Dream Big, Dream Small: A Children's Book by Visiting Professor Elissa Ruffino

Elissa Ruffino’s book is the story of Evangeline, a little girl whose fervent dream eventually comes true, but not without setbacks. Yet, that dream, like a flame burning inside her, drove her to reach her goal. But she didn’t and couldn’t do it alone. She needed the help, support and encouragement of her family and friends to keep the flame burning when it started to flicker.

Richard Benedetto, Retired USA Today White House
Correspondent and Professor, American University

Professor Elissa Ruffino

Professor Elissa Ruffino

Professor Elissa Ruffino recently wrote a book entitled, Dream Big, Dream Small (Politics and Prose, 2020), a story that inspires children to dream and encourages adults to listen carefully to them so that they can provide the support that is necessary to make their dreams come true. The book is dedicated to the Hon. Frank J. Guarini, former U.S. Congressman and Chairman Emeritus of the JCU Board of Trustees. Prof. Ruffino has generously decided to donate a portion of the proceeds from the book sales to JCU.

Originally from NYC, Prof. Ruffino served for over 23 years as chief brand officer, director of communications and public relations for The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF). She is currently an adjunct instructor at Marymount University School of Business and Technology, Arlington, Virginia. She also teaches communication courses to college juniors and seniors for the Lutheran College Washington Semester (LCWS) program, a consortium of 13 Lutheran colleges across the country.  She is a visiting professor of Marketing at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy, where she has taught for three consecutive summer sessions.

How did you get the idea for this book?
I first got the idea in 2017 during my first summer teaching at JCU. Each day I would write emails to friends about my experiences and my students and everyone really enjoyed reading them. One day, the Hon. Guarini wrote back and said, “You should really write a book.” I have known Mr. Guarini since 1992 and worked with him at NIAF. He has received many awards for his philanthropic activities but I was surprised to learn that no one had ever dedicated a book to him. On his 95th birthday last year, I said to him, “Congressman, I am writing the book and it’s going to be a children’s book entitled Dream Big, Dream Small.”

Dream Big, Dream Small

An image from Dream Big, Dream Small by Professor Elissa Ruffino

Tell us more about the book and the concept of dreams, which seems to resonate a lot with you.
When I was at JCU, I would use the tag line “I’m dreaming the dream I thought I could never dream” and I would always say “dream on,” so I knew I had to write a story about dreams. The story, which is somewhat autobiographical, is based on the hopes and dreams of a character called Evangeline, who is growing up in NYC in an immigrant family. The book features Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Neil Armstrong, as examples of people with dreams. I want to show kids that everyone has dreams and they may be small at first, but they can become big, and they come to fruition.

The illustrations in the book by artist Dario Calli, whom I met in Rome, really made the book come alive. There’s even an Italian version of the book coming out soon, translated by Roberto Severino, who was my Italian professor at Georgetown University.

The dedication reads, “Dedicated to the Honorable Frank J. Guarini, a living legend, trusted friend, and ever-present mentor, who inspires me to dream big.” The Hon. Guarini’s generosity and support have been an inspiration for so many people and institutions, including JCU.

During these challenging times, when the Covid-19 pandemic has changed our lives so much, the book provides a bit of hope, because we all need to dream.

Do you have plans for a second children’s book?
Yes, I am already thinking about the second one! I happened to ask the Hon. Guarini, “If you were still in Congress, what would you tell a group of children?” Not many young people have the opportunity to visit Capitol Hill, so I got the idea for a book entitled Evangeline Goes to Capitol Hill. In the book, Senators and Representatives will share their wisdom with the children as well as the adventures of Evangeline as she travels by train from New York to the nation’s capital city with her two friends Allie and Colin, and their mothers.

Dream Big, Dream Small by Elissa Ruffino is available in both hardcover and softcover editions.