“Do you believe in me?” 5th grader Dalton Sherman inspires Dallas teachers

Update, September 19, 2008: Dalton was scheduled to appear on Ellen Degeneres’s program on Thursday, September 18; did you see it? What do you think?

Taylor Mali is one of my usual suspects for inspiring teachers. He does a great job, with just a tinge of profanity (appropriately placed, many teachers argue – if they ask for it, you have to give it to them).

This year’s inspiration for Dallas teachers comes from Dalton Sherman, a fifth grader at Charles Rice Learning Center. Here’s a YouTube video of the presentation about 20,000 of us watched last Wednesday, a small point that redeemed the annual “convocation” exercise, for 2008:

Sherman’s presentation rescued what had been shaping up as another day of rah-rah imprecations to teachers who badly wanted, and in my case needed, to be spending time putting classrooms together.

(By the way, at the start of his presentation, you can see several people leap to their feet in the first row — Mom, Dad, and older brother. Nice built-in cheering section.)

Staff at DISD headquarters put the speech together for Dalton to memorize, and he worked over the summer to get it down. This background is wonderfully encouraging.

First, it makes a statement that DISD officials learn from mistakes. Last year the keynote was given by a speaker out of central casting’s “classic motivational speaker” reserves. As one teacher described it to me before the fete last Wednesday, “It was a real beating.”

Second, DISD’s planning ahead to pull this off suggests someone is looking a little bit down the road. This was a four or five month exercise for a less-than-10 minute presentation. It’s nice to know someone’s looking ahead at all.

Third, the cynical teachers gave Dalton Sherman a warm standing ovation. That it was delivered by a 10-year-old kids from DISD made a strong symbol. But the content was what hooked the teachers. Superintendent Michael Hinojosa provided a death-by-PowerPoint presentation leading up to the speech, one that was probably not designed solely as contrasting lead in. In other words, Dalton Sherman’s speech demonstrated as nothing else the district has done lately that someone downtown understands that the teachers count, the foot soldiers in our war on ignorance and jihad for progress.

The kids came back Monday, bless ’em. School’s in session, to anyone paying attention.


Full text of Dalton Sherman’s speech to Dallas Independent School District teachers, August 20, 2008:

I believe in me. Do you believe in me?

Do you believe I can stand up here, fearless, and talk to all 20,000 of you?

Hey, Charles Rice Learning Center – do you believe in me?

That’s right – they do.

Because here’s the deal: I can do anything, be anything, create anything, dream anything, become anything – because you believe in me. And it rubs off on me.

Let me ask you a question, Dallas ISD.

Do you believe in my classmates?

Do you believe that every single one of us can graduate ready for college or the workplace?

You better. Because next week, we’re all showing up in your schools – all 157,000 of us – and what we need from you is to believe that we can reach our highest potential.

No matter where we come from, whether it’s sunny South Dallas, whether its Pleasant Grove, whether its Oak Cliff or North Dallas or West Dallas or wherever, you better not give up on us. No, you better not.

Because, as you know, in some cases, you’re all we’ve got. You’re the ones who feed us, who wipe our tears, who hold our hands or hug us when we need it. You’re the ones who love us when sometimes it feels like no else does – and when we need it the most.

Don’t give up on my classmates.

Do you believe in your colleagues?

I hope so. They came to your school because they wanted to make a difference, too. Believe in them, trust them and lean on them when times get tough – and we all know, we kids can sometimes make it tough.

Am I right?

Can I get an Amen?

So, whether you’re a counselor or a librarian, a teacher assistant or work in the front office, whether you serve up meals in the cafeteria or keep the halls clean, or whether you’re a teacher or a principal, we need you!

Please, believe in your colleagues, and they’ll believe in you.

Do you believe in yourself? Do you believe that what you’re doing is shaping not just my generation, but that of my children – and my children’s children?

There’s probably easier ways to make a living, but I want to tell you, on behalf of all of the students in Dallas, we need you. We need you now more than ever.

Believe in yourself.

Finally, do you believe that every child in Dallas needs to be ready for college or the workplace? Do you believe that Dallas students can achieve?

We need you, ladies and gentlemen. We need you to know that what you are doing is the most important job in the city today. We need you to believe in us, in your colleagues, in yourselves and in our goals.

If you don’t believe – well, I’m not going there.

I want to thank you for what you do – for me and for so many others.

Do you believe in me? Because I believe in me. And you helped me get to where I am today.

Thank you.

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27 Responses to “Do you believe in me?” 5th grader Dalton Sherman inspires Dallas teachers

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Ms. Lilienfeld,

    I’m sure the copyright is held by Dalton Sherman or his family. I do not have contact information for them.

    Sherman graduated high school last year; last news I had, he was attending Pomona College. Perhaps you can reach him there.

