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Susan V. Bosak

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Web of Dreams
Legacy Project

CHILDREN AND TEENS SHARE THEIR HOPES AND DREAMS
FOR BARACK OBAMA'S INAUGURATION

A Letter from Educator, Bestselling Author, and
Legacy Project Chair Susan V. Bosak


Adults have cast their votes in an election that held the world's attention for months. Now it's time for children to know that they have a voice too and to feel that it's being heard – by their parents and grandparents, by their teachers and other important adults in their lives, and by the President-Elect of the United States of America. I'm inviting children across the country to participate in the Legacy Project's Web of Dreams. We'll deliver your messages to President-Elect Barack Obama for his inauguration on January 20, 2009.

Barack Obama

For me, this story begins almost three years ago, in May, 2006 at the International Reading Association Conference in Chicago. Two teachers rushed up to me excited about using my new book Dream with their students. They also said that they needed another copy for someone else. They were volunteering on a campaign, they explained. They were helping this man. He was going to be the next President of the United States. They asked me to sign a copy of Dream for him. When they told me his name, I asked them to spell it – slowly. It was an unusual name. And then I wrote the inscription using a line from the last page in the book: "To Barack Obama,
Be a Dreamer! – Susan V. Bosak." In the context of Dream, a Dreamer is someone who works to make a difference in their own life, in their community, and in our world.

Over the last few months, I've wondered what Barack Obama thought when he received Dream. I know he's an avid reader, and though Dream is in some ways a simple book, I believe he would connect with its multilayered themes. I've also wondered whether he shared it with his young daughters Malia and Sasha. The very last line in Dream is: "Dream a dream, your very own dream." Every child should have dreams and goals – and the confidence and opportunity to pursue them. That's what the Web of Dreams is all about.

We've called this the Web of Dreams for a couple of reasons. First, it speaks to the power of the World Wide Web in the twenty-first century. The use of the Web was a big factor in Barack Obama getting his message out across the US and to a world-wide audience. The Web is connecting people around the globe in ways they've never been connected before. And the Legacy Project is using the power of the Web to bring all young people together to share their dreams.

The second reason we've called it the Web of Dreams is because all our dreams are connected in so many ways we may not even realize. A child's life can be the realization of the dreams of their parents and grandparents, who often have supported and sacrificed, perhaps even immigrated to a new country for a better life for their children. Our dreams as individuals and communities are built on the work and ideas of people who have come before us in history. And we can only solve the big challenges we face, like global warming, by coming together to achieve the dream of a healthy, peaceful world. Each of our personal dreams is also made possible because of the help of other people.

Barack Obama would not have been elected President without the support and votes of millions of people who saw their hopes reflected in his vision. His goals for the country will not be achieved without the ongoing participation of everyday citizens. And Barack Obama's dream is connected in a very real way to the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr, because Barack Obama was
"not judged by the color of his skin but by the content of [his] character." This is a historic moment, to be sure. More importantly, it's what I call a "legacy" moment.

A "historic" moment is any occurrence that may be a first – a simple time reference. A "legacy" moment is transformational; it adds a fundamentally human dimension to a time marker. Said The Washington Post the day after the election: "It is momentous for the generational change it heralds, the geographic realignment it reflects and the racial progress it both acknowledges and promises. [It is] momentous for the opportunity it presents to put the country on a new and better path, imbued [as Obama said in his election night speech] with a new spirit of patriotism, service and responsibility."

A legacy moment is about a bigger ripple through time.
It is built on what has come before, and changes what comes after. It is usually an empowering moment that speaks to people on both a personal and community level. The concept of legacy is fundamentally the most powerful concept we have for addressing the challenges of the twenty-first century. It's about understanding the big picture, the ripples through time that come from the past and proceed to the future. Legacy at its worst is a burden across generations and at its best is a gift. It is the coming together of what you have been given, what you can create, and what you give back. The power of the concept of legacy fueled my dream to help found the Legacy Project and is why I'm working so hard toward the dream of an international, multigenerational Legacy Center. At its core, the Legacy Project is about education for children and adults. Education is the means through which we fulfill our greatest hopes and leave a positive, meaningful legacy for generations to come. "Education," said leader and Nobel Peace Laureate Nelson Mandela, "is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." The Legacy Project's educational programs develop individual potential, strengthen intergenerational relationships, and explore the ways in which we affect our world, which reflect the three ways each of us create a legacy starting from the time we're children.

The election of Barack Obama is indeed a legacy moment. And it doesn't matter who you voted for. Said Barack Obama after the election, "This speaks to a fundamental recognition that here in America we can compete vigorously in elections and challenge each other's ideas, yet come together in service of a common purpose once the voting is done."


The Web of Dreams is about education and it's about giving children a voice. It's a chance for young people to participate directly in a legacy moment that will affect their future. It will run to the inauguration of President-Elect Barack Obama (we'll collect messages until the end of inauguration week, January 23). It's a great tie to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on January 19. And
February 12, 2009 marks 200 years since the birth of one of the most important and beloved US presidents, Abraham Lincoln, in 1809 in Hodgenville, KY. With all these events coming together, this is a moment in time that deserves to be explored and understood.

I'm personally inviting schools, families, churches, youth groups, and others to participate in the Web of Dreams. Follow these three steps:

1) Children and teens each create a Dream Star. Write your name on the star and a dream for what you would like to be or do when you get older, and/or a dream for your country or our world. We have basic templates you can use, or you can create your own Dream Star. Be creative in decorating your star to reflect who you are. After you count your total number of Dream Stars, display them in a prominent place to inspire everyone who sees them – young people as well as teachers, parents, and other adults.

