My life has not been easy. Like many of you (and the majority of those who came before us), my beginnings were not promising, but the opportunity to undertake a journey toward hope was there. That is the magnitude of freedom: the ability to act with hope and achieve through faith. I welcome the opportunity to share my fight with you in the hope that perhaps in the triumphs of my struggle you will find hope in your own.
I was born to a 15-year-old mother. My father has been in prison since I was 2. Regardless of circumstances, my mother worked every day to overcome the adversity that life and choices put in front of her. She failed more than she succeeded, but such is generally the case in the pursuit of happiness. Our actions aren’t necessarily for the benefit of our own welfare, but instead those who follow us.
For the first half of my life, absolute poverty was my constant companion, and yet I was always rich because I knew that the future would be brighter through my action. I had hope, optimism and impossible dreams, and that was greater than all the wealth the world could provide. Most often, like you, I was the only one believing that what shouldn’t happen would happen. I worked hard and, with my twin Aron, was a first- generation high school and college graduate. The day I received my master’s degree was such a triumph because no one could have foreseen such a tremendous outcome 33 years prior, when that teenage mother held her twin boys in her arms with no promise other than hope for an unknown future.
For me, that is America, the ability to make a life of hope from the ashes of despair.
I have spent the last 11 years of my life serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, and this has ultimately led to my current deployment to Afghanistan. For me, serving in the Marine Corps and being forward deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom has been a privilege because of the opportunities my community and nation have afforded to me. Every day I look around me and see a lot of guys who are just like me; they didn’t grow up in wealthy homes or have a lot going for them in their lives from the outside looking in. But from inside looking out, they have a steadfast hope inspired by the idea of America: namely, that regardless of the failures that seemed to come continually, success was just within grasp with their continued persistence.
Persistence is the only thing that will tick off failure enough for it to get out of the way of your success. So persist.
In my lifetime, I have seen a change in our nation and I know that you have felt it as well. Those very values that embodied our shared spirit of persistence often feel taken out of our hands and out of our control. It is easy to look around, much like I do here, and see little reason to be hopeful. But you have to remember that the measure of a champion is in the ability to stand ready when the moment of opportunity comes. It may be the case that those distinct moments are few and far between, and come in the midst of tremendous adversity. But that has been the American story from the beginning: remarkable triumph despite the appearance of absolute hopelessness.
We forget most of the time how amazing an opportunity we have. This is because it has been our generation that has seen huge financial ups and downs, as well as had to endure the longest-fought wars in U.S. history. It is a shock to have things seemingly so perfect and dependable suddenly become so confusing and unreliable. But America has been a place where century after century what shouldn’t happen does happen, where people dream the impossible dreams regardless of the opposition.
That is who we are: ruggedly determined doers. We comprise the fullness of an enduring promise, and we must never forget that out of the peoples of many nations came forth one nation composed of many peoples where anything was possible, even if born in the arms of a 15-year-old mother.
I wanted to let you know that I believe in you, and I hope that you will be more by doing more: Always hope, always dream, and always persist. Victory is just around your corner.
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