A cloud of sickly green smoke filled the stage and a maniacal laugh pierced the sunny morning. Maleficent arrived to proclaim that Disney World was now “a place where nightmares come true.”
Obviously, our valiant hero Mickey Mouse wasn’t going to let this happen. He pleaded with the audience to believe in their dreams; Maleficent could only be defeated if they believed in their dreams hard enough. “Let’s say it together now. Dreams come true, dreams come true, dreams come true.”
The crowd, however, didn’t respond to the participation element. I heard more of the recording than anybody actually chanting. With a boom, fireworks shot out and Maleficent was vanquished.
From the moment you walk onto Main St. in the Magic Kingdom, you enter a fantasy land where “if you can dream it, it can happen.” All Mickey asks is that you believe in your dreams and the magic will take care of the rest.
Disney, through its influence on the lives of children growing up in America, lends its voice to the American dream. Rather than the “roads paved with gold” that immigrants heard about before they arrived at Ellis Island, the dream has morphed into a road of infinite possibilities, determined solely by your ambition.
Yet behind all the fireworks, you must eventually arrive at a bold statement: the only reason why your dreams didn’t come true is because you didn’t believe in them hard enough.
As I stood there listening to the applause, I looked over at my dad, who was taping the performance. I wondered what he thought of the whole thing. “Don’t make mistakes,” he would always tell me. My dad’s doctrine always focused on reducing mistakes. Being meticulous and preventing mistakes ahead of time was the only way to reach your goal. Anything worth doing is also worth checking.
My parents learned this philosophy firsthand growing up in China. The school system they attended was completely performance based. Grades were based on mid-term and final exams; the college process hinged around a single, long, comprehensive standardized test. A mistake meant you wouldn’t get into the college that you dreamed of.
Oddly enough, after all those stressful teenage years, my parents opted for the medical field, where their decisions carry serious consequences. My parents succeeded by practicing a lot of self-discipline, double checking work and minimizing any chance of error.
My parents’ model offered a different answer from that of Disney. If I fall short of my goals, it would be because I wasn’t meticulous enough, simple as that. “Don’t make mistakes,” my dad would always tell me.
How could my dad stand there, smiling as he taped this performance? Didn’t he see the apparent differences in philosophy? There was Mickey, smiling his unwavering smile and waving at the audience, offering his message of faith. Then there was my dad, urging self-discipline as the only way to success.
No matter which way I rotated or flipped the two doctrines, they wouldn’t mesh. Yet there was my dad, fully able to reconcile what he saw with what he preached. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that they are actually responding to different questions. Disney is trying to distill what the American dream stands for. My parents actually subscribe to Disney’s philosophy; the reason why they left their families and ventured halfway around the world was because America represented opportunity.
Belief plays an integral part in furthering the dream, because you must first recognize the opportunity is there. My parents are simply trying to teach me how to take advantage of the dream, what it requires, and what will aid me. The two philosophies didn’t represent two roads heading in different directions, but they are pieces of the same puzzle, which, if pieced together, gives us a way to fulfill our dreams.
This is Kevin Tang’s Junior Declamation.