“Thank You Mom: How Kevin Durant’s speech to his own mother spoke volumes to me.”
This past Tuesday, Kevin Durant received 119 of 125 first place votes and was named MVP for the NBA 2014 season. With tears in his eyes he described all he and his mother had overcome in life. In that moment, this is what he said about his mother, Wanda Pratt: “When something good happens to you, I don’t know about you guys, but I tend to look back to what brought me here…We weren’t supposed to be here. You made us believe. You kept us off the street, put clothes on our backs, food on our table. When you did not eat, you made sure we ate. You went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.”
And a little over a month ago, Actor Jared Leto said the following while accepting his Oscar: “In 1971, in Bossier City Louisiana, there was a teenage girl who was pregnant with her second child. She was a high school dropout and a single mom, but somehow she managed to make a better life for herself and her children. She encouraged here kids to be creative and work hard and do something special. That girl was my mother and she’s here tonight. I just want to say ‘I love you mom, thank you for teaching me to dream.” Fellow Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey also talked about the incredible impact his parents had on him as both a person and as an actor that evening. He said, “Dad, you taught me to be a man and Mama, you taught me and my little brothers to respect ourselves and in turn we learned to respect others.”
Like many of you, one of the highlights of this past winter for me was watching the Sochi Winter Olympics with my children. Appearing throughout the games broadcast on television was a commercial sponsored by Proctor and Gamble, the self proclaimed “Proud Sponsor of Moms.” This particular ad featured the lifetime of falls experienced by a budding figure skater, skier and hockey player, and the equal number of times the athletes’ mothers were there to help them get back on their feet. I was so moved by this ad that I dashed to my computer to learn more about the campaign. I quickly discovered that there were several ads, all designed to serve as a reminder that behind every great athlete there is a mother who drove them to the 5:30 am practices, paid for their first lessons and cheered them on in both victory and defeat.
These ads and speeches invoke a tear in the eye of many who see them because they feature a basic premise that we all know in our hearts of hearts to be true – a loving, supportive parent is the key that unlocks a child’s full potential. Some of us learned this lesson from personal experience. Others had it reinforced by decades of brain science that stresses the importance of the parent-child relationship in human development.
But on this day of all days, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves these questions: What happens to the potential of the child whose front row seat on opening night is empty? What if that Olympic gold medalist had no one there when learning to skate for the first time? And does the NBA MVP ever realize his dream if there is not a mother there to remind him that anything is possible when you believe?
I for one believe that each and every child in this world both needs and deserves a mother. I know the incredible impact my own mother had on my life. Not a day goes by where I am not cognizant of the fact that she made me the woman I am today. So we have a choice to make. We can sit idly by while future Oscar winners, MVPs and Olympians slip through our fingers, or we can connect them to that one loving adult who will champion them and help make all their dreams come true.
By Kathleen Strottman