Bill Strickland: Rebuilding a neighborhood with beauty, dignity, hope

Recorded atFebruary 02, 2002
Duration (min:sec)35:10
Video TypeTED Stage Talk
Words per minute182.47 fast
Readability (FK)66.36 very easy
SpeakerBill Strickland
CountryUnited States of America
DescriptionAmerican community leader

Official TED page for this talk


Bill Strickland tells a quiet and astonishing tale of redemption through arts, music, and unlikely partnerships.

Text Highlight (experimental)
100:12 It's a great honor to be here with you.
200:15 The good news is
300:18 I'm very aware of my responsibilities to get you out of here
400:21 because I'm the only thing standing between you and the bar.
500:25 (Laughter)
600:28 And the good news is I don't have a prepared speech,
700:31 but I have a box of slides.
800:33 I have some pictures that represent my life and what I do for a living.
900:39 I've learned through experience
1000:42 that people remember pictures long after they've forgotten words,
1100:47 and so I hope you'll remember some of the pictures
1200:50 I'm going to share with you for just a few minutes.
1300:56 The whole story really starts
1400:58 with me as a high school kid in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,
1501:02 in a tough neighborhood that everybody gave up on for dead.
1601:05 And on a Wednesday afternoon,
1701:08 I was walking down the corridor of my high school
1801:12 kind of minding my own business. And there was this artist teaching,
1901:18 who made a great big old ceramic vessel,
2001:20 and I happened to be looking in the door of the art room --
2101:23 and if you've ever seen clay done, it's magic --
2201:25 and I'd never seen anything like that before in my life.
2301:30 So, I walked in the art room and I said, "What is that?"
2401:34 And he said, "Ceramics. And who are you?"
2501:36 And I said, "I'm Bill Strickland. I want you to teach me that."
2601:39 And he said, "Well, get your homeroom teacher to sign a piece of paper
2701:43 that says you can come here, and I'll teach it to you."
2801:46 And so for the remaining two years of my high school,
2901:49 I cut all my classes.
3001:50 (Laughter)
3101:51 But I had the presence of mind
3201:53 to give the teachers' classes that I cut the pottery that I made,
3301:57 (Laughter)
3401:58 and they gave me passing grades.
3502:01 And that's how I got out of high school.
3602:04 And Mr. Ross said,
3702:06 "You're too smart to die and I don't want it on my conscience,
3802:11 so I'm leaving this school and I'm taking you with me."
3902:13 And he drove me out to the University of Pittsburgh
4002:16 where I filled out a college application and got in on probation.
4102:20 Well, I'm now a trustee of the university,
4202:23 and at my installation ceremony I said,
4302:27 "I'm the guy who came from the neighborhood
4402:31 who got into the place on probation.
4502:34 Don't give up on the poor kids, because you never know
4602:37 what's going to happen to those children in life."
4702:41 What I'm going to show you for a couple of minutes
4802:44 is a facility that I built in the toughest neighborhood in Pittsburgh
4902:49 with the highest crime rate.
5002:51 One is called Bidwell Training Center; it is a vocational school
5102:56 for ex-steel workers and single parents and welfare mothers.
5203:00 You remember we used to make steel in Pittsburgh?
5303:02 Well, we don't make any steel anymore,
5403:04 and the people who used to make the steel
5503:06 are having a very tough time of it.
5603:09 And I rebuild them and give them new life.
5703:12 Manchester Craftsmen's Guild is named after my neighborhood.
5803:16 I was adopted
5903:19 by the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese during the riots,
6003:22 and he donated a row house. And in that row house
6103:25 I started Manchester Craftsmen's Guild,
6203:27 and I learned very quickly that wherever there are Episcopalians,
6303:33 there's money in very close proximity.
6403:35 (Laughter)
6503:39 And the Bishop adopted me as his kid.
6603:44 And last year I spoke at his memorial service
6703:48 and wished him well in this life.
6803:52 I went out and hired a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect,
6903:58 and I asked him to build me a world class center
7004:01 in the worst neighborhood in Pittsburgh.
