News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Not a bad way to fail

Cartoonist Chip Bok of the Akron Beacon Journal has it all wrong. Bok wants us to believe young African-Americans are replacing one unrealistic dream (being an NBA star) with another (becoming president of the United States). This is a very short-sighted view.

Dreams are the most powerful force in any young person’s life. Without dreams, we flounder. A role model is often the embodiment of those dreams, someone a young person can point to and say, “that’s going to be me someday.”

Of course, few of us ever reach the dreams of our youth. But it’s the striving that makes all the difference. And that’s why the role model of Barack Obama will be a powerful influence on so many young lives in the days ahead.

A young person who prepares for a career in pro sports has little to fall back on. Only a fraction of high school athletes ever compete in college. And less than 1% of those who play in the NCAA ever make to the pro ranks. Yet, even those fortunate few who manage to make a living from sports enjoy only a few short years as professionals. Then what? No fall in income is more precipitous than that of a pro athlete at the end of his or her playing days.

Bok is right about one thing: the dream of becoming president may be even more unrealistic. But what will happen when a young person falls short of that dream? At worst they will be well-educated, involved in the community and motivated to achieve.

Not a bad way to “fail,” is it?

Raul Ramos y Sanchez

No comments: