Happy 64th Birthday, Disneyland!

Disneyland birthday

Walt Disney gave a wonderful speech at the dedication of Disneyland on July 17, 1955,

“To all who come to this happy place; welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past…and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America…with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”

That speech is very popular still today. Less well known but extremely important as a glimpse into the life of the man Walt Disney was were the words of Walt’s nephew, Reverend Glenn Puder. The Presbyterian minister said, 

“I have long been aware of the spiritual motivation in the heart of this man who has dreamed Disneyland into being. Let us join him, then, in dedicating these wonder-filled acres to those things dear to his heart and ours – to understanding and good will among men, laughter for children, memories for the mature, and aspiration for young people everywhere. And beyond the creeds that would divide us, let us unite in a silent prayer that this and every worthy endeavor may prosper at God’s hand.”

AMEN to that!

Walt’s statement, “Disneyland is your land,” really couldn’t be more true to all of us who call ourselves Disney fans. Disneyland was Walt’s gift to each of us. For my family, Walt Disney World is the same. It is so much more than a theme park – it is the hub of optimism; surviving and thriving at a time when we really need it.

Marvin Olasky, editor in chief of World Magazine, said, “Walt Disney built his vision in the 1950s and early 1960s when the Cold War was at its height and the likelihood of nuclear disaster seemed high. He wanted Disneyland to be not just a theme park but a portal to a better time and a different world.” As the world changes more and more, it becomes much easier to let pessimism set in. Walt was an optimist; so am I. Following his example, I try to be boldly optimistic.

Disneyland isn’t only a place where families spend time together, where adults can be kids again, and where we can live out the motto “been there, done that, can’t wait to be back!” Disneyland is the place where you enter an entirely different world. It’s like a time-warp to a world when people were nicer, families were together, children could just be children, and hatred is not allowed. It is infectious and lives and grows in our hearts every day until the next visit.

When Walt was trying to build Disneyland he said, “I could never convince the financiers that Disneyland was feasible, because dreams offer too little collateral.” What a shame. Dreams are our country’s greatest resource.

Walt shared his optimism for a better world when he opened Disneyland. I want to spread that love to the world, don’t you? There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow! Thank you, Walter Elias Disney.

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