7104:04 And my building was a scale model for the Pittsburgh airport.
7204:08 And when you come to Pittsburgh -- and you're all invited --
7304:10 you'll be flying into the blown-up version of my building.
7404:14 That's the building.
7504:16 Built in a tough neighborhood where people have been given up for dead.
7604:21 My view is that if you want to involve yourself
7704:24 in the life of people who have been given up on,
7804:27 you have to look like the solution and not the problem.
7904:32 As you can see, it has a fountain in the courtyard.
8004:35 And the reason it has a fountain in the courtyard is I wanted one
8104:39 and I had the checkbook, so I bought one and put it there.
8204:42 (Laughter)
8304:43 And now that I'm giving speeches at conferences like TED,
8404:46 I got put on the board of the Carnegie Museum.
8504:50 At a reception in their courtyard, I noticed that they had a fountain
8604:55 because they think that the people who go to the museum deserve a fountain.
8705:00 Well, I think that welfare mothers and at-risk kids
8805:04 and ex-steel workers deserve a fountain in their life.
8905:07 And so the first thing that you see in my center in the springtime
9005:10 is water that greets you -- water is life and water of human possibility --
9105:16 and it sets an attitude and expectation
9205:19 about how you feel about people before you ever give them a speech.
9305:24 So, from that fountain I built this building.
9405:30 As you can see, it has world class art, and it's all my taste
9505:35 because I raised all the money.
9605:37 (Laughter)
9705:38 I said to my boy, "When you raise the money,
9805:41 we'll put your taste on the wall."
9905:44 That we have quilts and clay and calligraphy
10005:47 and everywhere your eye turns,
10105:49 there's something beautiful looking back at you,
10205:51 that's deliberate.
10305:53 That's intentional.
10405:55 In my view, it is this kind of world
10505:59 that can redeem the soul of poor people.
10606:04 We also created a boardroom,
10706:09 and I hired a Japanese cabinetmaker from Kyoto, Japan,
10806:13 and commissioned him to do 60 pieces of furniture for our building.
10906:17 We have since spun him off into his own business.
11006:20 He's making a ton of money doing custom furniture for rich people.
11106:23 And I got 60 pieces out of it for my school
11206:26 because I felt that welfare moms and ex-steel workers
11306:29 and single parents deserved to come to a school
11406:34 where there was handcrafted furniture that greeted them every day.
11506:37 Because it sets a tone and an attitude about how you feel about people
11606:41 long before you give them the speech.
11706:44 We even have flowers in the hallway, and they're not plastic.
11806:50 Those are real and they're in my building every day.
11906:53 And now that I've given lots of speeches,
12006:55 we had a bunch of high school principals come and see me,
12106:58 and they said, "Mr. Strickland,
12207:00 what an extraordinary story and what a great school.
12307:03 And we were particularly touched by the flowers
12407:06 and we were curious as to how the flowers got there."
12507:08 I said, "Well, I got in my car and I went out to the greenhouse
12607:11 and I bought them and I brought them back and I put them there."
12707:14 You don't need a task force or a study group to buy flowers for your kids.
12807:20 What you need to know is that the children
12907:23 and the adults deserve flowers in their life.
13007:26 The cost is incidental but the gesture is huge.
13107:29 And so in my building, which is full of sunlight and full of flowers,
13207:35 we believe in hope and human possibilities.
13307:37 That happens to be at Christmas time.
13407:39 And so the next thing you'll see is a million dollar kitchen
13507:45 that was built by the Heinz company -- you've heard of them?
13607:49 They did all right in the ketchup business.
13707:52 And I happen to know that company pretty well
13807:54 because John Heinz, who was our U.S. senator --
13907:57 who was tragically killed in a plane accident --
14008:00 he had heard about my desire to build a new building,
14108:03 because I had a cardboard box and I put it in a garbage bag
14208:06 and I walking all over Pittsburgh trying to raise money for this site.
14308:09 And he called me into his office --
14408:11 which is the equivalent of going to see the Wizard of Oz
14508:14 (Laughter) --
14608:15 and John Heinz had 600 million dollars, and at the time I had about 60 cents.
