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Finneran: A Night at the Theater

Friday, January 26, 2018

 

It was a cold raw night, as so many nights have been this winter.

Patrons tip-toed along icy sidewalks, at serious risk of taking a bad fall. Traffic inched along as it always does, creating angst about missing the opening act.

Once inside the patrons relaxed, although I suspect that the actors and actresses were very much on edge. It was “Opening Night” for them and their nerves were likely fraught with anxiety.

This was not a downtown theater crowd with its hushed pre-performance murmurs. This was a boisterous, talkative, and proud crowd of classmates, parents, and grandparents. For you see, this was a middle school play. Kids from eleven to fourteen or fifteen years old—sixth, seventh, and eighth graders--- were about to put on a show.

The lights dimmed and the crowd went quiet. The moment had finally arrived.  The curtain rose. It was showtime, time to shine.

Wow.  Did those students rock. For two glorious hours they rocked.

I thought of the talent they displayed. I thought of the time they put in. I thought of the teamwork they learned. And I thought of their teachers and the very special connection they have with their students. These students are blessed, not with privilege, not with wealth, but with something far more precious. They are blessed with caring loving adults.

There’s not a lottery ticket in the world that’s more valuable than the parents and teachers those kids have.

I tried to calculate the many hours, the many days, the many weeks of choreography, practice, and rehearsal. I thought of the discipline and devotion required to pull it all together. And I witnessed the joy of the kids as they rose to the occasion.

An odd but reassuring thought crossed my mind. I thought that America will be fine after all.

I know that media commentators—paid handsomely to stir the pot, chase ratings, and create discord---suggest that our country is breaking apart, that the future is foreboding, and that the “other side” of our riven politics is pushing us to ruination. What bunkum. What nonsense.

The kids I saw on that stage are our future leaders. I’m confident of that and I’m confident that they’ll do well by America. It was a classic American mix of boys and girls, black, brown, white and beautiful mixed shades.

They worked so well together. It was delightful to see their embrace of the play. They knew that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts, that their roles were important but that the success of the night required them to submerge egos in the service of the entire performance. They put the project ahead of their individual contributions and in doing so they brought the house down.

They sang, they danced, they shimmied, and they shook. Their teachers beamed and the parents looked at each other in wonderment. Was this their child? Was this the same son or daughter who needs to be told ten times to set the table or clear the dishes?  Or to put the phone away and get their homework done? Oh what a wonderful transformation we witnessed.

The students will put on another play this Spring. My wife and I will be there, enjoying our own version of a night on Broadway. We’ll look at each other and shake our heads at our good fortune—good kids and good grandkids, good teachers too, doing good things together. We are blessed.

 

Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio

 

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