Business

Access & Opportunity

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A few years ago, I heard former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speak at an event.  She shared part of her life story growing up near Birmingham, Alabama, in the late 1950s and 1960s. She graduated from high school in the early 70s.

She shared a story about her grandfather.  As a very young man, he was a sharecropper in Alabama, but he went to high school and wanted to continue to college.  So, he worked the fields, saved his money and earned enough to go to a local college that was also a Presbyterian Seminary.  He completed his freshman year, but ran out of money and was preparing to leave college when he noticed some of his classmates were staying.  He asked how they managed to stay in college.  The reply was, “They have scholarships to go to Seminary and become Presbyterian Ministers.”  As Rice tells the story, without batting an eye, her grandfather replied, “I always wanted to be a Presbyterian Minister.”  She notes, since that moment in time, members of her family have always been college educated – and Presbyterian!

Her parents, both educators, taught her that she had the opportunity to be anything she wanted.  They stressed she was not entitled to anything, but there was a world of opportunity out there – anything could be achieved through hard work. She also realized that she was fortunate to have family support. .

In 2017, one would think everyone should have that sense of optimism, but unfortunately, that is not the case.  Condoleezza Rice had strong role models. Many children, many of today’s adults, grew up without parental support, encouragement and role models.  There are situations where the support system for children does not exist, which leads into their adult lives.  That is why a special focus on Access & Opportunity is needed.

I see more and more adults, who grew up without role models, turning their lives around.  Most of the time, it starts with a first job opportunity, hard work, some continuing education, but most importantly a positive vision of what they want their lives to be.  That is why businesses in the Harrisburg region are supporting programs like the Access & Opportunity Conference, to encourage and offer access that leads to opportunity.  The Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC is pleased to support this important event as it leads to more opportunity for more people in a region filled with opportunity for all.

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