14708:19 And he said, "But we've heard about you.
14808:21 We've heard about your work with the kids and the ex-steel workers,
14908:24 and we're inclined to want to support your desire to build a new building.
15008:29 And you could do us a great service
15108:31 if you would add a culinary program to your program."
15208:36 Because back then, we were building a trades program.
15308:39 He said, "That way we could fulfill our affirmative action goals
15408:41 for the Heinz company."
15508:43 I said, "Senator, I'm reluctant to go into a field
15608:48 that I don't know much about, but I promise you
15708:51 that if you'll support my school, I'll get it built
15808:54 and in a couple of years, I'll come back
15908:56 and weigh out that program that you desire."
16008:58 And Senator Heinz sat very quietly and he said,
16109:02 "Well, what would your reaction be
16209:04 if I said I'd give you a million dollars?"
16309:07 I said, "Senator, it appears that we're going into the food training business."
16409:12 (Laughter)
16509:19 And John Heinz did give me a million bucks.
16609:22 And most importantly,
16709:24 he loaned me the head of research for the Heinz company.
16809:27 And we kind of borrowed the curriculum from the Culinary Institute of America,
16909:31 which in their mind is kind of the Harvard of cooking schools,
17009:34 and we created a gourmet cooks program for welfare mothers
17109:38 in this million dollar kitchen in the middle of the inner city.
17209:42 And we've never looked back.
17309:44 I would like to show you now some of the food
17409:48 that these welfare mothers do in this million dollar kitchen.
17509:52 That happens to be our cafeteria line.
17609:55 That's puff pastry day. Why?
17709:58 Because the students made puff pastry
17810:00 and that's what the school ate every day.
17910:02 But the concept was that I wanted to take the stigma out of food.
18010:07 That good food's not for rich people --
18110:10 good food's for everybody on the planet,
18210:12 and there's no excuse why we all can't be eating it.
18310:15 So at my school, we subsidize a gourmet lunch program
18410:20 for welfare mothers in the middle of the inner city
18510:23 because we've discovered that it's good for their stomachs,
18610:25 but it's better for their heads.
18710:27 Because I wanted to let them know every day of their life
18810:32 that they have value at this place I call my center.
18910:36 We have students who sit together, black kids and white kids,
19010:42 and what we've discovered is you can solve the race problem
19110:47 by creating a world class environment,
19210:50 because people will have a tendency to show you world class behavior
19310:54 if you treat them in that way.
19410:57 These are examples of the food that welfare mothers are doing
19511:02 after six months in the training program.
19611:05 No sophistication, no class, no dignity, no history.
19711:11 What we've discovered is the only thing wrong with poor people
19811:15 is they don't have any money, which happens to be a curable condition.
19911:21 It's all in the way that you think about people
20011:24 that often determines their behavior.
20111:26 That was done by a student after seven months in the program,
20211:30 done by a very brilliant young woman
20311:34 who was taught by our pastry chef.
20411:36 I've actually eaten seven of those baskets and they're very good.
20511:39 (Laughter)
20611:40 They have no calories.
20711:42 That's our dining room.
20811:44 It looks like your average high school cafeteria
20911:48 in your average town in America.
21011:51 But this is my view of how students ought to be treated,
21111:55 particularly once they have been pushed aside.
21211:58 We train pharmaceutical technicians for the pharmacy industry,
21312:04 we train medical technicians for the medical industry,
21412:07 and we train chemical technicians for companies
21512:11 like Bayer and Calgon Carbon and Fisher Scientific and Exxon.
21612:15 And I will guarantee you that if you come to my center in Pittsburgh --
21712:21 and you're all invited --
21812:23 you'll see welfare mothers doing analytical chemistry
21912:25 with logarithmic calculators
22012:27 10 months from enrolling in the program.
22112:30 There is absolutely no reason why poor people
22212:35 can't learn world class technology.
22312:38 What we've discovered is you have to give them flowers
22412:41 and sunlight and food and expectations and Herbie's music,
22512:47 and you can cure a spiritual cancer every time.
