The following was written by Lance Manning, a member of the PEP Dallas Advisory Board who works as a R&D startup consultant with the Larta Institute.
Recently, thousands gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “March on Washington”. Our nation considered the purpose of the original event and what it meant for civil rights. Video clips of the “Dream” speech reminded us of the vision for unity, compassion, and equality for all citizens in this great nation.
During the same week, I attended an event in Dallas for the Prison Entrepreneurship Program hosted by the Communities Foundation of Texas. We were there to celebrate the United Way of Dallas’ three-year, $750,000 investment in PEP. Local leaders in business, government, and philanthropy attended and learned about the origins of the Program and heard the personal testimonies of some of our graduates.
John M. told of his many trips to prison and how he’s determined not to go back. Because of his choices, he lost people dear to him and hope for a good life. Graduating from PEP and getting a job upon release gave him hope. He is the first felon hired by a local auto dealership who changed their hiring policy because of the Program’s reputation. He has been promoted and asked to consider this as his career track. He now speaks of being strengthened to live up to the expectations the PEP community has for him.
Clarence C. is a very grateful man who has recovered from some bad choices made earlier in life. The entrepreneurship skills he has honed through the Program motivated him to start a services franchise business. PEP gave him the know-how and motivation to pursue his dream and be an entrepreneur. Later this month, he will be on the Steve Harvey Show to share his story.
As I sat in the audience, I wondered about the “dream” of Dr. King. What did he want for future generations? I felt impressed that our Program – executives helping the encarcerated help themselves -might be part of his vision. The handshake of brotherhood that is PEP symbolizes hope, encouragement, and economic prosperity for hundreds of men and countless others in their circles of influence.
The message conveyed on this souvenir pin from 50 years ago was a driving motivation for the march and is a modern-day emblem of the power of entrepreneurship reflected in the ongoing success of the Program.
Entrepreneurship is a proactive quality championed by self-reliance, faith, confidence, and the power to take charge of one’s economic future. It’s not about waiting for the government to do something. President John F. Kennedy said it best, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Helping others achieve economic self-reliance when much of society has turned their back on them is what PEP is about.
The dream for jobs, freedom, and economic prosperity is alive and well in Texas.
Fellow entrepreneur and Dallas Maverick’s owner, Mark Cuban, spoke of entrepreneurship as something bigger, something to consider for a nation in economic malaise. “The cure for what ails us is the Entrepreneurial Spirit of this country. We are a nation of people who encourage, support, and invest in those of any and all age, race and gender who will use their ingenuity and come up with, a new idea. It’s always the new idea that re-energizes this country…… Now is the time for Entrepreneurs to step up and do our part for our country. It’s up to us to start businesses and create jobs. That is the cure to this country’s economic problems.”
PEP is stepping up.
We are citizens united for a better future. This pin given out at the March on Washington 50 years ago represents the dream of equality and prosperity for all. Through dedication, through unity, through entrepreneurship, we are honoring Dr. King’s dream for a better future for all citizens.
Lance Manning with Participants in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program