    If you have to get rights quickly, I’d say use the speech and list it as copyright unclear. My understanding is that the Dallas ISD put a team of writers on the speech, whether it was one he started with or not. Consequently, DISD might have a copyright claim — but they rarely do, and they spread the YouTube version for public use.

    Invite anyone who has information the speech is not public domain to get you in contact with the copyright holder.

    If Sherman holds the copyright, he’d probably authorize its use in a text.

    You may want to try to contact him through his last school in Dallas, the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy. Here you’ll find contact information:



  2. I need permission to use text from Do you believe in me? in a school textbook for distribution in Malawi. Who to approach?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. James Kessler says:

    Fake, how do you know he didn’t write it? I had several teachers convinced in fifth grade that my mom was writing my essay and reports because they couldn’t believe that a fifth grader was writing as well as an adult.
    I doubt I was the only student able to and smart enough to write beyond his years.


  4. Ed Darrell says:

    February 12, 2014 — Where are all you visitors coming from?


  5. […] people fawned over the kid and his speech. But he never had any hand in writing it. It wasn’t his voice at all but it was used to say, “this is the voice of students, […]


  6. Nick K says:

    SHelbi writes, incoherently,:

    our own presdint dosnt even write his own speeches

    Oh please tell me you’re not being stupid enough to attempt to bash the President for not writing his own speeches.

    Tell me…did you ever watch the movie The American President? See that Michael J Fox guy in that movie? Want to know what his character’s role was in that administration?

    That’s right…speechwriter.


  7. Jayneisha Brown says:

    that little black boy better rock it


  8. Jayneisha Brown says:

    i think that this little boy got some talent and i think that this is the next mini obama and yes i beilive in you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  9. shelbi says:

    ok im sorry but i dont care if hes black or white, 10 or 40, and i dont eb\ven care if he wrote the thing or not if ur aginst this kid you go and do the same thing without any help and with out practice because you’ll fail our own presdint dosnt even write his own speeches and hes had public speaking classes aswell so if your bashing on this boy u might as well bash on obama. and whoever said that if a little white boy did the same thing. look at all of our other presidents people need to learn respect!!!!


  10. Great speech. It doesn’t matter if he wrote it and practiced it or not. It’s a good reminder for all of us to really nurture our children and help them reach their full potential. Believe!!


  11. Dorwin Faith says:

    the speech of that kid is so amazing that he amazed her teachers


  12. Ed Darrell says:

    Got this e-mail this morning (August 14, 2009):

    Dear Faculty, Staff, and Administrators of Dallas ISD,

    Nearly a year ago, I had the honor of sharing one of the proudest moments as a mother, teacher, and educator during our district convocation. We all watched as my son, Dalton Sherman, reminded us why we must believe in our students, ourselves and our goals. My entire family would like to thank you for your kind words, letters, e-mails and prayers throughout the past school year. Your support during Dalton’s presentation led to appearances on the “Ellen” and Oprah” talk shows. Additionally, Dalton has been traveling all over the U.S. challenging educators, businesses, and communities to believe in themselves to make a difference in the lives of their students, their districts, and schools. You are the envy of many educators all over the WORLD! Many school districts made “Do You Believe in Me?” their motto with t-shirts, pencils, and even workshops, all because YOU believed in a 10 year old boy and the thousands of students we have the privilege to serve each and every day.

    Last year, you were invited to our district convocation to help us start our school year with a surprise keynote speaker. This year, I would like to invite you to a musical play titled District Xl: Believe In Me, which was inspired by Dalton’s speech. The play’s dedication states: “This production is dedicated to great teachers. Teachers who prepare us for the real world and teachers who believe in us. You know who you are… thank you.” This production, written and created by Kids Who Care, Inc. in Fort Worth, is cast with real students, grades one through twelve. After viewing the musical as a family, we all agreed—especially Dalton—that this is a show that every teacher should see.

    A special Dallas ISD screening of the musical will be presented, courtesy of Big Thought, on Thursday, August 20, at 4 p.m. at Molina High School, 2355 Duncanville Road. Dalton will join the cast for this presentation. It is free for any district employee who wants to attend but seats are very limited. Tickets will be available beginning Monday, August 17, on a first-come, first-served basis but they need to be picked up at the front desk by the visitors’ lot of the Administration Building, 3700 Ross Avenue, by 5 p.m., Wednesday, August 20.

    District XI: Believe In Me will make you laugh, maybe cry, and definitely remind us once again of our calling: to teach, inspire, and cultivate the greatness in every child. I hope to see you there!

