By Jon Dunnemann
My biggest reason for lending my voice to integration in all its forms is because I have directly experienced the many benefits that it can produce. From my childhood education, my church membership, my community life, my college experience, my involvement in intercollegiate sports, my travels to other countries, my professional career, and my regular reflection I am reminded of the vital ingredients that are required to build compelling value at the individual and group level. In each one of these familiar settings, I was part of a small minority of people filled with common aspirations, self-determination, and spiritual willpower. I too believed as did my grandparents, that when given a chance and backed by the same amount of resources and encouragement as the next person that I could climb any mountain, sail across any sea, and accomplish any specific goal that I set my mind to.
For the most part, this has proven over an extended period of time to be true for me and others alike. Sure, there were a few things or people that stood in the way. While at other times, the biggest impediment to my forward progress was actually myself. Nevertheless, because of where and how I was positioned, the general company that I was surrounded by, along with the ongoing support that I received, my prospect for achieving a successful life has been much better than that of most kids with only a single parent, being in foster care, and unable to afford a college education without assistance from the federal government. Without a doubt, I am indebted to all who have positively participated in my "becoming" as it equipped me to conduct myself as a responsible husband, father, neighbor and member of society. I am a product of the Great American Experiment here to tell you that it worked.
Consequently, it is my strongly held belief that all of the advantages that were made available to me were not provided just so that I could one day live the "good life" inside of my own little bubble of comfort and safety but rather because the way that this incredible system of caring is supposed to work is that for he or she that has been given much, much will be required. The guiding and unprecedented principle behind this Great American Experiment is meant to remain continuous. Such that in the arduous and ongoing process of being helped by others, learning how better to help oneself, that this all serves as an essential preparation and training ground for the vitally important work of engaging in helping others who are confronting similarly exasperating circumstances so that they too can make steady progress and ultimately become capable themselves of growing out from underneath potentially limiting situations and thereby experience bright new horizons and more promising tomorrows.
Of course the difficulties and troubles that I faced in my youth will not be the same as those of others that I may have the rare honor and privilege of meeting along life's journey. However, what I do share with many others is having actually tasted the grit and gravel of poverty and I have also been made soiled by the stench of pain, struggle and unpleasantry. Yet with God's grace, and all manner of assistance from numerous people early in my life, I've managed to escape defeat, despair, desperation and repeated disappointment. That my friend, is a great victory for their collective generosity of spirit, inclusion, and loving-kindness.
There is absolutely no question, that without these many gifts that today my life would only amount to small potatoes. Instead, both my heart and my potential has been enabled to reach its fullness and I also have the added blessing of having accumulated plenty of healthy seeds of prosperity to now freely share with others.