Good afternoon, I'm Dean Akande. I want to welcome you to the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology here at Webster University. We are happy you are here.
Author James W. Moore shares an inspiring illustration of strength and adaptability that I would like to share with you now, as you start on this journey.
On November 18th, 1995, Itzhak Perlman came on stage to give a concert at Lincoln Center in New York City. If you have ever been to a Perlman concert (or if you have ever seen one on television) you know that getting on stage is no small achievement for him. Because of the polio, he has heavy braces on both legs and walks with the aid of crutches. To see him walk across the stage one step at a time, painfully, slowly, arduously, is an awesome sight. Though he walks painfully, he also walks majestically, until he reaches his chair. He then sits down, slowly puts his crutches on the floor, releases the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back, and extends the other foot forward. Then he bends down, picks up his violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the director, and begins to play.
He had gone through this pre-play process hundreds of times. But this time, something went wrong. Just as he finished the first few bars, there was a loud pop! One of the strings on his violin broke! You could hear it snap all across the concert hall. Everybody in the room realized what had happened, and they all wondered, "What on earth is he going to do?" Most probably though he would reattach his braces, pick up his crutches, and go looking for a new string or another violin. But he didn't. Perlman sat there for a moment, closed his eyes, and then amazingly, he signaled the conductor to begin again. The orchestra began, and Itzhak Perlman recomposed the piece in his head and played the entire concert with incredible power, passion, and purity on just three strings!
Now, we all would think that's impossible. We know that can't be done. I know that, and you know that, but that night, Itzhak Perlman refused to know that. You could see him modulating, changing, rethinking the piece in his head and playing it perfectly on the three strings he had left. When he finished, there was an awesome silence in the room. And then people rose and cheered wildly, an extraordinary outburst of applause from every corner of the auditorium. People were on their feet, screaming, cheering, clapping, doing everything they could to show how much they appreciated what he had just done.
Itzhak Perlman smiled, wiped the sweat from his brow, raised his violin bow to thank the crowd, and then - in a quiet, pensive, reverent tone - he said "sometimes it is the artist's task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left."
Here is a man who has prepared all his life to make music on a violin of four strings, who all of a sudden, in the middle of a concert, finds himself with only three strings, and the music he made that night with just three strings was more beautiful, more sacred, more memorable, than any he had ever made before, when he had four strings.
As you begin your journey at Webster allow me to share with you a couple the tweets I found on twitter. These tweets offer timely advice on what you need to take heed.
In your time at Webster you will face challenging courses, difficult professors, complex assignments. Your strings will break every now and then but please don't stop playing. In your time at Webster, our goal is not to prepare you to live, thrive and prosper in a perfect world but to succeed even when things don't work out as they should. We are going to prepare you to succeed in a world of uncertainty. Eddie Rickenbacker said it best, "Courage is doing what you are afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you are scared."
"The very essence of our role as faculty is for us to be good teachers. "
- Dr. Benjamin Akande
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