    Warm regards,
    Donna Sherman, Reading/Language Arts Teacher
    J.P. Starks Elementary Math, Science and Technology Vanguard


  13. re: gr8-teacher says says:

    Race? You pulled race into it? Have you become so frustrated that you’ve missed the message? Find a new job. That kid, with practice or not, nailed it. Since you’re so perfect, you step in front of the district and give a motivational speech. But, write it yourself and don’t get it edited and don’t practice it. You’ll look like a tool. Every speaker there practiced their speech. Do us a favor and leave the career. To hold fear because of the success of a 10 year old is pathetic. You need to leave. To throw race into it? That’s even worse. Maybe that isn’t the message you wanted to send???? However, your message clearly states: “I suck because a 10 year old is better than me.” Get a life.

    Oh, just in case you think I’m black…. I’m white, from Montana and teach in Las Vegas.


  14. […] “Do you believe in me?” 5th grader Dalton Sherman inspires Dallas teachers « Millard Fillmore… Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)How to get a job at GoogleDallas Stars’ co-GMs are NHL’s odd coupleRead my green development story in today’s Dallas Morning NewsWeek of Wonders 15—What about the weekend of wonders? […]


  15. gr8-teacher says:

    This speech is a joke. Hid not write it and practiced for FIVE months with an oratory coach and anyone who would have listened to him to deliver a speech that, once again, he did NOT write. A three year could have done the same job This was simply a staged stunt. Does anyone think that if a little white boy had delivered the speech that it would have been lauded as much?


  16. […] Dallas orator meets Oprah Dalton Sherman, the fifth grader from Dallas’s Charles Rice Learning Center, accepted an invitation to speak to a national audience through Oprah Winfrey’s television […]


  17. […] The speechwriter? As pointed out by this Dallas Morning News article, school district officials wrote the speech. The full speech text is also available here. […]


  18. […] The text of the speech is available at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub. Part of the same post are some positive comments about the speech from Ed Darrell, the blogger, and a Dallas history teacher. He liked the motivational qualities. And I see them. But we may disagree about the content. (When you go, poke around, leave a comment or two. Ed’s blog is one of the great teacher blogs in this country). […]


  19. Ed Darrell says:

    I haven’t had time to look at the issue, really.

    Basically, I don’t think we should bend science instruction to accommodate superstition. I thought the fellow’s statement invited misinterpretation. Had he said, “We need to be respectful of religious beliefs,” I’d buy it. But instead, he said England ought to include instruction on creationism

    I regard creationism as not only disproven science, but also as crackpot religion. It’s a new, minority view in any religion. For those of us who are Christian, I would think the inherent dishonesty of creationist dogma would be an issue of great concern.

    Should the guy have resigned? I gather that his goof was enough that the Royal Society was quite hamstrung — if they make exceptions for Darbyist superstition, what superstition can they then ignore?

    Does that help?

    Our friend P. Z. Myers has some stronger opinions at Pharyngula.


  20. dorigo says:

    Hi Ed,

    ot, but I was thinking you would have a post on this… I was interested in the case. Any comments ?



  21. lonnie Smith says:

    I have not been so proud and inspired by any message I’ve ever heard . Not from any Pastor or any Politician than I am so inspired by Dalton Sherman,even to tears and a new look at the man in my mirror.


  22. Judy says:

    We have a duty to believe in our children. Every child we believe in, becomes one less child who fails. Yes Dalton, I believe in you.


  23. […] We have a higher duty, especially on the issues of education.  We need to live up to the challenge of young Dalton Sherman (who gave a more substantial speech than Sarah Palin, I think:  “‘Do you believe in me?’  5th grader Dalton Sherman inspires Dallas teachers.&#82…) […]


  24. […] to Chris Harbeck for supplying me with these background information links on Dalton's speech Millard Fillmore's Bathtub BlogDallas Morning News story on Sherman and his methodsDallas Morning News version of the video (not […]


  25. Barb Rubin says:

    Thank you for re-inspiring me to believe in what I’ve been doing since 1969!


  26. Ed Darrell says:

    I’m stealing this comment from another blog that posted the video, Welcome to NCS Tech!:

    Jeremy Davis // Aug 28, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Just imagine if every child got extra help, extra preparation, got to work with a teacher all summer on proper language and pronunciation…

    Not a publicity stunt, but a wonderful way to show us what can happen if a student is in some kind of school all year, all summer. While I may get flamed for saying so, maybe we should look at getting rid of the summer break.

    I’m pretty sure no one thought he went in without coaching, or that he wrote it on his own. However, it’s a little better than the district who brought in the Freedom Writers Author and then fired a teacher for tossing the text book and handing out copies of the Freedom Writers.

    The paradigm shift for all here should be… Education doesn’t stop at 3PM, and Education should be a part of every home. It would actually be more powerful if the background was given at the end, white words against a black screen, “This is what can happen if teachers and parents work together to polish every student and bring out their potential”



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