First a little apology. I have not been writing very much this summer, because I am usually packing my suitcase or unpacking. Just added up the numbers and I have been away from home 47 nights over the past 4 months. That’s a lot for me, and tonight is one of those nights.
I am in Orlando, Florida (for the 3rd time this summer), and I am attending the annual KIPP School Summit. KIPP is a network of high quality charter schools all across the country, and many of their schools book their student year-end trips through my company, VenueQuest. Tonight, they were presenting their annual awards at a Gala Dinner which I had the good fortune to attend.
Early in the evening, we were treated to a stomp dance performance by 1st grade students from the stupUPbreakDOWN dance group at KIPP LA. A little later in the dinner KIPP Foundation CEO Richard Barth came out on stage and told a story about how the team and their parents just explained to him backstage that they would be flying home late tomorrow night. He assumed they scheduled a late flight because they would spend the day enjoying Disney World, but soon learned that the group had wanted to go to Walt Disney World while they were here in Orlando, but they did not have enough money to make it happen. So Barth opened his speech with this story and then gave out his email address and challenged all 3,000 participants at the conference to pitch in by tomorrow morning to raise the approximately $5,000 it would take to get all these kids into Disney for the day. The room was buzzing and I could tell that many attendees were already pulling out their phones and emailing Mr. Barth.
He proceeded to introduce the winner of the KIPP Giving Tree Award, which this year was presented to Mr. Reed Hastings, Founder and CEO of Netflix. Mr. Barth gave the typical rundown of all of Reed’s accomplishments and philanthropic efforts which lean heavily toward supporting education and charter schools. I learned that at one time, he was even the President of the California State Board of Education. Mr. Reed Hastings came out on stage and accepted his award. Then, stepping to the podium he said, “Richard, I am sure that you are going to receive a lot of emails tonight offering money to help get those children to Disney World tomorrow. My only request is that you decline all of them, and accept mine.” And with that he smiled and walked off the stage.
Netflix had a major public relations snafu in 2011 as they changed subscription policies, then changed back…added a new division, then closed it down. I was a subscriber back then, and I have remained a subscriber. After tonight, I believe not just in the quality of their service, but in the integrity and humanity of their leader. For me, his spontaneous action was the highlight of the evening, and there is a healthy stream of twitter and facebook chit chat that suggests I am not alone…and that’s saying something because not 20 minutes before he took the stage, we all gave a standing ovation to the closing keynote speaker, President Bill Clinton.