13th Annual Grand Slam for Children Opening Speech, 2008
On behalf of over six hundred full time students and over one hundred and eighty thousand underserved children all across Las Vegas. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I am humbled that you continue to give so willingly and freely, and that you have entrusted me and this foundation, to direct that giving in a way that reflects your values and priorities. I am more humbled to watch these children rise to the challenge, take pride in their accomplishments and forge a future of their choosing.
Tonight, I feel like I’m standing in front of a volunteer army, an army of compassion, who together are facing down poverty, hunger, disorder and brokenness, and saying “not in this city”, “not on my watch”. It’s my turn to applaud you, who in good years and tough years, never once wavered in your compassion and willingness to reach out to help rescue a child.
Tonight, the 13th Grand Slam for Children, may be our most pivotal and important night together. I wanted this evening to be a more intimate time, enjoying our new surroundings, and taking stock of the things that we have accomplished.
We’ve learned to create a culture of achievement in our young people. To overwhelm ‘where they are from’ with ‘where they are going’. We believe in them, we challenge them and we equip them to take on the world. We never lower our standards for them, we elevate their dreams. With longer school days, a longer school year, and investing in and training educators, we have become much like a second family, and these children are bringing that culture of success back to their own families every day.
We learned that demographics are not destiny. Every life is worth fighting for. A child in a broken home, a broken school, and a broken neighborhood wants to thrive, they’re looking for a way to success, and they can’t find the door. That’s why we have to find them. When we see a young person in need, we have to make a decision, that doesn’t just define us to others, it defines us to ourselves. I know that is why you step up year after year. It’s not just about what you give, it’s who you are.
With challenging news pounding our world day after day, it would be understandable for us to pull back and reign in our goals, but we know that poverty doesn’t sleep, hunger doesn’t sleep, and the battle for an impressionable young soul doesn’t sleep, and so our dreams will not sleep either. We all have many memorable pages written in our life story, but when we change the course of a child’s future, we add a historic chapter to our legacy. It may be the most important thing we leave behind.
Tonight we celebrate changing young lives forever. We celebrate the human spirit. And it’s time for the greatest entertainers in the world to take the stage to help make this night unforgettable. Ladies and gentlemen, our musical director, Mr. David Foster, and the 13th Annual Grand Slam for Children.