Salman Khan appearance is a welcome change

Salman Khan appearance is a welcome change

Smitha Gundavajhala

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When Salman Khan appeared for the assembly Jan. 6, people’s expectations were high. They didn’t know what to expect, but expectations were high.

Salman Khan comes to speak at MVHS on Jan. 6. His highly anticipated appearance did not disappoint — it was refreshing and real. Photo by Elvin Wong.

What they might have guessed about Khan’s discourse, based on past speakers, was a series of funny short stories about people doing silly things, which of course all had some deeper meaning. They were motivational. They were funny.  But the students now had Khan. The hope was that he would bring a refreshing take on life to  motivate students in a way that previous speakers could not. His impressive resume didn’t hurt, either. But did Khan, in person, live up to the standard of his electronic self?

He did, and then some. He gave MVHS exactly what we need as we came into Back in Action Week — not a series of vague vignettes about the meaning of life, but a solid idea of the things that they might have to do to be similarly successful. His story — while he was incredibly smart and well-educated — was not without its roadblocks. The fact that he overcame them is meant to be motivation enough to us.

Khan was invited to talk about his experiences, not about us. What we, as the intelligent students that we are, have to do is draw the parallels between his story and our own. Khan’s stories of improvement were inspiring, but not in the way that those before him have been. He hasn’t tailored his stories for high school audiences. He isn’t here for our entertainment, but for our edification and education.

And the fact that all his stories were about Khan Academy brings no shame — Khan Academy was Khan’s life. If we invited a fireman to talk about his job, he wouldn’t talk about Fergie. Over 700 of the students in that gym knew what Khan Academy was before. If he’s so accomplished, it follows that we would want to know about his life and how he became so successful.

It’s through Khan Academy that he reached first his cousin Nadia, and then countless others like the man he showed in the video that was able to achieve his dream of becoming an electrical engineer. All these stories are about missed potential, and about the ingenious approach that they were able to make up the difference and strive for excellence. Khan reached us through Khan Academy, too. We could learn a thing or two from him about using creativity, not just a formula approach, to achieve our goals.

We should just be honored that he descended from his ongoing charity work to give us a slice of the dream we might reach with optimism, hard work, and, yes, motivation. His story was real — it wasn’t not from a made-for-TV movie or a novel. It is about the obstacles he faced and overcame in achieving his dreams. And we would do well to listen.