Ken Connor
In America, the Left and Right are ever-engaged in a fierce debate over whether we truly are a land of opportunity for all. What, exactly, does equal opportunity mean? What does it look like? Conventionally, liberals will argue that equality of so-called "opportunity" is a canard, since our opportunities in life are based so much on socio-economic factors like income level, family composition, race, class, etc. A young black man growing up in a single-parent home in an inner-city slum has less access to opportunities for success than a white kid raised by a traditional nuclear family in an upper-middle class suburban environment. The opportunities might technically be there for the inner-city youth, but the obstacles standing in the way of those opportunities are so numerous to practically be insurmountable.

Most conservatives will concede that "equal opportunity" doesn't directly translate to "level playing field." Life, after all, isn't fair, and there's no way that government or anyone else can eliminate the inevitable trials and tribulations that befall us in this life. History shows us that mankind's attempts to engineer utopia via government have given rise to the worst of totalitarian horrors. The real question, then, isn't whether life is fair for everyone, but how each individual responds to the cards they are dealt. Do they consign themselves to a world defined by limitations and dependency, or do they commit themselves heart and soul to overcoming their circumstances and the odds?

Consider the story of Dawn Loggins, a youngster for whom any form of success was against the odds. After years of instability and chaos at home she was abandoned without warning by her parents. With no one to take care of her and nowhere to live, her life had become a recipe for failure. She seemed doomed to become another social welfare statistic. But she didn't. She worked hard, refused to be a victim, took the initiative, charted her own course, and created her own reality. Teachers, counselors, and other adults took notice of this determination to succeed and were inspired to support her efforts to overcome her situation, and now she's going to Harvard!

In a recent article on, Dawn described the philosophy that guided her from homeless teen to Ivy League contender:

Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.