The American Dream: Quit Assigning Blame and Take a Little Personal Risk

Posted: June 10, 2012 in General
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I was privileged to go and see my little girl’s dance recital yesterday.  Privileged for a couple of reasons, first and foremost I was actually here for it (I missed her very first one).  Second, as my wife was finishing her final, demanding semester of school, I got to be the daddy who took her to the majority of her weekly Friday night, Saturday morning classes.  Third, as the recital began, the owner and founder of the Cumberland Dance Academy, Miss Tara, gave us her story of success, from the initial idea ten years ago, to one of the largest dance schools in the state.  A school that has gone on to win numerous competitions each year along with several students who have gone on to do great thing in the world of dance, including in that coveted city of all things cultural and artistic, New York City.  Three fast moving, but dance filled hours later, I was able to see my daughter in her year long culmination of instruction (thank  you Miss Rene!), along with her fellow classmates in two dances.

In just a ten year history, Miss Tara was able to transform her dream into something I had the privilege, along with my parents from out of town, and the woman I credit with developing what little cultural diversity I have in my life, my beautiful wife, to witness.  We moved from a much better known, but in my opinion much more poorly run school (I will not name the school as she has many faithful students and parents, who are very successful under her tutelage).  While there are the normal issues that can be complained about with any small business, I must say I was truly impressed through the year with the quality of instruction my daughter and her classmates received and the obvious love for their profession of the dance staff at the academy.  Even when the full-time instructors were away dealing with the competition team, the student teachers were able to keep the learning on track, advancing the classes for the next week.  I was able on more than one occasion to witness the “Dance Moms” complain about this or that, as Miss Rene closed the blinds on the window looking into the room, so as not to distract the students.  All that work paid off, for the students and the teachers, as my family and I witnessed close to thirty different dances of the Junior classes, and end with an awesome finale.

In my opinion, Miss Tara and her fine staff is the epitome of the American Dream.  They are successful on many levels, yet I am sure there are occasional struggles and difficulties that just make you wonder why sometimes.  Each and every day, a business like a dance school, there are any number of things that could go wrong, depending on the dollar value it could just wreck an otherwise successful venture.  Yet, Miss Tara and her crew of professional continue on.  Despite the economy and everything else the whole world is bitching about each and every day, they are planning on moving their students into a newer, more modern facility next year in order to be able to handle their growth and still provide their faithful students the quality of instruction they deserve.  I am sure just like any small business there will come a point where they are going to level off, or possibly even exceed the point of maximum effectiveness based of that growth.  I have a feeling, however, that it will be a short-lived bump in the road and they will quickly regain the equilibrium they need to be around a long, long time.

As a military family that will eventually move away from this area, when we go and look for my daughter’s next dance school, I will have a good measuring stick to judge with CDA.  I will have to have a teacher that I can judge has the integrity of Miss Rene when she told me that my daughter was being repeatedly disruptive in class and only had one chance left before we would be asked to take her out of class for the benefit of the other girls in the class.  While taken aback at the time, after just a little thought about it, consultation with the wife, and some serious behavioral modification on my little princess, I was duly impressed by that instance.   This school and the staff, in this economy, was not willing to compromise on what they were trying to achieve in order to receive our monthly paycheck.  That is a rare and dying quality in this day and age.

Miss Tara, ten years ago took more than a little personal risk.  Many people ten years ago probably took the same level of risk and were not as successful and maybe even failed at their endeavors.  I would also bet that CDA’s successful rise has not come with out its ups and downs.  The hard work and no quit attitude has given rise to something great in this area, something that should serve as an example of what the American Dream really is.

In this day and age it is hard for me to look around and find people that actually get what the American Dream is in my opinion.  We have people out of work who refuse to assume responsibility for living outside of their means and cutting down on their expenses in order to be able to provide for their families on a lower salary.  We have people riding around in vehicles that are worth more than my home, before they add all the accessories (through pay-day loans or with loans on the 20+ percent interest plan).  Families in which each and every child has a full-on smartphone with a voice, text and data plan that exceeds their monthly income.  Families that have made careers off of receiving government “entitlements”, passing on from one generation to the next that it is their life to live off the proverbial government “teat”, while wanting more and more.  We also have elected officials that think it is their duty to play a bureaucratic Robin Hood and legislate the charitable contributions of those who actually have worked for what they have, and give it to those who do not even want to put in the effort to file the paperwork that will electronically send their hand-out each and every month into their bank account.

I have no issues with big-business and the big-box stores.  I love the convenience of finding what I want as I walk down the aisles, the price reasonable because they are being bought wholesale in amounts that keep the cost down.  I do, however, like the trend of the local or small chain coming back into being.  There is something about going to a revitalized downtown area and finding something that goes back to the mom and pop days of business.  More and more these days you see the independents thriving successfully right next door to a national chain, which you just may hear about the less than stellar earnings report for xxx amount of quarters.

America is one of those places in which once we have it, we can almost never get rid of it.  This is across the spectrum of everything American: social programs; big business; debt; bad financial practices; political mud-slinging; and the list goes on and on, both good and bad.  The thing that keeps us going is that in between the good things and bad things is the ingenuity and hard work of the average American who understands that part of the American Dream is the journey to get to the end and recognizes the point at which they are truly successful.  There comes a time and point for each generation in which the measuring stick for success, both personal and at large, is changed.  Over the last ten years it has been based upon how much we can consume.  As we have become an obese society (figuratively and literally) we have come to the tipping point at which Americans need to realize that it is not our elected officials who are going to save us from ourselves, but leadership at the grass roots level who will provide honest examples of what is needed.

