Almost a year ago today, I got a nod from the Academy when the documentary Inside Job was nominated for an Oscar! I was an Executive Producer on that critically acclaimed film, so brilliantly directed by Charles Ferguson, and seemingly just as relevant today.
Reflecting back on 2011 with its financial roller coasters, its Occupy Wall Street, its Euro Crisis, its many Arab Springs, I'm even more conscious of the need to commit to a world where "hope" can still exist -- hope for access to a good education that prepares students for the job market, hope for an environment that is currently negatively affected by both rising energy consumption and rising climate threats, hope for fiscal discipline (just today The Hill wrote how roughly three-quarters of deadlines for implementing the Dodd-Frank financial reform plan have been missed!).
And so, wearing my Philadelphia Eagles hat, where I'm an owner and the President of Eagles Youth Partnership (our charitable wing), I see the world of sports as having "its moment" to positively impact communities around the globe. In my case, I see how the enormous popularity of one's city football team can bring together our fans, our team, our partners -- and have us all work together in our community to change it for the better.
It's an amazing bonding to see in action, as fans take the passion they have for a pastime and convert it into making a difference on much more serious matters than arguing whether the offense should run or pass more often. Our platform allows us to build awareness on a myriad of issues, whether it's environmental protection, health care (in the form of our Eye Mobile -- "if you can't see you can't read"), education, breast cancer.
Last December, an international organization, Beyond Sport, awarded us the title of sport team of the year, saying what we do in the community we do better than anyone else. One hundred and thirty countries and 28 sports participated in this competition. The award was given in Cape Town, South Africa, during the Beyond Sport Summit that drew more than 1,000 people from around the world, all dedicated to using sport for social good.
The Eagles shared the stage with other award winners whose work demonstrated the power of sports to change, and in some cases, to save lives:
• It's hard to imagine using surfing to re-engage a street child in South Africa who is homeless, hungry and disconnected. But using surfing as an entry point, that same child did learn to deal with his trauma and could begin to build a meaningful life.
• Same thing with yoga! It was used to teach HIV+ girls, victims of the systematic rape and torture of the genocide in Rwanda, to form a healing relationship with their own bodies.
• Similarly, "play" was used to educate low-caste children in rural Nepal to overcome the discrimination they face to reach their potential!
These are just a few examples but they are powerful ones that clearly tell this story -- that the freedom of athletic activity, the joy of being a fan, can be the spark that lights the flame of change for the better.
As I embark on this new year, one thing I know for sure is that my Eagles team will continue its work off the field... Sports is too powerful a medium for us not to use it to provide "hope." It can bridge divides and reduce crime. It can be the entry point for education and for the delivery of public health initiatives. It can help many of us make a meaningful and sustainable difference in the world. Let's all take action, however small it may be, to help a child achieve his or her dream.