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Thankful for the American Dream

February 1, 2013 by Kerry Ann Moll

I am living the American dream. This I know to be true and I am forever grateful and thankful on a daily basis, not just during this special time of year. Yet I was reminded how wonderful this life that I share with my family was on a routine flight home last week.  I have been given an amazing opportunity at the Bush Institute to share my passion about education leadership with many across the country.  This means that there are times when travel takes me far from home. Last week I was on my 7th and last flight home from travels that had lasted 10 days away from my family when an extraordinary thing happened. In row 39 of my Delta flight back from presenting to State Superintendents at the Council of Chief State School Officers, I was reminded how the drive for the American dream manifests itself in many ways. Sitting next to me in row 39 was a young man, and as we got closer to landing I could sense he was becoming more and more anxious. I asked if he was heading home and out burst from him a long response. Yes, he was headed home; he hasn't seen his wife in 4 months; he’s been serving in the Army; he can’t wait to see his wife and daughter; things had been tough over the past few months.  We continued talking, and I learned a lot from this soldier.  He had just finished his bachelor’s degree online while serving overseas and was grateful to the Army for this opportunity.  He was looking forward to spending the holidays with his family.  He was also thinking about his future. You see, this young man would be finished with his service to our country next summer and had much planning to do while at home over the next few days with his wife.  He was already thinking about ways to provide for his family.  Yet in the most inspiring of ways, he was also searching for opportunities to continue to serve our country.  He knew he wanted to be a teacher, and possibly a coach.  His passion for our country, his current service, and the possibility of a future working with children was beyond exceptional.  We talked for another half hour about Troops to Teachers, Teach For America’s new program for those who have served in the military, and building a life for his family in Texas. It was in those moments before we touched down that I realized my ten days away from my family and three young daughters was just a small sacrifice compared to the months this man had been away from his over the years.  Meeting him was a joyful reminder of the many ways we can all serve and work to ensure everyone has the opportunity to live the American Dream.  I am privileged to spend my time being an advocate for children and the teachers and leaders that are empowered to work for them each day.  I am awestruck by those who work tirelessly to ensure students’ learning so that each may have an equal chance in life to realize the American dream.  And I wish this young soldier, and the thousands like him that are considering teaching after their service, my sincerest thank you and best wishes. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

This blog was written by Dr. Kerry Ann Moll, Director for The Alliance to Reform Education Leadership (AREL) at the George W. Bush Institute.