Not only has Flaherty written several op-ed pieces for the Wall Street Journal about education, but he also gave the green light for Walden Media to team up with Participant Media on the production of "Waiting for Superman," a 2010 documentary that seeks to identify practical solutions for remedying a broken education system. The film depicts the heartbreaking plight of poor kids in public schools — children who statistically have little chance of even graduating high school. "Waiting for Superman" roiled the national debate about public education while also earning critical acclaim with the Audience Award at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
It's an unusually warm fall day in Salt Lake City and Micheal Flaherty is standing in the Deveraux House, a red brick mansion that is one of the city's oldest landmarks. Standing under an old chandelier, Flaherty is talking about the power of good stories to change the world in a presentation to the Deseret News Editorial Advisory Board, of which he is the newest member.
Dressed in a blue blazer with an open-necked shirt, Flaherty exudes a gravitational sort of energy, as if the optimism that has come to define his movies has infused who he is. The way he sees it, the world isn't a dark and fallen place, where light can no longer shine. Hollywood, as he sees it, isn't the enemy. It's just a place hungry for good stories, and the success of Walden Media has shown that the marketplace is hungry for the kind of good news his company is putting out there.
"Kids are starting to grow up and realize life isn't perfect, that we're going to face big challenges," Flaherty says. "What I love is the hope that's in all these stories.
"There's a great (G.K.) Cheseterton quote (about this). 'Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.' "
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