News & Events
As part of the President's Distinguished Speaker Series, Bill Strickland spoke on campus about helping disadvantaged youth rise out of poverty as president-CEO of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation, a celebrated jobs training center and community arts program.
"Just because you grew up poor doesn't mean you have to remain that way," Mr. Strickland told an audience in the Horace Mann Auditorium during his talk, "Make the Impossible, Possible."
Much of his talk focused on the corporation's renowned Bidwell Training Center and Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, both located in Mr. Strickland's native Pittsburgh, where many people live in poverty. The jobs center trains disadvantaged kids and adults in various career paths, such as culinary arts, medical fields and horticulture, while the craftsmen's guild lets young artists hone their talents in clay, design, photography and other styles. There is also a music program, MCG Jazz, which brings live performances and recordings to local youth.
Showing disadvantaged youth learning job skills, entering the workforce and creating stunning art breaks down common stereotypes of those living in poor neighborhoods, said Mr. Strickland. "These are the kids who supposedly don't have any ability. Well, they have plenty of ability," he said, "you just have to give them the tools, so they can show you what they're capable of."
Although operating in a city with a high crime rate, Mr. Strickland said the center has no metal detectors or security cameras on site, yet there have been no incidents of violence, drugs or vandalism in 26 years. He contributes that success to the beautiful design of the building and his organization's philosophy of respect. "Environment drives behavior," he said. "Beautiful buildings create beautiful people. Prisons create prisoners. Rather than treat people like prisoners, I decided to treat people like human beings."
Additional centers are open in Cincinnati and San Francisco, and Mr. Strickland said there are plans for opening dozens more worldwide, including in Boston.
In 1996, Mr. Strickland earned a MacArthur Fellowship, an award given by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation each year to people who demonstrate exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work. He is also the author of Make the Impossible Possible, and a recipient of The White House's "Coming Up Taller" Award. (Rob Matheson, '07, University Advancement; video by Moakley TV Studio)
To learn more about Manchester Bidwell Corporation click here.
Bill Strickland's full speech.