My New Year’s Day tradition is watching the Rose Parade. I have had the good fortune of attending the Rose Parade in person in the past, spending the night on the streets of Pasadena to sleep a little and wake up in my sleeping bag to watch the parade. This year’s Rose Parade theme, “Inspiring Stories,” produced so many memorable and important inspiring stories. In the past I would watch the parade in person and take pictures or watch it on TV. This year, I watched the parade on TV and on my computer while following the #roseparade Twitter stream and checking out picture posts of people on Facebook and Instagram. In case you want to read about all of the floats, check out the online program guide here. Here are a few that struck a chord with me.
First, the Grand Marshall was Louis Zamperini whose story was told in the movie, “Unbroken” which I did watch a week ago. I did not know Mr. Zamperini’s story until watching the film nor the fact that he lived in California. Unfortunately, Mr. Zamperini passed away earlier in 2014. Seeing the float and conversation reminded me of the determination of so many people in the face of unimaginable challenges of war.
Second, the story of 82-year-old Joan Williams, an African American woman who was denied the right to ride in the parade in 1958 highlighted how people of color were discriminated against because of the color of their skin. Forbes Magazine provided an excellent article entitled, “Racism and redemption at the tournament of roses parade.”
Third, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation float highlighted the Ebola First Responders and especially highlighted Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, a Sierra Leone doctor who treated Ebola patients and helped fight the Ebola outbreak, and then himself, contracted Ebola and died at the age of 29. (Last year, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation float included a same sex couple who exchanged vows). This article provides a nice overview about the importance of combating stigma and fear and respecting all people regardless of their sexual orientation.
Next, the float “Sikh American Journey” highlights the religious and cultural journey of Sikhs in America. Following the 911 Islamic Terrorist Attacks in 2001, there has been needless discrimination and killings of Sikh Americans across America. This float included an image of Valarie Kaur, a former student of mine, when I taught at Alta Sierra Intermediate in Clovis Unified and founder of the Groundswell Movement. Another example of the importance of respecting all people regardless of their religious preference or the clothes they may wear.
The parade float entitled “Donate Life, Done Vida” highlighted the importance of organ donors who have saved so many lives. Medical breakthroughs over the past 20 years have made all of this possible. Another inspirational story.
Finally, the float entitled “Dream Big” highlighted the contributions of teachers. Many people focused on the fact that Jack Black was on the float sitting next to his middle school teacher, but the greater focus is the impact that teachers make on students every day! Thank a Million Teachers is a program worth checking out. It is important to remember the impact an encouraging word can make on every person, no matter how young or old, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, or their religious preference. Happy New Year!