Make the Impossible Possible: One Man's Crusade to Inspire Others to Dream Bigger and Achieve the Extraordinary
Bill Strickland, with Vince Rause. . Doubleday/Currency, $23.95 (232pp) ISBN 978-0-385-52054-6
Community activist and MacArthur fellow Strickland explains the jazz expression “tell your story” as “playing that doesn't just display your virtuosity, but also gives the audience a glimpse of your soul.” He succeeds in doing just that. We get the virtuosity: he was an African-American kid from Pittsburgh's inner city who at 19 established what became Manchester-Bidwell, the now famous arts and job-training center for disadvantaged kids and adults. And we get the soul: he was spurred on by a mother who taught him to polish a wood floor until it gleamed no matter what was going on in the streets outside; an art teacher who believed in the “aimless” boy; a classroom where coffee brewed, jazz played softly, and he had the transformative experience of throwing his first clay pot. It's the American dream with a twist: for Strickland, it was never about shedding his past and getting ahead but about following his bliss and making a difference. Which is not to say the skilled fund-raiser isn't savvy. He touts the value of a Brooks Brothers suit and knowing the right people. Unfortunately, we don't learn how Strickland's philosophy of making the impossible possible applies to his—or our—personal lives.
Reviewed on: 10/08/2007