When you are child you learn about the power of a promise. The importance of honoring commitments to friends, adults or even family members starts at an early age, and overtime helps to define your character. You learn that when you break a promise, no matter how small it may seem to you, it can damage a relationship or your reputation. The reason is simple: trust.
Institutions such as companies, nonprofits and even the government also make promises, and their earnestness and follow-through are a direct reflection on their values. Unfortunately, the reality is that not all organizations embrace the "promise is a promise" philosophy today. But when you find one that does, and that is focused on important issues, the best response is to "go all in" to help them fulfill their aspirations.
Last week I had the privilege of attending the Inaugural America's Promise Night at the Howard Theater in Washington, DC. The event brought together leaders across the country who are focused on the acute challenge of high school dropout rates. The good news is that America's Promise LEADS by example in honoring and delivering on their promise to young people. They are a nonprofit alliance who has been devoted to helping create conditions for success for all young people since 1997, including the millions currently being left behind. Today they are the nation's largest partnership of its kind, bringing together hundreds of national nonprofits, businesses, communities, educators and ordinary citizens behind the idea of making the promise of America accessible to all young people. Their work is powered by the belief that all children are capable of learning and thriving, and that every individual, institution and sector shares the responsibility to help young people succeed.
They frame their work around Five Promises that we believe must be made and kept to every young American by providing: caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, an effective education, and opportunities to serve. With the supportive environment of these promises at work for young Americans, they believe they can reach a tangible goal: a 90% graduation rate by 2020.
The power and importance of the promise is the recognition that young people who experience at least four of the promises are far more likely to succeed academically, socially, economically and civically. That's why the Alliance works to keep the Five Promises to as many young people as possible.
The lesson and power of example of America's Promise applies to individuals as much as institutions. Specifically, trust is built through a series of experiences shared with others. When behavior is consistent, faith in the relationship develops. When promises are broken or people are misled, the bonds of trust are breached.
There was a time in this country when keeping your word held special significance. People took great pride in being of good character. Personal integrity was both expected and valued. That was a time when everyone knew each other's family, and you wouldn't do anything that would cast a shadow on your family's good name. It was a time when integrity was instilled in children at a very early age and was viewed as instrumental in achieving success. The truth is, our world may have changed, but the importance of integrity has not. While we may not know everyone in our own town, the world is still smaller than you think.
Your Word Is Your Bond remains a powerful and contemporary proverb passed down from generations, and every time you give your word, you're putting your honor on the line. You're implying that others can place their trust in you. Spending the evening with the leaders from America's Promise was a powerful reminder that in our complicated world there remain organizations that "get it" and are using heartfelt and empirically based "promises" to literally change lives each day by galvanizing groups to a common purpose.
The Penn Foster team is proud to be playing a small role in helping America's Promise deliver on their ambitious goals to changes lives. We have their back on helping to deliver on the promise for the next generation of youth.