Look at all our great social advances in the last 60 years, most of which involve civil rights in some way, shape or form.  It took government legislation in order for there to be legal foundation to adjust our social attitudes.  Americans proved up until the 1960s that good old morals and “christian” values were not sufficient to stop the travesties that were prevalent in our most “christian” states in the nation: lynchings; beatings; denial of basic human rights; etc.  Despite the introductions of laws against these and many other crimes, it still took leadership at the lowest of levels to bring things to some sort of enforcement and civility.  It took assigning blame, punitive action where required AND constantly moving forward to provide a level playing field.  Many feel that the field is not quite level, but in the majority of those instances they fail to realize they actually need to contribute more that their own griping about what they do not have in order to realize the value of what is actually available to them.  They fail to see that just because things are available to them that they actually have to go out and get it. sometimes that takes some serious blood, sweat and tears.

Miss Tara is a wonderful example of someone who has worked hard for what they have.  She delivers her product each and every week, and it is a quality product.  Her opportunities were not handed to her, she had to go out and make them.  The opportunities were there, yet she still had to seek and find them, AND actually do something with them when she found them!  While not in the same dollar class as a J.P. Morgan or Cornelius Vanderbilt or any of the other American pioneers of fortune, Miss Tara, along with thousands of other hard-working people across the country are just as, if not more, successful.  Day in and day out they do their duty as Americans.  They pay their taxes, many contribute additionally in a charitable manner, and they provide a place of business locally.  Americans tend to look towards the central government as the solution to their problems, all while bitching and moaning about the quality of service they receive from there.  They forget that everything starts and ends at their own local addresses, never looking for the solution to their problems in the one location in which they could, possibly positively affect their own outcome.

Thank you Miss Tara and your wonderful staff for an awesome finale to the show, and all the great dances that came before it.  Thank you also for a great example of how to be successful and demonstrating for all your students what it takes to do so.

  1. I am in awe of this blog. My jaw is literally dropping to the floor. Thank you so much for all your kind words. I had no idea that I was going to tell my “story” of being broke and on WIC and did’t want to say ex-husband, for fear of feeling like people would think I was a failure because my marriage at that time had ended. However, as I started talking and the words just spilled out and then there was no stopping. So, I really appreciate your gratitude and expressing your kind opinion of my dance school. We will always strive to be the best dance school that we can be. We make mistakes, we make errors, we are not perfect, not even close. But, we try to improve everyday. One of my quotes in the recital program states…”Let’s make better mistakes tomorrow”. I love that quote, because if it wasn’t for making mistakes there would be nothing to learn.
    From my staff and I thank you so much for choosing our dance school, your kindess is always appreciated.
    -Tara Herringdine


    • Tara,
      Thank you for give me such a great example to write about and thank you for passing the word around. You helped me set a record number of views for today. My parents came from out of town for the recital and they were thoroughly impressed as well with the whole show. What you have built is not just a business, it is a place for boys and girls to learn their art as well as their own parts in a team. If my family is still here next season there is no doubt we will be signing Gianna up for more classes.

      I look forward to finding more examples like the one CDA sets to write about. There is nothing better for getting your point across than a perfect example.



  2. Jennifer Knight says:

    Wow! What a great article. I couldn’t agree more. Tara you should be so proud of yourself. All of the teachers there are more than just teachers of dance. Our children learn way more than just dance at CDA. When our daughters are grown a part of who they become will be because of everyone at CDA. We are very blessed to have them all in our lives. Thank you so much for everything you do for our children.


    • Jennifer,
      Thank you for your kind words. You are so right, CDA does provide more than just dance instruction. What the kids there learn will indeed stay with them for the rest of their lives. Tara and her staff have created something special. They give our kids an extra little bit of family and in this community where it is not so unusual to have at least one parent spending a significant amount of time away from home, that is something every child can use.



  3. Rene Watts Marley says:

    I really appreciate this article. I am so grateful that you understand how passionate Tara and the whole staff of CDA is about their students/school. The kids there are my heart & I take pride in teaching them to dance, express themselves & that anything can be achieved through hard work. I love to see the expressions on there faces when they achieve a turn or leap they have trouble with… I encourage them to not give up & work hard. All of the staff of CDA are dedicated to bringing out the best in their students & I am honored to work with them all. Tara has produced a dance studio she can be proud of & I am proud of her for doing so!!!!!


    • Rene,

      I am glad that I can string together a few words that mean so much. The staff at CDA gave me the perfect example I needed to write about what it takes to live the dream and the journey it takes to get there. I really loved that the finale ended with as much, if not more energy than was displayed throughout the entire recital.

      I would like to thank you personally for the awesome instruction you gave Gianna throughout the year, even when she did her best not to deserve it. Her enthusiasm at home each week when she would show my wife and I her dance steps was awesome. We never saw that at her previous school. She could not have accomplished that without the high quality instruction delivered with passion and discipline.

      Thank you again, I hope we have the opportunity to be members of CDA next year. If we are not in the area, you guys have set the bar high for qualities to find in a new school.



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