Space Shuttle Discovery hitched a ride to its final destination, a museum in Northern Virginia. As it passed by United Way Worldwide's office, I gathered with our staff on the edge of the Potomac River to witness a ceremonial flyover of our Nation's Capitol. I realized then that this moment was the realization of a dream that many thought impossible.
In the mid 20th Century, the concept of spaceflight seemed far-fetched to many. Even as the United States announced it would be the first to put a man on the moon, it was unclear how we would do this. The technology didn't exist and while innovation in space exploration was rapidly gaining momentum, the notion of man walking on the moon seemed more for the dreamer than the realist.
But indeed, another great achievement of humankind was reached and a thousand barriers broken. As we reached toward the stars, space innovation spurred a mini renaissance in developing new materials and spurred new inventions. The space program has affected so many aspects of everyday life that we rarely think about.
But it got me thinking. In fact, it inspired me to dream. As a community, we're strongest when everyone has access to the basic building blocks of life: a quality education, financial stability and healthy choices. At United Way, we challenged America to tackle a few of our greatest challenges:
- Cut the dropout rate in half by 2018 and work toward community that affords every child the opportunity to graduate able to read and ready to succeed.
- Cut by half the number of people who are financially unstable and work toward a community that affords all people the opportunity to achieve economic success.
- Increase by 1/3 the number of people who lead healthy lives and work toward a healthy and vibrant community
We may be bold enough to set these goals, and there might even be skeptics today who believe these challenges are insurmountable. But we believe achieving them will take the same collective spirit and determination that drove success in the space program. We won't be successful if the burden of improving the education, income and health of our communities lies solely with school officials, doctors and financial advisers respectively. There's a role for everyone with the energy and passion it takes to make a difference.
You could be the difference between a student deciding to drop out or stick it out. National Volunteer Week is a great time to renew your commitment to the common good. United Way is helping to recruit one million volunteer readers, tutors and mentors to give America's students the boost they need to succeed in school. Take the pledge to become a volunteer reader, tutor or mentor today!