An angel among us

Share this article:
John O'Connor, editorial director, McKnight's Long-Term Care News
John O'Connor, editorial director, McKnight's Long-Term Care News
To suddenly realize you are in the presence of greatness is a rare and heady experience. About a thousand of us shared that feeling Wednesday at the Assisted Living Federation of America conference, when Bill Strickland took the stage.

Strickland was raised in a hardscrabble Pittsburgh neighborhood. Like so many other poor, black young men growing up in the 60s, he seemed likely to inherit an adult life full of challenge, misery and pain.

What saved him? An art teacher at his high school named Frank Ross. Ross explained to Strickland what a pottery wheel was, and how it could be used. Ross also demanded that Strickland apply to college, which the young pupil reluctantly did - with a pencil. He was conditionally admitted to the University of Pittsburgh. He would later graduate with honors. Who knew then that he would win a MacArthur "Genius" Award for his work with the disadvantaged, while also piling up more than a dozen honorary degrees?*

Perhaps Strickland's real genius is an unwillingness to discount the value of people, regardless of how bleak their circumstances might appear to be. Any senior living professional who can't see the value of that viewpoint is
probably in the wrong line of work.

"People are born into this world as assets, not liabilities," he reminded us.

To help his students realize their worthiness, he makes sure they receive gourmet-quality lunches at the school he runs. He also makes sure fresh cut flowers (from the school's greenhouse) are placed in the school each day.
A small gesture, perhaps. But an important one. 

"Dignity is essential to education," he added, along with "welfare is a state of mind." In Strickland's world, there's plenty of creativity, responsibility and hope for anyone willing to embrace them.

It has been said that talent does what it can, while genius does what it must. Strickland said he hopes to work with senior living operators. You would be hard pressed to find better news from this year's conference.
Share this article:
close

Next Article in Daily Editors' Notes

Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.

    ALL MCKNIGHT'S BLOGS

    More in Daily Editors' Notes

    Guess who's asking whether to discontinue skilled care?

    Guess who's asking whether to discontinue skilled care?

    The audience member had a question that in previous years would have been found at the corner of Blasphemy and Crazytalk. She wanted to know whether it would be advisable ...

    Managing time for staff to reflect after a resident's death

    Managing time for staff to reflect after a ...

    Singing "Amazing Grace" or playing a ukelele version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" may not immediately spring to mind as ways to help staff members grieve after a resident has ...

    Glen Campbell Alzheimer's documentary brings out the stars — caregivers and celebrities ...

    As readers of this blog may recall, my expectations for the special screening of the new documentary about music superstar Glen Campbell's journey with Alzheimer's disease were high. Sunday night's star-studded showing and concert were to be unlike anything long-term care professionals had experienced before. ...