I stood before a room filled with teenagers. They had one thing in common. They were all orphans. Some were abandoned, some lost their parents to AIDS, some parents were casualties in war or were murdered.
“Let me tell you the story of Alex.” I said. “Alex never felt close to his father. His parents fought constantly. One day the father took Alex, his mother and brother to a village far away and abandoned them. They struggled to make ends meet. Not long afterward Alex and his mother caught fever and the mother died. Alex and his brother were taken in by a cousin, but six months later the cousin committed suicide.
Abandoned. Orphaned. Alex was determined to be a man of character. He studied, worked hard, and became so famous that we learn of him in American history. I have such great respect for Alex, I keep his picture with me at all times. Would you like to see his picture?” I asked. “Yes”, the teens replied, nodding their heads.
I reached into my wallet and pulled out a $10 bill. “The picture is of Alexander Hamilton, the personal secretary to General George Washington, Signer of the Declaration of Independence, First Secretary of the Treasury, writer of many Federalist Papers. Though he was an orphan, he became a man of character and did great things.” I said.
A boy stood up in the audience and declared, “I will be Alex of Uganda.” Another boy stood, “I too will be Alex.” Then a girl stood, “I too.” Then another, and another orphan stood and said, “I will overcome trauma and shame and be the next Alex of Africa.”