I’ve written many times about how the social web is teaching us and opening us up to a greater understanding of ourselves and the world we live in. This week, I witnessed first hand the power of relationships, the immediacy of the social web, and learned a great lesson in tolerance and understanding, and dare I say, faith? I’ve written a few times casually about how I’ve been personally affected by the downturn in the economy. As a result of my own economic crisis, I was turned down as a worthy co-signer for Amie’s student loans. Mostly I have felt awful about the prospect that I would be the one, in the end, who stood in the way of Amie’s dream of going to New York University. Of course University of Texas, Austin is an excellent school, but Amie’s heart already moved into the dorms at NYU. For good reason, she convinced me over the past few months NYU is where she belongs and where she aims to fulfill her lifelong ambition to contribute toward improving our imperfect world.
Last week, Amie graduated with honors from Westwood High School. Here she is pictured at the Erwin Center donning her IB bling. I forced her to stand with the Capitol Dome in the background to snap this photo. You can see how enthusiastic she is by her expression about the prospect of linking her graduation to Texas and UT. The reward of graduating from such a difficult school in such a competitive program was eclipsed by the heart-breaking disappointment that Amie would not be returning East to continue on her academic journey. To Amie’s credit, she accepted her fate and began to let her friends in the Northeast know she would be staying in Austin.
On Friday, last week, I was “facebooking.” A friend asked me a question on my wall regarding where Amie would be going in the fall. The difficulties we’d been having had been chronicled on my Facebook page for months, so a wide range of my friends were curious about Amie’s ultimate college decision. When I responded to my friend that we were unable to send Amie to NYU and she’d have to attend UT Austin in the fall, I received a pop-up IM from another friend who was on Facebook at that moment. That friend was Greg Grosh. He asked me why Amie couldn’t go to NYU, and I explained all the details over IM. Greg’s reply? “I’ll be happy to co-sign Amie’s student loans.” My knee-jerk response: “Are you fking kidding me???”
As it turns out Greg, who is in what he calls his “second retirement” is affiliated with The Point Foundation which “provides scholarships, mentorship, leadership training and hope for students of merit who have been marginalized due to sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.” Greg is helping a few kids get through school and is willing to help Amie too. This news floored me on a few levels. First of all, the cosmic connection here is Amie is more connected to gay friends and family than anyone I know. Her father is gay, in fact. I’ve always been mildly uncomfortable with the gay community that surrounds Amie. Greg’s generous offer has forced me to take a hard look at my own repressed intolerance. Reading the literature on the Point Foundation’s web site has done me a world of good. I encountered something similar (via Facebook again) a few months ago relative to racism. Who knew I was a racist?
The SocialWeb that connects us is breaking down the ignorant walls that divide us. I’m living proof of the power of the SocialWeb to challenge our entrenched, stereotypical, ignorant biases by exposing us to new ideas and new freedoms. The second meaningful outcome relative to Amie’s new opportunity is related to generational poverty. Getting Amie to NYU is symbolic to me. Although I’m certain Amie would have done well at UT, the opportunity to attend a private university should break the cycle of generational poverty that has been shadowing my particular branch of the family tree. I was the first one to attend college in my immediate family, although I never completed my education. There have been many debates over the value of a good education. I could probably argue both sides persuasively. My most convicted arguments would fall on the side of pro formal education, however. It’s taken a lifetime of “breaking the rules” to understand this, but in this new era of social mobility and connection, I believe it now more than ever. Further, if this is the generation that is going to finally set things right, they’ll need all the ammunition they can stockpile. And the reinforcements they’ll need will come in the shape of empathy, knowledge, and compassion for those people and places that exist outside of our comfort zone.
So, congratulations Amie. You’re going to NYU. Thank you Greg for your generosity, and thank you Mark Zuckerberg for keeping us connected and integrating our public and private lives. Oh, the biggest news here is Amie finally signed up for Facebook. My rebellious day-dream believer is now a digizen.