On June 9th, long-time pro bono client “I Have A Dream” Foundation honored the firm and specially recognized New York Corporate Partner Rory Greiss and Retired Partner Peter Fishbein at its annual Spring Gala, for their years of service in support of the Foundation.
Peter served as chairman of the Foundation’s board of directors; Rory currently serves on the board. Both Peter and Rory have rendered legal advice to the Foundation since it became a firm client in 1996. Other attorneys have advised the Foundation on corporate, IP, tax, litigation and other issues throughout the years.
The Foundation’s extraordinary story begins In 1981, when businessman Eugene M. Lang returned to P.S. 121, the elementary school he had attended in East Harlem 50 years earlier, to address a class of graduating sixth graders. He intended to tell the students, “Work hard and you'll succeed.” But on the way to the podium, the school principal told Lang that three-quarters of the school’s students would probably never finish high school, prompting Lang to make an impromptu change to his speech: He promised college tuition to every sixth grader who stayed in high school and graduated.
Lang told the class about witnessing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington. He urged the students to dream their own dreams and promised to do all he could to help them achieve their goals. As he got to know his "Dreamers," Lang realized they needed more help than he could give all 61 of them on his own. He hired a full-time Program Coordinator and enlisted the support of a local community-based organization to provide services and support to the children through high school graduation. At the same time, he maintained close personal relationships with all the Dreamers.
By August 1985, all of Lang’s Dreamers were still in school. He began responding to news media inquiries in the hope that others would be inspired to replicate what he had done. It worked. A front-page story in The New York Times and a segment on 60 Minutes led to widespread national attention. Thousands of inquiries began pouring in, and in 1986, Lang formed the national “I Have A Dream” Foundation to help launch a new generation of “I Have A Dream” programs.
Since then, over 200 “I Have A Dream” programs have operated in 28 states, Washington, D.C. and New Zealand, together serving over 16,000 Dreamers.
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