I am not much of a sports fan, but when the Paralympic Games come to Rio de Janeiro in 2016, I will be watching one particular athlete swim to another medal: Keren Leibovitch.
While attending the 2012 Israeli Presidential Conference last week, I heard Leibovitch speak of what we can do to truly “face tomorrow” (the theme of the conference). Of course, she spoke of her experience at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, where she won three gold medals for Israel and broke three world records along the way — without the use of her legs.
She spoke about recovering from an accident that had paralyzed her from the waist down and the challenges that she faced. She told stories about her road to recovery and how she began to take an interest in swimming.
But what Keren Leibovitch said that really put her ahead of the pack (literally and figuratively) was that she is the mother of both five-year-old twin boys and two-and-a-half-year-old twin boys. After watching a short video of her winning her medals on large screens in the main hall of the Jerusalem International Convention Center, Keren requested that photos of her boys be displayed on the screens so that the crowd could see them. She said, “Can I show them a photo of my boys please? Because they are truly my tomorrow”.
Just as very little was mentioned at the Israeli Presidential Conference about education or children; the photos of Keren Leibovitch’s four little boys (two of whom she was nursing when she won her three gold medals) never appeared.
It is sad indeed that at an event such as this, which purports to discuss the future and how to prepare ourselves for it, did not see fit for a single panel that focused on the importance of children and educating the next generation.
There are many people who say, “Who cares? Why bother having children? The world is totally beyond repair. Why would you want to bring a child into chaos, disarray, and danger? “
However, there are many of us who genuinely believe that our children have the power to bring tremendous change into the world and to right the wrongs that we all see. They cannot make change if they are not brought into existence. Each generation has the opportunity to change history, even though they may make mistakes along the way.
I truly believe that my future children will have the ability to accomplish; to make a difference in the lives of others; and to succeed despite the odds against them, just as Keren Leibovitch achieved what appeared to be unattainable.
Next year, I hope the Israeli Presidential Conference features a panel that clearly discusses education and the future of a tomorrow for our children. We want to be involved in a society which maintains hope in a better future, and gives each new generation the inspiration and knowhow it needs to effect change and improvement in society.
Unfortunately, Keren Leibovitch will not be swimming at the 2012 London Paralympics as she recently suffered an injury. However, when the 2016 games begin, I will be watching Keren Leibovitch. I will be watching because she will not only be swimming for herself or for her country. She will be swimming for her children and for a truly better tomorrow.