Agassi talks sports, scholarship in Leadership Lecture
February 25, 2011, 4:07 am · Updated February 25, 2011, 12:00 am·
A student drops out of high school every 26 seconds in the United States. Thursday night, a crowd of about 1,000 people packed into Zellerbach Theater to hear from an Olympic gold medalist who has made it his life goal to combat this statistic.
Andre Agassi, former professional tennis player, spoke about his vision to build hundreds of charter schools over the next decade in a Wharton Leadership Lecture hosted by the Lauren and Bobby Turner Social Impact Series.
The energetic crowd listened as Agassi provided insights from his personal life, his athletic career and from the impact opening his own charter school in 2000 has had on his life.
Agassi is no stranger to giving back — he has built a Boys and Girls Club, established a shelter for abused children and helped clothe disadvantaged youth.
After dropping dramatically to 141 in the world tennis rankings before making a comeback to number one, Agassi remembers deciding to give back in a new way. “I was going to give children what I never had,” he said, reflecting on his decision to build a charter school. “Every day is an opportunity to make myself better.”
Agassi also shared personal experiences from when he was a kid, growing up with his father, a boxer, who hand-built a tennis court in his backyard in the Nevada desert. “Every morning it was wake up, play tennis, brush your teeth — in that order,” Agassi said with a laugh.
He discussed how it wasn’t until he decided to play tennis for himself, not for his father nor for monetary gain, that he truly could succeed. Then again, his commitment to the sport was never his only reason for playing. “Tennis was always a vehicle for me to impact other people’s lives,” Agassi said.
Wharton senior Manoshi Kamdar thought Agassi’s discussion was inspirational. “It is interesting in the fact that this lecture was more about his journey and how he learned from the journey. His honesty was my favorite part of the talk.”
First-year Masters in Business Administration student Becca Kleinstein said she was excited at the opportunity to hear Agassi speak. “He’s had such a prolific career. I find his career transitions fascinating,” she said. Kleinstein added that Agassi has been in the media recently after authoring his autobiography, Open — which Agassi called his “life’s work in 400 pages” and a “real honest look at [him]self.”
Wharton sophomore Arda Kuyumcu plans on following Agassi’s advice. “I’m going to try to live my own life instead of following other people’s footsteps — I’m going to try and make my own.”