a mighty roar of "HUZZAH!"

And there the little boy sat, fixated, listening, unmoving.

(Not sure how many of you are parents, but to get a third-grade kid to sit still and listen is a feat unparalleled.)

Austin Steward, played with conviction by David Dwayne Clark, captivated the mind of this child -- and many others in the audience at the Hochstein on Thursday morning -- with his tales of going to school for the first time at the age of 23, sitting with children who knew more than him in order to learn to read, write and do math, and chasing his dreams of owning his own business. The impressionable minds of the young audience absorbed each and every word of Steward's messages of education, hard work, and the power of the indomitable human spirit.

And that look on the boy's face I spoke of earlier? My words can't do it justice. It was like he was seeing hope for the first time. He looked stronger, if that makes sense, all through hearing the struggles of a man who lived hundreds of years prior.

This is the reason Walk the Walk is so important. Sure, it's a celebration of heritage....sure, it's a voice for the common threads of history that tie us all together...sure, it's even a commentary on the shared human experience. However great those reasons are, they pale in comparison to this one: if it gives the hope and strength to persevere and achieve great things to at least one child faced with hardship, it has served more purpose than most of us can ever aspire to in life.

Posted by Laura Keeney Zavala, Director of Marketing

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