This past Thursday, our staff and students celebrated Republic Day, a national holiday that commemorates the Constitution of India coming into effect. Mahatma Gandhi led India to independence from British rule in 1947. Three years later on January 26, 1950, the already adopted Constitution came into effect and completed India’s transition to becoming an independent, democratic republic. On this 67th anniversary, all were reminded of the freedoms and liberties that have been promised to them as citizens of this great nation.
Republic Day is a major national holiday (similar to Independence Day in the United States) and no classes were held. Instead, all of the children and faculty gathered for the festivities around the flagpole under colorful awnings. The children participating in the Scouting program led visiting Board Members and sponsors their seats.
Songs were sung, prayers were offered, speeches were given, and numerous awards were handed out that the children had earned from the previous year.
It was humbling and inspiring to see award after award after award being handed out. Knowing the conditions of the colonies where so many of them come from, it was very special to witness their accomplishments.
Despite the poverty and stigma, through Rising Star Outreach and the sponsors who are so generously committed, these children have a bright and hopeful future.
Board member, Jeri Colton, gave quite a moving and inspirational speech. She has kindly offered to share it with us.
Thank you, Dr Susan, for the privilege of speaking to your wonderful students, faculty and staff at Rising Star Outreach. I am grateful that you would ask me to speak on Republic Day, an important day in the history of India, the day that honors the beginning of your Constitution.
I first came to Rising Star two years ago and I loved being here so much that I came back the next year with my friends and then I came back again this year with my sister and my friends. And I will come back again next year and because I love India, I love Rising Star, and I love the promise and hope that you, as students today, and the leaders of India tomorrow, have ahead of you.
As I thought about what to say today, I read the first part of your Constitution and I now more fully understand and appreciate the hope and opportunity that you have ahead of you.
Your Constitution, like mine, makes some very big promises to you. One of those promises is liberty or freedom and your Constitution promises you freedom of thought, freedom of expression, freedom of belief, freedom of faith and freedom of worship. Rising Star makes those same promises to you … the freedom to think and act and believe and dream as you choose.
Your constitution promises you equality … equality of status and opportunity. Rising Star makes this same promise to you. You can be and do anything you choose to be and do. The only limitation ahead of you is the conviction of your own soul. My own father grew up in America as a very, very poor boy with a father who mistreated him badly. Fortunately he had a mother and an uncle who loved him and taught him that he could be someone and he became the president of a big company. And he was a good father to me and my sisters and brother.
Your constitution promises you fraternity, meaning brotherhood and belonging, assuring the dignity of the individual. Rising Star makes this same promise to you. As a person of faith, I believe that we are all God’s children, that He created each of us, and that He loves each of us and He wants each of us to know and feel His love.
Every life has challenges. My life has challenges. Your life has challenges. My advice to you is to turn those challenges into stepping stones. Your Constitution supports you, Rising Star supports you, God supports you, and you need to carry the conviction in your heart that you are valuable and capable and that you can make a difference in your own life, in the life of your family and your community and your country. In the Bible, God tells Joshua … “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” God has been with me in my life and He will be with you in your life.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today and may God bless each of us. Thank you.
– Jeri Colton (pictured below)