We went to the Salvation Army Steak & Steak Dinner Tuesday night, and found it to be a really pleasant and periodically moving event.
Jay Bilas was the emcee (now there's an interesting new-ish word), and he handled things with aplomb. The program included comments from Kenny Randolph, several people with the Salvation Army, and performances by the kids from the Community Center.
K was the keynote speaker of course, and his speech was the familiar mix of rough teasing and thoughtfulness we've grown accustomed to. He said that at West Point, his name was an advantage because the instructors wouldn't call on him very much, so he was rarely caught out, and that guys with names like Bilas got called on, not that Bilas ever got the answers. Ha!
He talked a bit about the roles of community centers and why teams are really useful for kids, particularly kids who don't start out with much: it makes them a part of something bigger than themselves.
As he spoke, he laid out a very coherent and logical argument for supporting places like the Salvation Army Community Center, and it occurred to us, again, that while as Jay said he's been a phenomenal basketball coach, he has a rare ability to communicate effectively. This is a guy who could have been a tremendous priest (though he would have to have gained a Latin vocabulary rather than his, uh, French) or political leader.
Much of his argument was built around the theme of choice, not chance, an idea he said he stole from an academic, with the idea being that the choices you make, not chance, determines your life. He wrapped it up by saying that supporting the good work of the Community Center was really vital, and that the evening shouldn't be thought of as an end but rather a beginning.
A lot of people can give speeches, and a lot of people can talk, but relatively few people can address an audience with that level of effectiveness. Bilas touched on this a bit in his comments, saying that K had an amazing ability to make you have fun at getting better. Anyway, it was a very skillful bit of communication. We're not saying he should give up coaching to do other things, but we are saying is that this is a guy with a ton of options. We're glad he has a passion for basketball, and for Duke.
At the end of the program, a video flashed up with lots of photos of the kids. Who knows who took the pictures, and maybe it was the music, but the photos were amazingly evocative. You saw a lot of joy and complexity in their faces and body language. That, too, was a skillful bit of communication.