At age 11, his parents 'returned' him. This is the orphan experience we don't often hear about.
What do Harry Potter, Moses, and Luke Skywalker have in common?
Harry Potter. Superman. Batman. What do they have in common?
They're fictional characters, of course. But they're also orphans.
Hollywood's obsessed with characters like them — fostered, adopted, and orphaned characters, that is.
Matilda, Annie ... the list goes on and on. I mean, these are characters who've had it rough, right?
Audiences love underdogs who overcome big obstacles. Who's more lovable than someone who's triumphed over the loss of his or her parents (and then gone on to, like, defeat the darkest wizard of all time or something)?
Admiring these characters is great. But we don't admire the Harry Potters of the non-fiction world like we should.
In the TED Talk below, renowned poet Lemn Sissay points out how we commend fictitious Batmans and Supermans yet fail to prioritize the wellbeing of actual children who are being taken care of by the state — the kids right in front of us who face extraordinary challenges.
He makes an excellent point.
"Why have we not made the connection between these incredible characters of popular culture ... and the fostered, adopted or orphaned child in our midst?"
Sissay uses his own turbulent history to address the bigger issue at hand and call out why it's our problem to solve.
Growing up, Sissay had been rejected by foster parents, forced to live in multiple children's homes, and unfairly incarcerated as a teenager. He knows a thing or two about the system's failures.
He also knows whose responsibility it is to fix it: All of ours.
"You can define how strong a democracy is by how its government treats its child," he says in the clip below. "I don't mean children. I mean the child of the state."
Check out his TED Talk below.