22612:52 We train corporate travel agents for the travel industry.
22712:57 We even teach people how to read.
22813:00 The kid with the red stripe was in the program two years ago --
22913:04 he's now an instructor.
23013:06 And I have children with high school diplomas that they can't read.
23113:11 And so you must ask yourself the question:
23213:14 how is it possible in the 21st century
23313:19 that we graduate children from schools
23413:22 who can't read the diplomas that they have in their hands?
23513:25 The reason is that the system gets reimbursed
23613:28 for the kids they spit out the other end, not the children who read.
23713:33 I can take these children and in 20 weeks,
23813:38 demonstrated aptitude; I can get them high school equivalent.
23913:42 No big deal.
24013:45 That's our library with more handcrafted furniture.
24113:51 And this is the arts program I started in 1968.
24213:55 Remember I'm the black kid from the '60s who got his life saved with ceramics.
24313:59 Well, I went out and decided to reproduce my experience
24414:02 with other kids in the neighborhood,
24514:04 the theory being if you get kids flowers and you give them food
24614:08 and you give them sunshine and enthusiasm,
24714:11 you can bring them right back to life.
24814:13 I have 400 kids from the Pittsburgh public school system
24914:16 that come to me every day of the week for arts education.
25014:21 And these are children who are flunking out of public school.
25114:24 And last year I put 88 percent of those kids in college
25214:27 and I've averaged over 80 percent for 15 years.
25314:31 We've made a fascinating discovery:
25414:33 there's nothing wrong with the kids
25514:36 that affection and sunshine and food and enthusiasm
25614:41 and Herbie's music can't cure.
25714:44 For that I won a big old plaque -- Man of the Year in Education.
25814:48 I beat out all the Ph.D.'s
25914:50 because I figured that if you treat children like human beings,
26014:53 it increases the likelihood they're going to behave that way.
26114:56 And why we can't institute that policy
26214:59 in every school and in every city and every town
26315:05 remains a mystery to me.
26415:08 Let me show you what these people do.
26515:11 We have ceramics and photography and computer imaging.
26615:15 And these are all kids with no artistic ability, no talent,
26715:20 no imagination. And we bring in the world's greatest artists --
26815:24 Gordon Parks has been there, Chester Higgins has been there --
26915:27 and what we've learned
27015:29 is that the children will become like the people who teach them.
27115:33 In fact, I brought in a mosaic artist from the Vatican,
27215:37 an African-American woman
27315:39 who had studied the old Vatican mosaic techniques,
27415:42 and let me show you what they did with the work.
27515:46 These were children who the whole world had given up on,
27615:50 who were flunking out of public school,
27715:52 and that's what they're capable of doing
27815:54 with affection and sunlight and food and good music and confidence.
27916:04 We teach photography.
28016:06 And these are examples of some of the kids' work.
28116:10 That boy won a four-year scholarship
28216:13 on the strength of that photograph.
28316:16 This is our gallery.
28416:18 We have a world class gallery
28516:20 because we believe that poor kids need a world class gallery,
28616:24 so I designed this thing.
28716:26 We have smoked salmon at the art openings,
28816:28 we have a formal printed invitation,
28916:31 and I even have figured out a way to get their parents to come.
29016:34 I couldn't buy a parent 15 years ago
29116:37 so I hired a guy who got off on the Jesus big time.
29216:41 He was dragging guys out of bars
29316:43 and saving those lives for the Lord.
29416:45 And I said, "Bill, I want to hire you, man.
29516:49 You have to tone down the Jesus stuff a little bit,
29616:51 but keep the enthusiasm.
29716:53 (Laughter) (Applause)
29816:56 I can't get these parents to come to the school."
29917:00 He said, "I'll get them to come to the school."
30017:02 So, he jumped in the van, he went to Miss Jones' house and said,
30117:04 "Miss Jones, I knew you wanted to come to your kid's art opening
30217:07 but you probably didn't have a ride.
30317:10 So, I came to give you a ride."
30417:12 And he got 10 parents and then 20 parents.
