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A Dream Too Big Book Excerpt

I didn’t start out with the goal of becoming a Rhodes Scholar. As a kid, I didn’t even know what a Rhodes Scholar was. If I had known, I would have seen it as most people around me did: a dream too big for a kid from Compton. But that wouldn’t have stopped me from dreaming it. I’ve always dreamed big. For some people, that’s been a problem.

You see, in underserved inner-city communities like Compton, people don’t always like dreamers. Gangs look at a dreamer and think, He’ll never be one of us. And if he isn’t one of us, he’s a problem. Bad teachers look at a dreamer and think, that boy needs to know his place. The wealthy look at a dreamer and think, He’ll never succeed outside of shooting a basketball or rapping over a beat. Sometimes even neighbors and family members think dreamers are up to no good, because who would dare have big dreams in such a place?

They all think those things, but the truth goes deeper. Dreamers who reach high and strive to rise illustrate the stark realities of those who are left feeling like it’s better to just stay down than to climb and risk falling. Kids trapped in the same circumstances start off as dreamers too. Every kid I knew in elementary school had big dreams. But the dreams slowly faded away as the reality of dilapidated schools, gang violence, the unbalanced criminal justice system, and the lack of family support networks began to set in. Who can blame those kids when their environment is molded by oppression, systems ingrained long before their grandparents were even a thought? Any dreams coming from an inner-city neighborhood are tentative and can easily die from malnourishment. They are all dreams too big as far as a lot of people are concerned.

I’ve never let that stop me.

My first big dream was to make it to the NFL. I dreamed of using the NFL to change the lives of the people in my community, in my world. I worked hard to reach that goal, but I didn’t make it my only priority. Here’s the surprising part: the pursuit of that goal led me to even greater dreams. Achievements in academics, pursued to expand my opportunities for a football career, earned me scholarships to two great colleges. And those environments opened my eyes to the potential of education, to the possibility of changing the world in a way I never could imagine doing as a professional football player. My college experiences then led me to apply for scholarships. I was awarded several, including a Fulbright and, ultimately, the Rhodes Scholarship.

Along the way, I cofounded the Texas Christian University student organization TCU SPARK (Strong Players Are Reaching Kids) and began to speak across the United States to any corporation, university, prison, or gang that would be willing to hear my voice. Those experiences helped me realize what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to help. I wanted one day to know how it feels to have changed the world. I wanted to put big dreams within reach of young people as well as anybody who seeks to better themselves and the world we live in. This book is my story, and I want my story to inspire. Most of all, I want it to provide hope to people who might be having a hard time holding on to it.

I’ve been brutally hungry, so much so that it seemed like the pains in my stomach might never go away. I’ve been treated like a throwaway person, given no due by an inner-city educational system that is not only broken but punitive. I’ve known crushing poverty. I’ve had guns flashed at me as I walked home from school, and I’ve lost friends to senseless violence.

If all that has taught me anything, it’s that you can get by without food. You can be cold and hungry. You can survive poverty, and you can transition from victim of violence to victor over violence. It is only when you give up hope that will you be beaten and lost. A wise man once told me a well-known saying: “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but not for one moment without hope.” In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” The greatest hope lies in dreams that seem too big to be realized. Audacious dreams that you have no right even thinking about.

Competing for a Rhodes Scholarship was part of my still-ongoing journey, and the process was enlightening. During the final interview for the scholarship, the questions posed to candidates are intellectual, largely related to a given candidate’s interests. In my interview, I was able to make the questions personal and relate them to my life experiences.

Question by question, the interview gave me a chance to tell the Rhodes committee my story. It’s what won me a scholarship and is why I’ve chosen specific questions from that interview to introduce each chapter in this book. The questions describe the journey and the themes that define me; each one represents a signpost I’ve followed on my quest to be my very best.

If there’s a key message here, one thing I want readers to take away from reading this book, it’s that you have to dream dreams that are too big. Dreams that are on the edge of impossibility to everyone else, but live on the edge of possibility in your heart. Many years ago, I committed myself to dreaming dreams that were so big, so unimaginable, so unfathomable, so unrealistic, that without divine intervention they were destined to fail. They were all dreams too big. And this book is the story of how they came true.

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Taken from A Dream Too Big: The Story of an Improbable Journey from Compton to Oxford by Caylin Moore Copyright © 2019 by Caylin Moore. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com.

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