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Ignite the Light 2013 Speech

Ignite the Light

November 12, 2013

Igniting Possibilities – All Things Are Possible

Speech by

Deborah Cathers-Seymour


It is wonderful to see everyone here today.  Thanks again for coming and for believing that together we can Ignite the Light of beautiful possibilities.  Let’s thank Lori Anderson, Mary King, Barbara Westervalt and the decorating committee for all they’ve done.  Please stand.

What are the possibilities you believe in today?  Hope?  Healing?  New beginnings?  Forgiveness?  Achievement? Recovery?  Service?  Unity?  Sustainability?

The bible says all things are possible and despise not the day of small things.  Every great possibility begins small.  An inkling, a thought, a hope, a dream.  Every great possibility begins to take shape with small efforts that become larger and larger through the sacrifice and dedication of many, many people.  O, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

I realize I am stating the obvious, but don’t we often take the obvious for granted?  The results are all around us, great & small, public & private, the works of leaders, communities, churches, veterans, volunteers of all ages, parents raising their children, students & children doing intentional (not random) acts of kindness & vision.

Erasmus said “give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself”.  I ran into this quote and didn’t know who Erasmus was so I Googled Erasmus and discovered he was an early renaissance scholar & priest who is well worth knowing.  I like him because he had lowly, rough beginnings with much to overcome.  He was born out of wedlock which back then was the equivalent of having a criminal history – it closed doors to employment & opportunity. He lost both of his parents in his youth to the plague but took advantage of educational opportunity available by joining the priesthood.  This led to his becoming a true scholar with powerful influence in academic & religious circles.  Even to this day he is known as one who shaped the direction of history through his impact on people like Thomas More, Martin Luther & William Tyndale, and others.

Many of us are taken with the life story of underdogs overcoming against all odds and making it good.  My own husband has such a story.  Obviously I am taken with him.  As some of you know he overcame a traumatic past full of poverty and suffering not unlike our CYFS kids.  He went on to lead one of the most successful social service organizations in Oregon.

But, whether it is the story of Erasmus, or Jim Seymour, or any of the youth you will meet today, none of these and none of us, succeed without substantial help.

Horatio Algers was a prolific writer in the 1800’s.  All his books were like male Cinderella stories and very popular.  His stories would have us believe that with persistence, hard work and pluck, anyone can become a shining success story.  To quote Harlan Dalton, a professor of law at Yale, “the Horatio Alger myth is that each of us is judged solely on his or her merits (?).  Secondly, we each have a fair opportunity to develop those merits and third, ultimately merit will win the day” and that race, gender, class, wealth has nothing to do with our success.  This myth lets us all ignore institutionalized barriers of poverty, disability, racism, ageism, sexism and other forms of discrimination.

Dalton states “we should give the Horatio Alger myth a rest because it assures us we can have it all when in fact we live today in an era of diminished possibilities”. (Wikipedia)

But, my speech today is titled, “Igniting the Possibilities”.  The promise I have taken to heart all these years at CYFS is, “All things are possible with God”.  So… what I choose to do with the seven precious minutes I have with you today is to point out that there is a third option, another way.  Not only are both ends of the argument true simultaneously, but the “with God” element is the game changer, the wild card that more often than not makes possibility possible beyond our efforts and in spite of the barriers. 

  • That “God element” in the equation typically goes unseen, unrecognized and unacknowledged.
  • But, today that won’t happen, today we honor all three.  We will celebrate all the resilience and courage of kids who overcome against all odds, and today we will celebrate the services we all sustain together to support their success and increase opportunity and today we will celebrate our great loving God without whom most of us couldn’t face the day, let alone take on a worthy sacrificial cause.

Last year well over 2,000 people were served by CYFS.  51 children had a therapeutic home outside of institutional care.  Over 700 received affordable accessible counseling services, 804 adults with disabilities were supported to live successfully in their communities, 262 teens and young adults overcame huge barriers to their education & employment.  143 parents attended educational workshops and events which will enhance their success as parents.  57 children were matched with mentors.

But, sadly, there are still children and families who are turned away.  A gap in resources needs to be filled to sustain this remarkable and essential service.

Thank you for caring about those who have been served and for caring about those who remain unserved.  Thank you for taking a stand for hope & healing and thank you for “Igniting the Light of Possibility”.



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by Dr. Radut.