At a recent Germantown Friends School assembly, Massachusetts State Senator and GFS alumnus Dan Wolf gave every Upper- and Middle-school student a homework assignment: Do an Internet search and find Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream speech” delivered on Aug. 28, 1963.
For Wolf, that speech represents what he feels is the “failed legacy” of his generation’s promise to transform civil rights, women’s rights, foreign policy and economic disparity.
“I was saddened when I looked at the world that my daughters were entering into,” Wolf told the students at GFS’s Annual Mercer Tate ’48 Lecture for Public Service held on Oct. 8. He said that his generation “did not deliver on the promises we were talking about in the ’60s and ’70s.”
Wolf was politically active as a student at GFS – he recalled standing with teachers and peers in silent vigil along Coulter Street to protest the war in Vietnam and also the vibrant civil rights and women’s rights movements going on in Germantown.
After graduating from GFS in 1975, Wolf attended Wesleyan University, and his passion for aviation won out over his interest in public service, and he studied to become a pilot. In 1988 he founded Cape Air, which has grown into a worldwide, and proud employee-owned company.
However, his growing concern for the direction of American democracy motivated him to run for office. He was elected to represent the Cape Cod and the Islands District in the Massachusetts Senate in 2010.
Wolf told the students that he did not prepare a lecture because he wanted their questions to inspire the direction of his speech. He addressed their queries and comments about the economic divide in this country, the underfunded public school system, reforms needed in the criminal justice system, and the lack of action and policies addressing climate change.
Wolf said he works to “revitalize, re-energize and invest in a healthy democratic process,” and he challenged students to do the same.
“At GFS, you learn how we take care of each other and about our responsibility to each other and the world around us,” he said. “You are the leaders of the future … and this education gives you the tools to effect social and economic change.”
The annual lecture series is named for Mercer Tate, a GFS “lifer” and a prominent public servant who devoted his life to public service. Among his many public service activities were serving as Democratic leader in the 9th Ward in Philadelphia, president of the Fellowship Commission, president of the United Neighborhood Centers of America, and a delegate to the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention, where he helped re-write the state constitution.