leadership | April 21, 2013

NPR's TED Radio Hour: Can Beauty Change A Life? Bill Strickland Says Yes

While many people might not see the location surrounding the Manchester Bidwell Foundation as beautiful (it's located in a somewhat rough area in Pittsburgh), leadership speaker Bill Strickland says beauty was a core element in the center's design process. "The building is very hopeful and it's very bright—even on a gray day," Strickland told NPR in a special TED Radio Hour series. "We believe that the philosophy of being positive and being hopeful, and—literally—being in the light, is part of the strategy to recover people who have had some challenges in life," he says. On the radio program, NPR chronicled Strickland's journey from an under-served high school kid to the President and CEO of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation,  a member of the White House Council for Community Solutions, and the author of Make the Impossible Possible.

Not only does learning and interacting with others in a beautiful environment affect people's moods, but it can change their vocabulary and their view on the world. Strickland has made a point of including real flowers in his center, so that when someone who may have never seen an orchid before is suddenly surrounded by them, they can learn about something new. They learn how to spell it, become knowledgeable about it, and it becomes a part of their vocabulary. Not only that, but people start to believe that the world is indeed made up of beautiful things—which improves their outlook on what they can achieve in life. When you are surrounded by beautiful, positive things, Strickland says that people believe that they too are entitled to having these things in their life. "Beauty," he says, "is not just for the imagination. It's actually a way of altering human behavior for the better."

In his inspiring keynotes, Strickland shows how anyone can make a positive social change in their own community. He shares the story of Manchester Bidwell and how it went from a near-bankrupt community center to one of the most talked about social organizations in the world. Strickland can speak to any audience, whether he is addressing leaders who are looking to improve their communities or companies, or the people those leaders are looking to inspire. When you give people the right tools, he says, it is possible for anyone to become happy and productive members of society.