Excellence, Dreams, and Disrespect - Banda Escolar de Guayanilla

Last Wednesday night I had to pick-up some family from the airport. They were flying in from the west cost of the United States where they had spent the holidays. As I arrived to the airport late that night, really it was already in the wee hours of Thursday I passed three buses from Guayanilla. The buses were at the Luis Muñoz Marin Airport to pick-up a group of young kids who should be celebrated as national heroes.

As we return back to our normal lives following the wondrous holidays, I wanted to share a little of their story. It is a tribute to excellence and to the power of dreaming. First of all, let's get something on the table right away, very few high school bands are chosen to participate in the Tournament of Roses Parade. It is an elite activity which immediately casts prestige and honor onto all of its participants. The event is so elite, in fact, you have to be invited in order to participate, and that is the easy part. After being invited it is then up to the band to finance their own trip to Pasedena California. According to the Tournament of Roses Parade web site, the estimated cost for each band member to attend the parade is between $1,500 and $1,700.

To give you an idea of what that means for the Banda Escolar de Guayanilla, they have 157 members in their band. They also have 33 students who carry flags or are cheerleaders. That's a total of 190 students. Let's use the higher of the two estimates of $1,700, that gives a grand total of $323,000, which excludes the band director and his staff, and a host of chaperons and parents. In total, the entire trip has probably cost them nearly a half a million dollars.

So it is with much perseverance, dedication, hard work, blood, sweat, and tears that a high school band participates in the Tournament of Roses Parade. So what do we do to celebrate their sacrifice? What do we do to honor their achievement? What are we doing to promote more young students to dream big and excel? Well from what I can tell, we aren't doing anything! It just makes me sick that all of our government and business leaders say that "Children are our future. We need to invest in them...blah, blah, blah" Then they turn around and do nothing to support, promote or applaud our children when they do succeed.

Oh but of course, when someone else from Guayanilla came home in defeat from competing in a freaking beauty pageant, everybody was falling over themselves to congratulate her for having represented Puerto Rico. Where is the respect? So what we are saying is beauty is everything. Get a face job and become a national hero. Work hard, achieve international success, dream big and get nothing. And then we have marketing agencies and newspapers wonder "¿Que nos pasa Puerto Rico?" I'll tell you what's going on, we collectively have our heads up our collective asses, that's what! We are stuck in a "matrix" where we believe that image is everything and words matter. Words don't matter, only actions matter. So no matter what anyone says, when local banks congratulate losing beauty queens and ignore outstanding students, it sends a clear message about what they believe is important. And no matter what anyone thinks, it does matter. It is impacting our children and guarantees that what is wrong with us today, will still be wrong with us tomorrow.

My congratulations to the Banda Escolar de Guayanilla, their families, and their schools from daring to dream big. Also to all of the people who believed in them and supported them, and yes Gil I remember you told us about them first, may I thank you for giving us all something for which we can be proud. While the Guayanilla band has to wait three years before they can apply again, let's all do what we can to make sure that the debt they incurred to make the trip, and the next band who dares to make the trip is fully funded and they get the respect and congratulations they are due.