30517:15 At the last show that we did, 200 parents showed up
30617:19 and we didn't pick up one parent.
30717:21 Because now it's become socially not acceptable not to show up
30817:26 to support your children at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild
30917:29 because people think you're bad parents.
31017:31 And there is no statistical difference
31117:33 between the white parents and the black parents.
31217:37 Mothers will go where their children are being celebrated,
31317:42 every time, every town, every city.
31417:48 I wanted you to see this gallery because it's as good as it gets.
31517:56 And by the time I cut these kids loose from high school,
31617:59 they've got four shows on their resume
31718:02 before they apply to college because it's all up here.
31818:05 You have to change the way that people see themselves
31918:09 before you can change their behavior.
32018:12 And it's worked out pretty good up to this day.
32118:17 I even stuck another room on the building, which I'd like to show you.
32218:23 This is brand new.
32318:25 We just got this slide done in time for the TED Conference.
32418:29 I gave this little slide show at a place called the Silicon Valley
32518:34 and I did all right.
32618:36 And the woman came out of the audience,
32718:38 she said, "That was a great story
32818:40 and I was very impressed with your presentation.
32918:42 My only criticism is your computers are getting a little bit old."
33018:45 And I said, "Well, what do you do for a living?"
33118:48 She said, "Well, I work for a company called Hewlett-Packard."
33218:52 And I said, "You're in the computer business, is that right?"
33318:55 She said, "Yes, sir."
33418:57 And I said, "Well, there's an easy solution to that problem."
33518:59 Well, I'm very pleased to announce to you that HP
33619:03 and a furniture company called Steelcase
33719:06 have adopted us as a demonstration model for all of their technology
33819:10 and all their furniture for the United States of America.
33919:13 And that's the room
34019:15 that's initiating the relationship.
34119:17 We got it just done in time to show you,
34219:19 so it's kind of the world debut of our digital imaging center.
34319:23 (Applause)
34419:24 (Music)
34519:32 I only have a couple more slides,
34619:34 and this is where the story gets kind of interesting.
34719:37 So, I just want you to listen up for a couple more minutes
34819:40 and you'll understand why he's there and I'm here.
34919:45 In 1986, I had the presence of mind to stick a music hall
35019:49 on the north end of the building while I was building it.
35119:52 And a guy named Dizzy Gillespie showed up to play there
35219:57 because he knew this man over here, Marty Ashby.
35320:01 And I stood on that stage with Dizzy Gillespie on sound check
35420:05 on a Wednesday afternoon, and I said,
35520:07 "Dizzy, why would you come to a black-run center
35620:10 in the middle of an industrial park with a high crime rate
35720:14 that doesn't even have a reputation in music?"
35820:16 He said, "Because I heard you built the center
35920:18 and I didn't believe that you did it, and I wanted to see for myself.
36020:21 And now that I have, I want to give you a gift."
36120:26 I said, "You're the gift."
36220:28 He said, "No, sir. You're the gift.
36320:30 And I'm going to allow you to record the concert
36420:32 and I'm going to give you the music,
36520:34 and if you ever choose to sell it, you must sign an agreement
36620:37 that says the money will come back and support the school."
36720:39 And I recorded Dizzy. And he died a year later,
36820:44 but not before telling a fellow named McCoy Tyner what we were doing.
36920:48 And he showed up and said,
37020:50 "Dizzy talking about you all over the country, man,
37120:52 and I want to help you."
37220:54 And then a guy named Wynton Marsalis showed up.
37320:57 Then a bass player named Ray Brown,
37421:00 and a fellow named Stanley Turrentine,
37521:03 and a piano player named Herbie Hancock,
37621:06 and a band called the Count Basie Orchestra,
37721:12 and a fellow named Tito Puente,
37821:15 and a guy named Gary Burton, and Shirley Horn, and Betty Carter,
37921:20 and Dakota Staton and Nancy Wilson
38021:23 all have come to this center in the middle of an industrial park
38121:28 to sold out audiences in the middle of the inner city.
