by Dale Penny ('71A), USA, President and CEO, Up with People
Dear Fellow Alumni,
What a year (okay, 18 months) of celebrations it has been! As we culminate the series of events marking Up with People’s first half century, it is worth highlighting a few of the major events.
“The Journey” - The 50th Anniversary show was launched in January 2015. Written not only to honor the past 50 years but to be relevant to contemporary times, the show has continued to evolve as global events have occurred and has been well received in the U.S., Mexico and throughout Europe.
“90/50” – In March of 2015, UWP luminaries from around the world gathered in Tucson to celebrate Blanton Belk’s 90th birthday and his life’s work, with Betty, of building and sustaining Up with People. What a party it was!
“Celebrate 50” – It is hard to find anyone who attended the great reunion in Orlando last August who wasn’t overwhelmed by the spirit, the pride and the emotion when over 3,000 alumni, family and friends gathered to mark this milestone exactly 50 years to the day of the first public show in 1965.
“Celebrate Mexico 50” – An extraordinary week of programs culminated with over 1,500 attending the Saturday performance featuring an appearance by the Colwell Brothers on stage with Cast A2016. What an emotional moment it was as we reflected on the unique role Steve, Paul and Ralph played in UWP and the hundreds of songs they have written that provided the musical foundation for our experience.
“Celebrate Europe 50” – The final 50th event took place in Brussels, the home of Up with People in Europe. Although events in Paris and Brussels forced the postponement of this event from last November till now, and it sometimes seemed it might never happen, it was appropriate that we culminated our celebrations here. More than a few of the hundreds of alumni who attended remarked how satisfying it felt that we had “pushed on through” to ensure that Up with People could give a message of hope and support to the people of Brussels during such an uncertain time.
What do all of these celebrations mean? First, I think it is critical to remember that Up with People has lasted for more than 50 years. Few nonprofits reach such a milestone, and it doesn’t happen unless the mission is important and the message continually evolves to be relevant to the times.
Second, the 22,000+ alumni who have shared this experience have made a mark on the world. Along with our host families, sponsors and supporters, we have forged a global community of fellow travelers committed to building a more compassionate and trusting world. We can all be proud of our individual and collective contribution.
Finally, our work is not over. The Up with People story is just beginning. The mission is needed more today than at any time in our history. As new generations of young adults join to take our place in future casts, we need to support them just as we were supported during our years. All of us who work with UWP to keep the mission alive today know we stand on your shoulders and we wouldn’t be here without you. Please join with us to ensure that the cast members traveling today will gather in another 50 years to celebrate a century of tearing down walls, building bridges of understanding and forging a more hopeful and peaceful world.
So with gratitude to the UWPIAA leadership and volunteers, the staff and board of Up with People and the many, many alumni who helped in all the planning and managing of the various celebration events, we all say thank you! Here’s to the next 50!