Portrait Project


"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Ben Schumacher

When I was 18, I became a man. It happened while I was digging irrigation trenches in central Kentucky horse farms. To me, working in my family's irrigation business meant a summer wage; but it meant something much more to my fellow irrigation workers. My parents provided a meaningful existence to immigrants and their families through our business, and I came to understand that life's true purpose is enabling others.

When I was 25, I realized that, in this country, not every man becomes the man he should be. I found that we systematically disadvantage our neediest children by depriving them access to a quality education. Indeed, the American Dream is but a mirage to millions of minority students, and this is not for a lack of will, intelligence or courage. This is a civil injustice, pure and simple, and I will devote my life to fighting it.

When I'm 102, I will know that as a result of my effort – and that of thousands of others – all people in my country will have the opportunity to fully self-actualize through an exceptional education. And if that's not true, I will still be digging.

— Ben Schumacher