By Kelly Astro, Director, Valencia Promise
When I was asked to select a leadership quote that sums up why I have chosen my path in life, many possibilities jumped to mind, but, upon a little reflection, it was a song that quickly rose to the top of the list. And while I could try to come up with a line or two from that song, selecting a few lyrics just wouldn’t do it justice.
“Land of Hope and Dreams” by Bruce Springsteen is the song that has been a source of inspiration for me since 1999 and continues to drive my passion to work for college access and social justice for students.
Standing in a crowd of more than 20,000 people at what was then the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, I remember hearing this song for the first time. As an avid Springsteen fan and concert goer, it was a thrill to hear him perform a brand new song with his E Street Band. But at that time, I had no idea what an impact this song would have on my life.
Music has always been something that has had the power to move me — my emotions, my body, my fighting spirit. I owe this to my mother, a true music lover and the person who danced with me from literally the day I was born. She sings “We Shall Overcome” with me on every Martin Luther King Jr. Day and has traveled with me to 85 Springsteen shows.
But why this song?
The song starts with vocals that sound like the beginning of a gospel choir piece and then those drums and guitars come in. And finally, a single, slightly raspy, voice starts:
At first, one might think this is a very personal, intimate song between two people talking about hard times, but quickly there is the realization that it is much more than that. It is about a “Promised Land” for each of us to seek and find. We might not all get there at the same time or even choose the same pathway for our journey, but, by helping others and by being helped, we can all get there. This is one of the many reasons this song has been used by several political campaigns as a rallying cry for us to work together in our communities and our cities — to ensure that no one gets left behind and that opportunities are there for all who seek them.
Springsteen’s train carries all of us. It carries people of all races, all religions, all sexual orientations, all levels of education. It carries those who encounter misfortune and get derailed, as well as those who work hard and never surrender their dreams.
I believe that everyone deserves access to a good education; that is what brought me to Valencia and to the position I now hold. This summer, as I spoke for the first time with our Valencia Promise-Take Stock in Children students, I told them that we are all on a train; that we are moving down the track; that we will not leave anyone behind; that, if we see someone who is in trouble, we may have slow down and help them get back on track, but we don’t stop because each of them can and will succeed. For them and for all of us, “dreams will not be thwarted, faith will be rewarded.”