38221:31 And I'm very pleased to tell you that, with their permission,
38321:35 I have now accumulated 600 recordings
38421:38 of the greatest artists in the world,
38521:40 including Joe Williams, who died,
38621:44 but not before his last recording was done at my school.
38721:49 And Joe Williams came up to me and he put his hand on my shoulder
38821:59 and he said, "God's picked you, man, to do this work.
38922:07 And I want my music to be with you."
39022:10 And that worked out all right.
39122:14 When the Basie band came, the band got so excited about the school
39222:19 they voted to give me the rights to the music.
39322:22 And I recorded it and we won something called a Grammy.
39422:27 And like a fool, I didn't go to the ceremony
39522:30 because I didn't think we were going to win.
39622:32 Well, we did win,
39722:34 and our name was literally in lights over Madison Square Garden.
39822:36 Then the U.N. Jazz Orchestra dropped by and we recorded them
39922:45 and got nominated for a second Grammy back to back.
40022:50 So, we've become one of the hot, young jazz recording studios
40122:53 in the United States of America
40222:55 (Laughter)
40322:56 in the middle of the inner city with a high crime rate.
40423:02 That's the place all filled up with Republicans.
40523:08 (Laughter)
40623:12 (Applause)
40723:13 If you'd have dropped a bomb on that room,
40823:15 you'd have wiped out all the money in Pennsylvania
40923:17 because it was all sitting there.
41023:19 Including my mother and father, who lived long enough
41123:22 to see their kid build that building.
41223:25 And there's Dizzy, just like I told you. He was there.
41323:29 And he was there, Tito Puente.
41423:32 And Pat Metheny and Jim Hall were there
41523:35 and they recorded with us.
41623:37 And that was our first recording studio, which was the broom closet.
41723:42 We put the mops in the hallway and re-engineered the thing
41823:45 and that's where we recorded the first Grammy.
41923:48 And this is our new facility, which is all video technology.
42023:52 And that is a room that was built for a woman named Nancy Wilson,
42123:56 who recorded that album at our school last Christmas.
42224:04 And any of you who happened to have been watching Oprah Winfrey
42324:06 on Christmas Day, he was there and Nancy was there
42424:10 singing excerpts from this album,
42524:12 the rights to which she donated to our school.
42624:16 And I can now tell you with absolute certainty
42724:18 that an appearance on Oprah Winfrey will sell 10,000 CDs.
42824:23 (Laughter)
42924:25 We are currently number four on the Billboard Charts,
43024:28 right behind Tony Bennett.
43124:30 And I think we're going to be fine.
43224:32 This was burned out during the riots -- this is next to my building --
43324:36 and so I had another cardboard box built
43424:39 and I walked back out in the streets again.
43524:41 And that's the building, and that's the model,
43624:44 and on the right's a high-tech greenhouse
43724:47 and in the middle's the medical technology building.
43824:49 And I'm very pleased to tell you that the building's done.
43924:52 It's also full of anchor tenants at 20 dollars a foot --
44024:57 triple that in the middle of the inner city.
44124:59 And there's the fountain.
44225:01 (Laughter)
44325:03 Every building has a fountain.
44425:05 And the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center are anchor tenants
44525:08 and they took half the building,
44625:10 and we now train medical technicians through all their system.
44725:13 And Mellon Bank's a tenant.
44825:15 And I love them because they pay the rent on time.
44925:18 (Laughter)
45025:19 And as a result of the association,
45125:21 I'm now a director of the Mellon Financial Corporation
45225:24 that bought Dreyfus.
45325:29 And this is in the process of being built as we speak.
45425:33 Multiply that picture times four and you will see the greenhouse
45525:38 that's going to open in October this year
45625:40 because we're going to grow those flowers
45725:44 in the middle of the inner city.
45825:46 And we're going to have high school kids
45925:48 growing Phalaenopsis orchids in the middle of the inner city.
46025:53 And we have a handshake with one of the large retail grocers
46125:57 to sell our orchids in all 240 stores in six states.
46226:02 And our partners are Zuma Canyon Orchids of Malibu, California,
46326:06 who are Hispanic.
