Saturday, June 13, 2009

The promise of El Sistema … and the promise of our system

It has been a particularly challenging week for the medical center. I needed the encouragement of this video that was sent to me anonymously this week and I wanted to pass it along to you. It came to my attention via the blog comments section with the simple comment "Reminder." It was a link to a TED talk, a site I was directed to from my dear friend Karen last year. I'll confess up front, I love TED talks. Although I watch them often and follow them on Twitter, this particular talk had escaped me. I'm grateful it found its way to me.

Having just returned from a conference, my inbox had accumulated quite a stack of material. As I sifted through the pile, I clicked on the video and turned up the volume. I thought I could cheat a bit and listen while I organized. This didn't last long. I had to look up because the man was speaking Spanish and I realized there were subtitles to assist me. There were no flashy graphics or special effects. The video is simply a man speaking, but his passion and commitment were gripping. The talk is 17 minutes in length, but during those 17 minutes everything else stopped. I couldn't get up. I was profoundly moved by his words.

Here is why TED says you should listen to him..

The gulf between the rich and the poor in Venezuela is one of the worst in the world. José Antonio Abreu, an economist, musician, and reformer, founded El Sistema ("the system") in 1975 to help Venezuelan kids take part in classical music. After 30 years (and 10 political administrations), El Sistema is a nationwide organization of 102 youth orchestras, 55 children's orchestras, and 270 music centers -- and close to 250,000 young musicians.

There is a simple concept behind Abreu's work: for him an orchestra is first and foremost about togetherness, a place where children learn to listen to each other and to respect one another.

He reflected on his first session when he had planned for a hundred, but only 11 children showed up. He said at that moment he realized his choice was to abandon the program or multiply the children. That night in 1975 he promised those 11 children he would turn their orchestra into one of the leading orchestras in the world. He kept his promise and El Sistema has since touched the lives of over 250,000 children, their families, their communities and the world. Abreu describes the experience as "more than just an artistic triumph, but also a profound emotional symphony between the public of the most advanced nations in the world and the musical youth of Latin America as seen in Venezuela..."

He reflected on the words of Mother Teresa who said the most miserable and tragic thing about poverty was "not the lack of bread...but the feeling of being no-one, the lack of identification, the lack of public esteem."

His message is elegant. His aim is simple--to keep his promise. "To strive for a more perfect, more aware, more noble and more just society."

The video reminded me of the profound privilege it is to serve the public and to work side by side with incredible staff. The talent and commitment in our system is inspirational. I was so moved by José Antonio Abreu because his passion and commitment to change the world is so familiar to me. It's the same passion and commitment that fills the halls of our medical center every day, even on the tough days. .

Tomorrow will come and so will opportunities to continue on our journey of growth and discovery. As we move through the days ahead, we will learn with each other and from other great systems around the world. We will stay the course and, through introspection and continuous improvement, transform our system. We will continue to fulfill our mission and no one will be left behind. This I promise you.

Here is Gustavo Dudamel and the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra from Venezuela (2009), because sometimes words just won't do.

"Music has to be recognized as an ... agent of social development in the highest sense, because it transmits the highest values -- solidarity, harmony, mutual compassion. And it has the ability to unite an entire community and to express sublime feelings." ~José Antonio Abreu


1 comment:

  1. Anna, thank you for sharing this inspiring perspective, as we know it is difficult to be a servant leader, and Jose Antonio Abreu's story inspires us to continue the journey. cmd