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Big dreams can come true, son

Updated: December 15, 2013 11:44AM



My 11-year-old boy used to dream of attending the University of Michigan but has visions, at least for now, of playing basketball for Harvard. (Perhaps the influence of the NBA’s Jeremy Lin.)

I tell my son with a chuckle, “Then you better get busy playing basketball!” For I suspect if he continues on the current academic track, he has a fighting chance. But his on-the-court-skills need a little work.

During a casual conversation with an acquaintance recently, I shared my son’s Ivy League aspirations. The acquaintance replied, “Oh, it’s a pipe dream…”

The words struck me strange. A pipe dream? Stunned, I didn’t say anything.

I later told my wife. And let’s just say that if she had been in the room — in the words of Ricky Ricardo — my acquaintance would have had some ’splainin to do.

“Why would [they] say that?” my wife wondered.

“I don’t know.”

I’ll be the first to admit that my racial antennae aren’t always right. And I am still learning to see life in shades of gray. Still, I wondered if my son were white and not black whether my acquaintance — who happens to be white — would have felt the same. Or maybe it was simply that Harvard is on the radar of lots of promising students.

Earlier this year, the Harvard Gazette reported that the university sent acceptance letters to 5.8 percent of 35,023 applicants for admission for fall 2013. Those are slim odds for any kid. But a pipe dream?

Why hope against hopelessness — when a parent is addicted to crack, and there is no food, no relief in sight? A poor Mississippi black girl doesn’t grow up to become a billionaire media mogul. The son of an uneducated maid can’t become a celebrated neurosurgeon. And a mixed race boy with a “funny” name, born in Hawaii, and raised by a single mother, could never become president?

Why hope? Because dreams do come true — by hard work and faith.

I can’t help but wonder how many so-called educators look into classrooms filled with “our” children and see pipe dreams rather than possibilities.

The point isn’t Harvard. (Personally, I’m partial to Illinois. Go Illini!)

The point is to dream and to dream big.

And the point as parents is to be facilitators for your children’s dreams. To provide opportunity, love and support. To never allow our own biases — or anyone else’s — to squelch or diminish a child’s dream. To always see the glass as half full, and the road — even to Harvard — as achievable.

A pipe dream — “a fanciful or impossible plan or hope.”

In the words of the old church saints, “The Devil is a liar!”

I can hear it now, “He’s so uppity and arrogant. He thinks his kids are so-o-o much.”

I do. Duh, I’m a parent.

But I ask, “What could be any more arrogant than telling someone that their kid’s dream is a pipe dream?”

Weeks later, I spoke with my acquaintance, who apologized and subsequently remarked that two of their kids had been accepted to Harvard.

Huh? Say what? So for theirs, Harvard was an achievable goal? But for my kid it’s just a pipe dream?

The acquaintance also “informed” me that Harvard doesn’t give basketball scholarships.

Ahem, we don’t preach basketball. We preach education.

And our boy’s a scholar with Harvard dreams.

Email: author@johnwfountain.com



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