46426:08 So, the Hispanics and the black folks have formed a partnership
46526:11 to grow high technology orchids in the middle of the inner city.
46626:15 And I told my United States senator
46726:18 that there was a very high probability
46826:20 that if he could find some funding for this,
46926:22 we would become a left-hand column in the Wall Street Journal,
47026:26 to which he readily agreed.
47126:28 And we got the funding and we open in the fall.
47226:30 And you ought to come and see it -- it's going to be a hell of a story.
47326:33 And this is what I want to do when I grow up.
47426:38 (Laughter)
47526:40 The brown building is the one you guys have been looking at
47626:43 and I'll tell you where I made my big mistake.
47726:46 I had a chance to buy this whole industrial park --
47826:50 which is less than 1,000 feet from the riverfront --
47926:52 for four million dollars and I didn't do it.
48026:56 And I built the first building, and guess what happened?
48127:00 I appreciated the real estate values beyond everybody's expectations
48227:04 and the owners of the park turned me down for eight million dollars last year,
48327:10 and said, "Mr. Strickland,
48427:12 you ought to get the Civic Leader of the Year Award
48527:14 because you've appreciated our property values
48627:16 beyond our wildest expectations.
48727:18 Thank you very much for that."
48827:21 The moral of the story is you must be prepared to act on your dreams,
48927:26 just in case they do come true.
49027:29 And finally, there's this picture.
49127:35 This is in a place called San Francisco.
49227:38 And the reason this picture's in here is
49327:41 I did this slide show a couple years ago at a big economics summit,
49427:45 and there was a fellow in the audience who came up to me.
49527:47 He said, "Man, that's a great story.
49627:49 I want one of those."
49727:51 I said, "Well, I'm very flattered. What do you do for a living?"
49827:54 He says, "I run the city of San Francisco.
49927:56 My name's Willie Brown."
50027:59 And so I kind of accepted the flattery and the praise
50128:04 and put it out of my mind.
50228:06 And that weekend, I was going back home
50328:08 and Herbie Hancock was playing our center that night --
50428:13 first time I'd met him.
50528:15 And he walked in and he says, "What is this?"
50628:18 And I said, "Herbie, this is my concept of a training center
50728:22 for poor people."
50828:24 And he said, "As God as my witness,
50928:27 I've had a center like this in my mind for 25 years and you've built it.
51028:31 And now I really want to build one."
51128:33 I said, "Well, where would you build this thing?"
51228:35 He said, "San Francisco."
51328:37 I said, "Any chance you know Willie Brown?"
51428:40 (Laughter)
51528:42 As a matter of fact he did know Willie Brown,
51628:45 and Willie Brown and Herbie and I had dinner four years ago,
51728:48 and we started drawing out that center on the tablecloth.
51828:51 And Willie Brown said, "As sure as I'm the mayor of San Francisco,
51928:55 I'm going to build this thing
52028:57 as a legacy to the poor people of this city."
52129:01 And he got me five acres of land on San Francisco Bay
52229:05 and we got an architect and we got a general contractor
52329:09 and we got Herbie on the board,
52429:12 and our friends from HP, and our friends from Steelcase,
52529:15 and our friends from Cisco, and our friends from Wells Fargo
52629:18 and Genentech.
52729:20 And along the way, I met this real short guy
52829:24 at my slide show in the Silicon Valley.
52929:28 He came up to me afterwards,
53029:30 he said, "Man, that's a fabulous story.
53129:33 I want to help you."
53229:35 And I said, "Well, thank you very much for that.
53329:37 What do you do for a living?"
53429:39 He said, "Well, I built a company called eBay."
53529:43 I said, "Well, that's very nice.
53629:45 Thanks very much, and give me your card and sometime we'll talk."
53729:48 I didn't know eBay from that jar of water sitting on that piano,
53829:53 but I had the presence of mind to go back
53929:55 and talk to one of the techie kids at my center.
54029:58 I said, "Hey man, what is eBay?"
54130:00 He said, "Well, that's the electronic commerce network."
54230:03 I said, "Well, I met the guy who built the thing
54330:05 and he left me his card."
