Inspiring summit

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Recently Wendy and I flew to Chicago to visit our daughter Holly, her husband (who is our family's corporate business attorney) Rich Payne, and three of our 12 grandchildren (Reagan, Robyn and Morgan).

The major timing for the trip centered on Willow Creek Church's leadership summit. Rich and Holly are active with this church and its mission, which motivated them to move to the Chicago area years ago.

We sat with 15,000 leaders from around the world to hear messages from some well-known authors and industry, political and religious leaders. Another 70,000 people experienced the summit by video at different sites in the United States (including one in St. Louis).

The program was taped and will be translated into more than 10 languages and then shown in over 78 cities in 31 countries around the world, being mixed with live programming. This is done through the fund raising and leadership of the Willow Creek Association under the leadership of Bill Hybels, who was one of the original founders of Willow Creek Church and its former senior pastor.

The speakers included Colin Powell, Jimmy Carter, Richard Curtis (British screenwriter for "Mr. Bean," "Four Weddings and a Funeral" etc.), religious author John Ortberg, Harvard professor Michael Porter (competitive strategy expert), 41-year-old best-selling author Marcus Buckingham ("First Break All the Rules," "Go Put Your Strength to Work" etc.), the Rev. Floyd Flake and Carly Fiorni (author of "Tough Choices" and former president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard).

But besides these speeches and the motivating messages of Bill Hybels, I was most inspired by a young college student.

There was a video clip of the young man when he was a baby. He was born with no eyes. A later video clip showed him seated at a piano (about 2 years old). Though stunted and blind, he had a musical gift. When someone played a one-finger song on the piano, he picked it up by ear and repeated it.

His family worked with him -- and sat with him at school as he dealt with his physical handicaps -- to help him grow with his music. Eventually, he also learned the trumpet.

Last year, the young man made the Louisville University Marching Band, being pushed in the formation maneuvers by his father (who worked night shift to be with his son during the days -- after little sleep). My thanks also goes out to the unnamed band director who supported this. I forgot the young man's name and that of his father, but I was overwhelmed.

And even more so, when the lights went up in the darkened auditorium after the video and this young man with is stunted legs was seated at a grand piano on stage with his father 15 feet behind him.

He and his father received a standing ovation. But what really overwhelmed me was when he played and sang (in Billy Joel style) with a deep, passionate voice better than any singer on "American Idol."

What an inspiration.


Another inspiring story was that of the first week back to Major League Baseball by Rick Ankiel as covered in a brilliant column by Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post in paralleling the movie "The Natural" and Ankiel's return.

We are reprinting Krauthammer's column elsewhere on this page, and I especially want to call your attention to the last paragraph, which I've already shared with Nathan Cooper.

Gary Rust is chairman of Rust Communications.

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