The saying goes “shoot for the moon– even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Some of us, without perhaps having ever heard this saying, just know this instinctively. Throughout life, I’ve always been willing to give something a shot– why? Well, maybe when you start off with nothing, there just doesn’t seem to be much to lose.
25 years ago, there was a scholarship fund in NY that took a poor little girl out of the hood and sent her to a lily-white community in New England. As the daughter of a single mother, who was an immigrant without a college degree, I did not share much in common with my boarding school peers– except in the academic arena. Thanks to the generosity of others, I was afforded every opportunity that my classmates were given to achieve, and I made a life-altering choice to make the best play out of the hand that I was dealt.
In the last couple of years, we can all see how this social science experiment has worked out– I’ve expanded beyond your normal legal career and become an author, lecturer, legal commentator, and local tv host. At 40, I get to share ideas on a level that many would never even dare to dream of, and much to the chagrin of some of my older colleagues that would prefer I keep my mouth shut about alternative dispute resolution methods. Indeed promoting healthy relationships and out of court settlements is not going to bring in as much money to many legal service providers, but what they fail to understand is that I wasn’t bred to focus on finances– I was inspired by some of the best thinkers in this country to share great ideas and build on the work of others to help all those around me.
A few months ago, Arianna Huffington spoke at GW, which is my alma mater, and she said that you should never underestimate someone. She gave the example of a mosquito in a room, and how that one tiny creature could make your life miserable when you are trying to go to sleep at night. Well, I guess I’m like that mosquito. Because I can never repay the people who provided me with such amazing opportunities in my academic and professional career, not only do I try to pay it forward, but I want everyone else to think about what they could do to help improve our communities and inspire the next generation.
I wish I could have been born with a trust fund so that I could support so many of the great causes out there, but I accept that fate had something else in store for me. Although I may lack funds, I do not lack ingenuity. Using my connections, I do my best with my weekly pro bono tv show to promote local non-profits and healthy families, and in addition this month I will plant some more seeds at my son’s elementary school as a volunteer for Junior Achievement. The icing on the cake will be heading to NY next week as the guest speaker for the annual Oliver Scholars luncheon– now this was the program that gave me my first big break in life, and if there is one thing I want to make sure those donors realize is that there money is definitely being well spent. Even if none of the Oliver Scholars ever reach the moon, they will fall among shining stars.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.