54430:08 So, I called him up on the phone and I said, "Mr. Skoll,
54530:11 I've come to have a much deeper appreciation of who you are
54630:15 (Laughter)
54730:20 and I'd like to become your friend."
54830:23 (Laughter)
54930:26 And Jeff and I did become friends,
55030:29 and he's organized a team of people
55130:32 and we're going to build this center.
55230:37 And I went down into the neighborhood called Bayview-Hunters Point,
55330:43 and I said, "The mayor sent me down here to work with you
55430:47 and I want to build a center with you,
55530:50 but I'm not going to build you anything if you don't want it.
55630:53 And all I've got is a box of slides."
55730:56 And so I stood up in front of 200 very angry, very disappointed people
55831:02 on a summer night, and the air conditioner had broken
55931:05 and it was 100 degrees outside,
56031:09 and I started showing these pictures.
56131:11 And after about 10 pictures they all settled down.
56231:15 And I ran the story and I said, "What do you think?"
56331:20 And in the back of the room, a woman stood up and she said,
56431:23 "In 35 years of living in this God forsaken place,
56531:26 you're the only person that's come down here and treated us with dignity.
56631:30 I'm going with you, man."
56731:33 And she turned that audience around on a pin.
56831:36 And I promised these people that I was going to build this thing,
56931:40 and we're going to build it all right.
57031:42 And I think we can get in the ground this year
57131:45 as the first replication of the center in Pittsburgh.
57231:49 But I met a guy named Quincy Jones along the way
57331:55 and I showed him the box of slides.
57431:59 And Quincy said, "I want to help you, man.
57532:02 Let's do one in L.A."
57632:06 And so he's assembled a group of people.
57732:09 And I've fallen in love with him,
57832:11 as I have with Herbie and with his music.
57932:15 And Quincy said, "Where did the idea for centers like this come from?"
58032:21 And I said, "It came from your music, man.
58132:24 Because Mr. Ross used to bring in your albums
58232:27 when I was 16 years old in the pottery class,
58332:30 when the world was all dark,
58432:33 and your music got me to the sunlight."
58532:37 And I said, "If I can follow that music,
58632:39 I'll get out into the sunlight and I'll be OK.
58732:43 And if that's not true, how did I get here?"
58832:48 I want you all to know
58932:52 that I think the world is a place that's worth living.
59032:56 I believe in you.
59133:00 I believe in your hopes and your dreams,
59233:04 I believe in your intelligence
59333:07 and I believe in your enthusiasm.
59433:09 And I'm tired of living like this,
59533:12 going into town after town with people standing around on corners
59633:17 with holes where eyes used to be, their spirits damaged.
59733:24 We won't make it as a country unless we can turn this thing around.
59833:28 In Pennsylvania it costs 60,000 dollars to keep people in jail,
59933:34 most of whom look like me.
60033:36 It's 40,000 dollars to build the University of Pittsburgh Medical School.
60133:40 It's 20,000 dollars cheaper to build a medical school than to keep people in jail.
60233:44 Do the math -- it will never work.
60333:49 I am banking on you
60433:51 and I'm banking on guys like Herbie and Quincy and Hackett and Richard
60534:00 and very decent people who still believe in something.
60634:06 And I want to do this in my lifetime, in every city and in every town.
60734:15 And I don't think I'm crazy.
60834:17 I think we can get home on this thing
60934:19 and I think we can build these all over the country
61034:22 for less money than we're spending on prisons.
61134:26 And I believe we can turn this whole story around
61234:29 to one of celebration and one of hope.
61334:33 In my business it's very difficult work.
61434:36 You're always fighting upstream like a salmon --
61534:39 never enough money, too much need --
61634:42 and so there is a tendency
61734:44 to have an occupational depression that accompanies my work.
61834:48 And so I've figured out, over time, the solution to the depression:
61934:54 you make a friend in every town and you'll never be lonely.
62035:00 And my hope is that I've made a few here tonight.
62135:05 And thanks for listening to what I had to say.
62235:08 (Applause)