Thomas Marino - Why I Believe Memphis Academy


“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

In 2003, I was taking the TCAP test as a junior at White Station High School. Almost immediately after the test started, the student sitting next to me fell asleep. He slept through the entire test. Thinking back on that memory, I must admit, I am deeply bothered by the contrasting experiences of myself and the fellow student beside me. I have since had to ask myself – what are the systemic factors in a school that allow some students to feel invested, while others are left out? What would it look like for schools in Memphis to prepare all students for high academic achievement? What would it look like for our schools to empower, inspire, encourage and equip every student to reach their highest potential? And, what can I do to help build that reality?

Roosevelt gave The Man in the Arena speech in 1910, but he might have been talking about education in Memphis 2017. I want a thriving Memphis, and I want a Memphis where every child has access to an education that I would demand for my own child. It is likely impossible to separate those two desires. I look around our city and see people and organizations relentlessly working to make this a reality. Cheering them on from a distance is comfortable, but it is hard to change lives from a distance. So, the question is before me: stay on the sidelines or enter the Arena? By serving on the Founding Board of Believe Memphis Academy I hope to meaningfully contribute toward helping our city flourish.

The vision of Believe Memphis Academy is to ensure that ALL students have mastered the fundamentals of literacy and math and are prepared and encouraged to overcome any adversity to succeed academically, as well as in life. I am excited about the team Danny Song is building and the inevitability of changed lives and communities in our city. Danny’s sense of urgency for the mission and convivial demeanor is just what is needed for the job at hand.

Let’s get to work in the Arena. Together let’s cultivate a thriving Memphis.

Danny Song