Make the Impossible Possible: One Man’s Crusade to Inspire Others to Dream Bigger and Achieve the Extraordinary

Make the Impossible Possible: One Man’s Crusade to Inspire Others to Dream Bigger and Achieve the Extraordinary by Bill Strickland with Vince Rause (Doubleday, 240 pages, $23.95)

Make the Impossible Possible is a guide to dreaming huge and making that dream happen. Bill Strickland, founder and CEO of Pittsburgh’s Manchester Bidwell, a jobs training center and community arts program, forcefully verifies that good teachers and safe, challenging places for learning are the key elements for people meet and become their true selves. A high school art teacher linked Strickland to his passion, a passion that became a lifesaver to him and to thousands that benefited from the art he made.

Strickland is an artist of actualization. He found his authentic self as a young person by creating pottery. Then he made one impossible thing happen after another, creating an arts center to help people in the most desolate section of Pittsburgh discover their humanity and power, revitalizing a vocational center, developing a music performance and recording business, becoming a commercial pilot, connecting the beauty of orchids with the power of a commercially successful horticultural training program, and more.

Strickland’s art is also in the network he builds, finding the best potential in all who cross his path first to save themselves, and then save the world around them. His social capacity is clearly extraordinary, providing the means for Strickland to secure his vision of Manchester-Bidwell, to find ways to propagate his work elsewhere, and to propel himself to corporate boards and national prominence. Hardly any of us are Strickland’s level as social beings. But even in his exceptionality, Strickland makes a tremendous case for bonds across social status, race, age, and other putative divides. First in the family, African American, poor, and achingly underprepared, Strickland attributes his eventual success in as a 1960s college student to his ability to connect with more academically seasoned peers.

Strickland’s description of connecting to his authentic self, and connecting that authentic self to the world, embeds a powerful lesson about the value of developing social capabilities in school around meaningful, authentic work, an affirming point for Coalition educators.