by George J Elbaum
UC Berkeley Haas School of Business offers an undergraduate level course entitled Leadership, whose purpose is for the students to develop not only their understanding the theory but also the practice of leadership in various organizational settings. My talk to students enrolled in this Leadership course was organized by one of the students, Marika Vigo, who contacted the Jewish Family and Children’s Services (JFCS) of San Francisco with the following explanation and request for a speaker:
“The class emphasizes not just learning leadership but also practicing leadership (in order to improve the group). My small group in the course thought it would be impactful to have a Holocaust survivor come speak so we can better understand the importance of empathy and leadership in polarizing times. In light of the Pittsburgh massacre, we want to hear a Holocaust survivor’s testimony to ensure we can be leaders who do not let history repeat itself.”
After the talk and an extensive Q & A, a smaller group of students approached me with additional and varied questions, ranging from my experience as a rocket engineer to addressing public intolerance in the current political climate. I was also interviewed for the UC Berkeley student newspaper, The Daily Californian, and the resulting article entitled “Empowering and emotional”: Holocaust survivor speaks about anti-Semitism, need for tolerance (http://www.dailycal.org/2018/11/18/empowering-and-emotional-holocaust-survivor-speaks-about-anti-semitism-need-for-tolerance/) is perhaps the best-written summary of my talk because it touches on each of its important points.
When I was contacted by Nikki Bambauer, Program Coordinator of JFCS’s Holocaust Center, I eagerly agreed to do it and looked forward to many serious, in depth questions from this audience. I was not disappointed. Aiding Marika Vigo in organizing this event were Kendall Swenson, Huy Cuong Huynh, Tatum Holdaway, Raffi Terteryan, and Prince Obah. Thank you all.
Letter from Student
Several days after my talk at UC Berkeley I received an email from a student who attended it. The 1st and 3rd paragraphs (quoted below) made me feel both gratified and humble that I was making a difference, but the 2nd paragraph made me sad that my mother, who died 15 years ago, could not read or hear these words which would have pleased her very much.
- I don’t have the words to adequately express how honored and grateful I am to have had the chance to hear your story, but what I can tell you is that your words have given me hope for a better, kinder world. I have begun to share your message with my friends and family members, and I will continue to do so as long as I am able.
- As I am sure many students have told you, your mother’s ingenuity and bravery are unparalleled to anyone else’s in my life. While it very well may have been luck, as you say, that ultimately guided your path, it is evident that your mother was always watching over you. She is a true symbol of courage.
- Thank you for your willingness to speak to youth across the country. The future is ours, and we will do our best to make it a place that your generation would be proud to live in.
(More photos are coming…. I hope!)