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Susan Estrich
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I Had a Dream


Her name is Susan Boyle. If you haven't heard of her, you need to listen to her. Consider it my gift to you. Go to YouTube, along with the tens of millions of others who already have, and listen to the voice of an angel — a plump, unemployed, 47-year-old "spinster" (as she was described by more than one British newspaper) who lives with her cat.

Before her mother died two years ago, she used to watch Britain's version of "American Idol" with her daughter. Her mother told her she could win. So on April 11, in a plain-Jane dress, with a round face and an impish smile, Susan walked onto the stage of "Britain's Got Talent," facing a panel of judges and an audience of skeptics, all of whom were laughing at her until the first note, when they rose to their feet dumbstruck.

Who would expect a middle-aged nobody, a plump spinster in a frumpy dress, to be able to open her mouth and wow a crowd of thousands? Who would expect that such a woman could still dream, and have the guts and the grit and the pure God-given talent to make that dream come true?

"I Dreamed a Dream," she sang. Who doesn't? But most of us give up on ours, convinced we don't have what it takes, that our day has passed, that we're not young enough or skinny enough or pretty enough to make our dreams come true. Sometimes we blame others or fate or luck. But who or whatever we blame, the bottom line is the same: We come to believe that the dream was just that, and only children believe dreams come true.

We give up, lose hope and call it growing up instead of giving up.

Maybe it was the memory of her mother urging her on. Maybe she didn't know "better," didn't understand that Simon Cowell would be smirking and so would the audience, that no one was on her side. Maybe knowing "better" isn't better at all.

I used to dream. I used to dream that a plump girl with thick glasses, no money and no connections, a nobody from Lynn, Mass., with a dead father, a sick mother and a history of abuse and no money at all, could somehow, someday, be a somebody. And the dreams kept me going, through dark days and disappointments. There were even moments along the way when I believed my dreams could come true, that little Sue Estrich, the smart girl who didn't quite know how to be and never did go to a prom or have a boyfriend or fit into a size 4, could turn that all around.

But somewhere along the way, I stopped dreaming. Now, I dream for my children: I pray for them and worry for them; I work for them and do for them anything I humanly can. But for myself? Too old, I say. Too old to compete with the blondes in the size 4's, too old to undo all the mistakes, too late to rewrite the ending.

If Susan Boyle believed that, she would never have walked onto that stage. If Susan Boyle believed that, the world would be a poorer place for never having heard her sing of her dream.

Susan Boyle didn't give up on her dream, and it is coming true. Dreams are not just for the young, or for those who wear a size 4. I may not be able to make mine come true, but I will cheer for her. And for you.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



7 Comments | Post Comment
And why not? Here is a woman who doesn't have one tenth of the sucess you have and she's still out there doing it. Harland Sanders was in his late sixties before he made his mark pressure-cooking chicken. Winston Churchill held it down until he could see the end of Nazi oppression in Europe. Lincoln lost nearly every election he ran for until he won the presidency twice.

The world is full of examples of people who followed their dreams against seemingly long odds, and won. Don't feel that, even with what you have, even with what you think you've lost, you can't be one of them, too.

Be encouraged.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Therren Dunham
Fri Apr 24, 2009 7:48 AM
Dear Susan... remember the adege one man's junk is another man's treasure? You might not believe this. I think the world of you. Not just you, Ms. Estrich... but all the other women like you. I see them often in my accounting practice... hard working... scrimping... expanding their businesses... taking chances. They don't jump up in front of any audience, give speeches or go to Proms. They are just trying their best to survive and their efforts make my community stronger and better each day.

For many, it isn't just a dream any longer. It is a world filled with challenges that they can master. Plain dresses? Sometimes. Ideal working conditions? Not necessarily. These are folks that are the new tidal way of managers creating something out of nothing and enabling others to have dreams. You know them well, Susan. All you have to do is look in the mirror and you will see a hero to many of us. You are a treasure... too.

If you still need to go to a Prom, will you go with a married man? I'll bring my wife along and will have a bunch of fun...I guarantee it!

Comment: #2
Posted by: FLW
Fri Apr 24, 2009 10:06 AM
Susan, I have never read such a beautifully written piece. There is so much truth in what you say. You have put into words what I have felt for most of my life, but only felt, and couldn't quite verbalize it. I too, like you grew up verbally and physically abused. Needless to say, that does not do much for ones self esteem. As a teenager I was considered by many to be attractive, no drop dead beauty, but attractive. I TOTALLY lacked the confidence to join anything in school. The only thing that I excelled at was adademics. I had to prove to myself that I was good at something. During my teen years, and they can be the toughest, as many will attest to, I always related to the song "At Seventeen". I believe it was sung by Janis Ian. To this day, and I am 55 now, married with two sons aged 27 and 22, when I hear that song it still brings tears to my eyes. I was never really able to overcome the past. My self esteem is still very lacking. When I heard Susan Boyle sing, I cried. I cried at the beauty of her voice and all of her heart that I know she put into it. I cried for Susan Boyle and all of the Susan Boyle's out there, including myself. God Bless you for your beautiful thoughts and God bless Susan Boyle for representing all of the "Susan Boyle's" out there.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Doris
Fri Apr 24, 2009 12:08 PM
Off this subject. Tell you liberal friends to bring on the indictments and we will watch your buddies go down. How can they be so stupid to think this would take the heat off of what is happening with Obama. How can you support all of this when we are sitting ducks to another attack. Please write an article to share with me how what Obama and his cronies are doing is right. I want FACTS ONLY Susan. Yes, please convince me I am safe with the liberals in place. Are you so blindsighted to world events. Obama acts like life is wonderful when our country is going down the tubes. Yes, please tell the liberals I am a proud American and I resent them tearing this country down. We should be proud and not apologizing for our strengths. Oh Susan this is a disaster and my God it has only been 100 days.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Kathaleen McCausland
Fri Apr 24, 2009 5:09 PM
What a beautiful column! It made me cry. Thank you, Susan for writing it.
Comment: #5
Posted by: K. Wilson
Mon Apr 27, 2009 4:40 PM
Do you think a woman of eihty years could reach out for her dream now? All my life has been centered around being a person of no consequence. I could have been Susan Boyle forty years ago. Even if I do not reach my dream, I will hae your column to read and reread as a testamonial of what can be.
Comment: #6
Wed Apr 29, 2009 12:08 PM
Ms. Estrich: I was deeply moved by your editorial about Susan Boyle that appeared in the Raleigh News and Observer. Unfortunately, it was the first I have read of yours, but I will be going on line to find you from here on.

I was so impressed by the column that I copied it, framed it, and put it in each of my children's rooms. May they, or their parents, never lose the power of our dreams.

Thank you.
Comment: #7
Posted by: James T Crouse
Thu May 7, 2009 10:19 AM
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