2) Work together as a group to write a message to Barack Obama. This is designed as a group writing experience which also encourages discussion between young people and the adults in their lives. Young people may choose to craft individual messages first, then bring them together in a common message. The common message can include parts of the individual dreams, or develop one or two shared dreams for the group. You can also share an inspiring quotation or poem, your dreams for America or the world, or your words of advice for a President whose decisions will affect your future.

3) An adult contact uses the online form to submit your total number of Dream Stars and your message for Barack Obama. We'll post submissions on the Web of Dreams page so that you can read and discuss them. We'll also have a running grand total of the number of Dream Stars submitted. We'll send your messages to Barack Obama to inspire and encourage him, and remind him of all the dreams his work as President affects. And my dream is that on January 20, 2009, schools, homes, and other buildings will be filled with Dream Stars celebrating the hopes and dreams of young lives filled with promise and potential.


As an introduction or follow-on to making the Dream Stars for the Web of Dreams, you can share the Dream book and use the Legacy Project's LifeDreams activities. Here are some specific activities I'd suggest:

  • Find out more about the inauguration and what it means. The C-SPAN website offers information about inaugural addresses, an Inauguration Worksheet (PDF), and lessons about inaugural addresses of these five presidents: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, George W. Bush. The White House Historical Association website offers a history of presidential inaugurations including the oath, symbolic gestures, and a trivia quiz.

Club of Dreamers
  • Children and teens can join the Club of Dreamers, which is the title of
    a central illustration in Dream of famous people throughout history who have made a difference in their own life and the world. Learn about these people and what they achieved. Find out more about a Historical Hero that inspires you. Barack Obama has said he has been inspired by the work of people like Martin Luther King, Jr. At a 2007 Selma Voting Rights March Commemoration he said,
    "I'm here because somebody marched. I'm here because you all sacrificed for me. I stand on the shoulders of giants." As he prepares to take on his duties as President, Barack Obama is also reading the writings of Abraham Lincoln. Our dreams and goals are built on all the people and ideas that have come before us, and we can affect the people – particularly our children and grandchildren – and ideas that come after us.

  • If there were a next page in Dream, it would be the reader's dream. Create The Next Page in Dream using words and art to explore and express a dream for yourself, your community, or our world.

  • The Dream Chest in Dream is a magical portal between "what is" and "what can be." Make your own Dream Chest to discover who you are, and start working on a Life List.

  • The Web of Dreams means different things. It means our ideas and hopes can be connected through the World Wide Web. It means you can have many dreams. And it means your dreams are connected to the dreams of others. Explore your Different Dreams and Draw Your Dream Web.

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day falls one day before the inauguration of Barack Obama. Explore the connections in the activity A Dream Realized: From Gandhi to King to Obama.

  • February 12, 2009 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. Explore this historic anniversary with Big Thoughts.

  • Stars have emotive value. Even the youngest child relates to the idea of making wishes on stars. In Dream, each of the 15 top illustrators has hidden a star somewhere in their illustration. Find each star and make a wish – a new wish – with each one you find! There are also symbolic stars in the flag of the United States of America. Find out about those stars and create your own Dream Flag.

  • "Sociobiography" looks at how the big story of the world relates to the little story of you. Using the writing tools of a journalist, write about Connecting to a Legacy Moment, like the election of Barack Obama.

  • It's one thing to have a dream. It's another thing to make it happen. Find out how to Believe, Do, Think your dream into reality, and consider the One Thing you can do to start achieving your dream.

  • Children and teens can learn about real life from real people, about how to achieve goals and overcome obstacles, by interviewing older adults to enter the Legacy Project's annual Listen to a Life Essay Contest.


The Web of Dreams is a way to connect children and teens to the important adults in their lives and to a moment in history, a legacy moment. It's a way for young people to know that their dreams and goals are worthwhile, and that they can make a difference in their world. It's also a chance for adults to renew a promise to do everything they can to support the dreams of the children around them.

As I visit schools across the country, we started the Dream Chain. Students in each school make Dream Stars with their dream or goal for themselves or our world. They package their Dream Stars in a decorated box or bag. I give them a Dream Star package from the previous school, and give their gift to the next school. Children are connected across communities in a special and meaningful way. But the real delight for me is the delight I see in their faces when they share their dreams. Schools often have Dream Stars displayed in the hallways when I visit, and each child is excited to show me their star and watch as I read it. When I do a Parent Night at a school and children's stars are displayed, I see boys and girls tugging at parents and grandparents as they search to find their star posted on the wall and proudly read it aloud.

Dreams give your life purpose, direction, and meaning. They shape your life choices, help you build toward the future, and give you a sense of control and hope. They're an expression of your potential and give voice to your talents. They're a source of pleasure and help develop the self. And they can change the world.

Listen to the dreams of children. It empowers them, and it reminds us of hopes we may have forgotten or assumed impossible as adults. We have one mouth and two ears so that we can listen more than we talk. Children need us to listen to them. I'm listening. President-Elect Barack Obama is listening. And you can listen every day, in the big and small ways that matter most of all.


Click here to read the Web of Dreams submissions

© Susan V. Bosak, www.legacyproject.org

Dream

Dream by Susan V. Bosak is featured in the children's section of bookstores across the country, including Barnes & Noble and Chapters/Indigo. Sales help support the Legacy Project. Read a description of this award-winning bestseller, check out the reviews, take a peek at some of the remarkable illustrations. Click here to find out more about Dream.

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