Posted: 09 Sep 2009 03:28 PM PDT
The school year officially launched yesterday for millions of
kids across America. I appeared at a
high school assembly to greet the class of 2013 at Nueva
Esperanza Academy, a charter school in North Philadelphia. Michael
Vick was with me, and so was
Tio Hardiman, who leads
our community-based anti-dogfighting programs.
I spoke to the kids about caring for animals, and letting them know that our power over animals is not an opportunity for exploitation, but a responsibility to be kind. I said we need to be good to animals, and that they will have untold numbers of choices in the future to help animals or harm animals through their actions and decisions. They must make the right choices—because it’s the moral thing to do and that’s what society will expect of them as we evolve for the good as a culture.
Michael Vick told kids he made the wrong decisions when it came to animals, and that he doesn’t want any of them to make the choices he made in the past. He, too, said we need to be good to animals, and that he still struggles to explain how he did such terrible things to animals. He said he now is proud to do the right thing by being on our side of the fence, and being an animal protection advocate.
The founder of the charter school, Rev. Luis Cortes, contacted the Philadelphia Eagles and asked if Vick would speak at the school. Since we are working with Vick on youth outreach on animal cruelty issues, the Eagles contacted us and we pulled the program together, speaking to the kids in an hour-long program and showing videos on dogfighting and shelter adoption. The Eagles, as a franchise, have also now decided to launch a major public relations campaign to raise awareness about animal cruelty and spaying and neutering, and they are now a serious new ally in the fight for animal protection.
So many people have asked me if Vick is truly changed. I tell them that I’m not sure, but that I surely hope so, and that I think he’s really moving in a good direction. More importantly, I also say that the kids he and The HSUS have spoken to are getting a dose of animal protection discourse that they’d never have gotten otherwise. I tell them that it’s more about the kids and helping to guide them to make the right choices for animals in the future than about Michael Vick and his past actions.
I'll keep you updated on our progress. Here is a short video from yesterday's event.