In Britain, there’s a television program called “Britain’s Got Talent,” or BGT for short. In its last season, BGT featured a mobile telephone salesman named Paul Potts. To look at Paul, you’d think he was just an ordinary guy. He’s a little frumpy and has a couple of crooked teeth. When he first appeared on the program, he told the judges he wanted to sing opera. The judges grinned dismissively. He didn’t look like an opera singer and didn’t seem to have the stage presence. The music started and Paul began singing “Nessun Dorma,” an opera standard that has been belted out by the best. Within seconds, his performance literally took the breath away from the audience. Women were crying, men were standing and the judges were totally amazed. After hearing this incredible performance, one judge said, “What we have here is a little lump of coal that’s going to turn into a diamond.” (To see the performance, go to youtube.com and search for “Paul Potts.” Choose the video that shows his first performance.)
Paul Potts followed a dream in spite of all odds. He had been a shy, humble man who lacked self-confidence, but in spite of his background, he decided to take a shot. Paul won the competition and fulfilled a lifelong dream—singing for the Queen of England.
At the end of October, the ICC Educational Foundation held its annual Community Celebration. It’s a magical night where the Foundation honors the ICC scholarship recipients and thanks the many donors who make the scholarships possible. What’s special about the night is that when you look out into the crowd, you see the faces of any number of people who, much like Potts, have hidden talents just waiting for the right venue in which to come out.
Although we didn’t hear opera sung that evening, we did hear some extraordinary stories. We heard about a young woman who left her home at the age of 14, thought she was worthless and had no hope of a future. She earned her GED and then came to ICC. She admitted that she didn’t think she was as good as anyone else and lacked self-confidence. Slowly, but surely, she honed her academic skills. She found that she was able to read and understand complex mathematical equations, and suddenly, she realized that she had worth. But even more striking was the fact that when she received her scholarship, she said that it felt as if someone was really proud of her—that she really mattered. Wow! We all felt the same kind of emotional impact from her story that we did listening to Paul Potts. It was the kind of feeling that you can only get when people connect with each other on the most human of all connections—caring for each other.
That’s what is so amazing about shows like BGT and ICC’s Community Celebration. Through such events, we see that everyone has potential. It’s the discovery and realization of that potential, though, that causes us to catch our breath and feel our heart beat with excitement. Even though our many scholarship recipients won’t get to sing for the Queen, at the Community Celebration we caught a glimpse of people like Potts who are just waiting for their chance to find their own voices and impact the world with what they can do. For that small glimpse into the potential of human achievement, we are truly grateful…to our scholarship recipients who shared their unique stories, to the donors who make the scholarships possible and to all the others who are there to guide and support them on their way. IBI