SPEECH: 30 Years of Opportunity

On November 29th, The Doe Fund celebrated its 30th Anniversary at its annual Gala. Founder and President George McDonald made the following remarks to commemorate the occasion and set the organization’s course for its next thirty years of work.

Our city’s first homelessness crisis turned our streets into a purgatory of desperation and deprivation.  But when we truly listened to what the people wanted— the chance to go to work; the chance to build whole and good live for themselves— we knew we could answer them…with opportunity.

To think that 22,000 times, we’ve been able to extend that hand UP…is because of what each and every person in this room shares: a belief in the inherent value of all human beings.

Thank you for believing in that with us.

We answered the homelessness, and drugs, and destruction on our streets with opportunity.  And, in the process, the people we served healed themselves, their families, and transformed our neighborhoods.

To have been a part of that…to have been an agent in it…it’s an incredible thing.

Thirty years later, we’re here not just to celebrate those lives, but to recommit ourselves to our belief, the belief in Human Capital.

Because while we  can  all  see  homelessness spilling back onto our streets…and recognize the urgency of this work now more than ever…

What we DON’T see are the thousands and thousands more lives, equally deprived and desperate, locked away and hidden in our prisons.  

They’re there for the same reason our shelters are full and our streets are overrun.  They have spent their lives deprived of opportunity.

The children of our poorest communities — The Children of New York — have had their fates sealed and their paths prescribed. Poverty will lead to drugs.  Drugs will lead to crime.  Crime will lead to prison.

Unless we are standing outside that system— and it IS a system…brutally efficient from cradle to cell—

Unless we are outside that system, offering a hand UP, we will lose another generation of fathers and brothers and sons…men like Lawrence. Young men like Angel.  

Just as we were outside Grand Central Terminal all those years ago with the promise of opportunity, we will be there to bring the brothers, and sons, and fathers of New York home.

We must; our belief requires it of us.  

The Doe Fund, the organization Lawrence called a miracle,  is a miracle to me, too.

That we could come together, as we do each and every day, and close our hands and arms around people whose value has been underestimated and undermined… and all work together to lift their lives up— That truly is a miracle.

That this organization could become one of the few, precious constants in life by serving lives in transition.  That is truly miraculous.

I cannot thank you all enough for helping to create that miracle; for meeting us on these thousands of journeys with your generosity; and for believing in the power of opportunity— and helping us deliver it to so many people.

Thank you and good night.

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About Author: The Doe Fund

Founded in 1985, The Doe Fund provides life-transforming services for the homeless, the formerly incarcerated, disenfranchised youth, and people living with AIDS. The organization's flagship Ready, Willing & Able program has helped tens of thousands of individuals achieve permanent self sufficiency through paid work, transitional housing, and employment training.