Dennis Ogbe is a U.S. Paralympian and Shot@Life Champion.
My dearest son Allen,
Welcome to the world Allen! Today you are three weeks old, and I just spent some time rocking you to sleep. As I looked down in my arms, I was as every bit in awe of you as the first moment that I saw you.
With your tiny body just a bit bigger than my two hands, I realized how completely vulnerable and innocent you are. I am feeling such a weight of responsibility knowing that you are completely dependent on me and your mother for your needs. In your lifetime, I won’t be able to give you everything that you want, but I promise to always find a way to provide you with everything that you need. I’m confident that I will meet all of your needs because of this great country that you were born into. While it may not be perfect, I know that you will have better access to basic amenities then what my family in Africa was provided.
You see Allen, my parents (your grandparents) loved me just as intensely as your mom and I love you. Even with that immeasurable amount of love, it couldn’t always bring the basic amenities of clean water, access to doctors, or vaccinations. So as I look at you knowing that I can protect you from so much, I reflect back on the babies born in Africa and all around the world who are born into different circumstances than you. They are all just as vulnerable and innocent as you.
Every baby should have the same opportunities to good health. Fear of diseases that have proven to be preventable by vaccines just shouldn’t exist. It isn’t right that in village where I was born children are still to this very day getting polio, the disease that paralyzed my left leg. As a father, I now fear even more for those children and their parents.
So my prayer for you Allen is to always have a grateful heart for what you have been provided in your life. I want you to seize every opportunity that comes your way and set goals to take you to the next level. Take full advantage of your good health. I want you to run, exercise, play outside as much as you can, and enjoy playing sports with your friends. Finally, I want you to learn and value an important lesson that my father taught me: He always told me to “give back.”
Allen, whenever you find yourself settled on the path of life that you want to lead, I want you “give back” to this world that has given you so much. In the meantime, in honor of you and your sister, MaryLou, I promise to use my voice and life-experience to be an advocate for children who are as vulnerable and innocent as you are right now.