------- Note: This post originally appeared in an earlier effort, what I now consider a "draft" blog (The ModBlogger), which I no longer maintain. I am migrating those initial blog posts, including this one, to Tracking Breakthroughs because I'd like them kept somewhere. And maybe someone will find them of use.
If you didn't know about the PS22 Chorus, you probably do now. Did you catch the Oscars last night? To close a somewhat uneventful 83rd Annual Academy Awards show, the finale featured children from New York's P.S. 22 elementary school singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and ended with the academy's winning stars flooding the stage behind them. You could see their hearts, children and adults alike up there in the spotlight: over the rainbow isn't somewhere, it's here for me, "I oh I", right now. (I'm not sure I can embed a video of this moment at the Oscars without infringing on copyright - so here's a link instead. Enjoy!)
I love that song. Every year Judy Garland made my heart stop as a child when she sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow in ABC's annual The Wizard of Oz re-broadcast (my parents always always let me stay up late to watch that one movie, even if it was a school night). And I never tire of IZ Kamakawiwo'ole's pure melody and simple ukelele. Another equally mesmerizing rendition? I didn't think it was possible.
In the Oscar's finale, the melodies and harmonies are certainly lovely (though nothing beats Garland or IZ). But what knocks us over are the children.
When the camera pans through the group, it comes in close, one child after another, and you look right into their eyes as they sing their hearts out. And unlike traditional choirs (thanks to Director Gregg Breinberg), each child interprets the song with movement as they sing. They rock their heads back and forth to the music and they tell the story with their hands. Each one of them creates something different of the song. And in unison.
Models for us all
And once again I am struck by the light in each single person and how important it is that we keep that light shining over the course of each entire life. The cameras show us: Look at these children. Look what they can do when they are allowed to shine. For these kids, it's music. They can sing and they are given a unique opportunity to perform (especially in this age of underfunded public schools that often eliminates art education). But all people can be fueled by passions in many forms in their lives and their work, just like these kids. We all have Superpowers.
People are a precious resource. As yet as a society, we squander people. We don't provide enough opportunities for enough people to contribute their unique gifts. And too many people don't make it a priority in their own lives and work to shine that particular, special light.
P.S.22 in Staten Island, New York received a GreatSchools Rating of 1 out of 10 on state test results. Seventy percent are eligible for free lunches so many of their families struggle. Yet, here this small group of 40-50 kids from that same school get to shine. With the confidence and thrill of doing what they love, these kids will most likely shine in many ways as they grow older.
Most of them probably won't be rock stars. But I'm willing to bet all of them will find ways to fill their lives and work with passion and purpose because they know what it feels like to do what they love and to have an effect on people; with that kind of experience, anything is possible. (And I bet most of them are beating those state test averages, too; just a hunch.) All people have potential to shine in their own unique ways.
As the new global economy unfolds, it's more imperative than ever that we apply our greatest resources to our greatest challenges: people. I believe strongly that we must find ways for all children to shine and that the right kind of education is a national top level, first priority. But just as importantly, we adults - at any age - must cast our light, too.
Somewhere over the rainbow can be here for us, too.