Podcast audio: https://apple.co/3NRpazX
Hey, Revisionist History listeners, Malcolm here. Before we get started, I wanted to update you on a few things. First thing, this August 24th, the Revisionist History season begins in earnest. Eight old school episodes in a row. The little narrative jewel boxes you’ve come to love. We’ve been feeding you little bits and pieces so far this season, but this is the main event. At the heart of it is a six part series on guns and violence that I think is my favorite thing we’ve ever done. Weird, moving, funny, heartbreaking. So mark your calendars, August 24th is when it all happens.
And by the way, if you want to get that whole miniseries early and binge it all at once without ads, you can just by becoming a Pushkin+ subscriber. In fact, just 6.99 a month, or 39.99 a year, gets you every one of the Pushkin shows early and ad free. Just go to the Revisionist History show page in Apple Podcasts or pushkin.fm/plus to sign up.
And one last thing, speaking of things you should binge, the latest season of our true crime masterpiece, Lost Hills, has dropped. The new season explores the legacy of Malibu’s Dark Prince Miki Dora. Miki was a surfer known for his style, grace, and aggression, who ruled the Malibu beaches from the 1950s to 1970s, celebrated for his rebellious spirit. He was also a conman who led the FBI on a seven-year manhunt around the world. Believe me, this is a show worth a listen, so sign up for Pushkin+ and you can binge this one too.
Matt Scogin was working on Wall Street, 80 hours a week, making good money, happily married, a small town boy from Michigan made good, when he began to have a change of heart.
I went through a period of my life, a mini existential crisis. My dad died in 2013. He had a cancer called multiple myeloma. He was only 60. And then just two years after that, my mom passed away from a different kind of cancer. She had breast cancer. And it kind of sent me into a period of life where I just felt like I love my work, it’s interesting, it’s intellectually stimulating, I love the people with whom I work, but I also felt this sense of like, at the end of the day, I’m showing up to work every day to help a bank make more money. I went through a season of pretty intense prayer and discernment and just kind of feeling like, I think I’m supposed to be doing something else.
Scogin was on the board of the small Christian liberal arts school he’d gone to as an undergraduate, a place called Hope College, on the shores of Lake Michigan. And just as his life was turning upside down, the school’s president announced he was leaving. Scogin says that when he heard the news, he had an intense feeling that this was the job he was supposed to do. He thought of the Mark Twain quote, “The two most important days in your life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why.” Scogin had no academic experience. He was a ridiculous long shot. But slowly, he inched forward in the process, and as he did, he realized that, if it was actually going to happen, if he were really going to be the president of a college, he couldn’t do what every other president was doing.
I had a couple of pretty formative experiences. There was a moment when I was on an airplane on a business trip and I was flying back to New York from California, I think, and we were flying into JFK. And I’m like half asleep on the airplane and the pilot comes on and he says, “We’re at 33,000 feet and we’re beginning our descent into JFK.” 33,000, at the time, was the price of Hope’s tuition, and I just got this visual image in my head of 33,000 going to zero.
And then it was three weeks later and I was having dinner with a friend and we were just talking about life, and I told him that I was thinking about applying for this job, and he asked me about Hope College, and he asked me about what I saw as the challenges in higher ed, and I, of course, mentioned the cost. And he just very sort of flippantly, and without thinking, he said, “Well, no one should have to pay for Hope.” And then he repeated it, “No one should have to pay for Hope.” And he meant it as a joke, I think, and we both laughed, but as I was laughing, like I realized, “Dang, he just said something profoundly true. No one should have to pay for Hope.”
My name is Malcolm Gladwell. You’re listening to Revisionist History, my podcast about things overlooked and misunderstood. Over the years on this podcast, we have talked about the strange goings-on in higher education, ridiculously fancy amenities, the LSAT, the absurd US News rankings, multi-billion dollar endowments. This episode is about a very different kind of strange goings-on, Matt Scogin’s radical experiment, nobody should have to pay for Hope.
Hope is in a little town called Holland, just west of Grand Rapids, which is called Holland because Dutch immigrants settled there. The area still has a lot of tidy Dutch practicality. The big local employers are the furniture makers, Herman Miller and Haworth. The campus is right in the middle of town, a big beautiful church at the center. I got a campus tour from a towering Nigerian student with the magnificently Nigerian first name of Marvelous. I sat in a campus coffee shop listening to a high-spirited back and forth that began with the movies and ended with scripture. The school was having a day long conference to explain to the community what they were trying to do. A student spoke first, a young woman named Madison, a little nervous in front of the crowd. She’d made some of the art hanging on the walls around the room.
Hi everyone. Good evening and thank you for attending what I believe is a wonderful artistic representation of Hope Forward as not only a vision, but a reality. My name is Madison and I have the honor of belonging to the inaugural Hope Forward cohort.
Hope Forward was the name Scogin gave to his experiment. Madison had made a print of a willow tree that she said symbolized what the school had done for her.
Because of this gift, I feel free to pursue any area of study without the burden of excessive debt. This means I am free to care about my community here and later, because I am and will be passionate about what I do.
Then the writer Mitch Albom came to the podium. Albom was actually the reason I was there. He emailed me out of the blue one day and told me about what was happening in Holland. He drove over from Detroit where he lives and kicked things off with a short talk about why he’s a Hope College believer.
Yeah, I guess I’m here in multiple capacities. I’m sort of like a parent, and proud to be, and I’m going to share with you for a couple of minutes how that came to be and why I do believe that this model works, because I have seen it in action many times in my life. And in fact, the latter part of my professional life has kind of been dedicated to this.
The model he was referring to was President Scogin’s Hope Forward, his grand experiment.
So I had honestly not been that charitable a person in the first part of my career. Not because I was against it, I think I was just like many young people, I was very wrapped up in my own success and my own ambition. And then I got involved, as some of you’re probably aware, with an old professor of mine who was dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease named Morrie Schwartz, and I visited with him every Tuesday.
Tuesdays with Morrie was album’s most famous book. It came out in 1997. It’s one of the best-selling memoirs of all time.
I noticed that when people would come in and visit with him, very quickly the conversation would change. They would come in trying to cheer him up, because he was dying from this terminal illness, but within a couple of minutes he would start asking them about their work, their love life, whatever, and an hour later they’d come out in tears and they’d say, “I tried to cheer him up, and next thing I know I’m talking to him and he’s asking me questions, and then he’s really asking me questions, and then I’m really [inaudible 00:08:41], and I’m crying. I tried to cheer him up, he ended up cheering me up, he ended up comforting me.”
And I asked him, finally, after witnessing this so many times, “I don’t get it. You’re the one who’s dying. Why don’t you just say, ‘Let’s not talk about your problems, let’s talk about my problems?'” And he said, “Mitch, why would I ever take from people like that? Taking just makes me feel like I’m dying. Giving makes me feel like I’m living.” It’s a profound little sentence. It also rhymes, so it’s easy to remember. Giving makes you feel like living, and I have never forgotten that moment, nor have I ever forgotten that sentiment.
A small Christian college, a student talking about a willow tree, a best-selling writer of inspirational books introduces the rhyming catchphrase, “Giving makes you feel like living.” If the cynic in you is bubbling to the surface right now, I understand. Because these aren’t the kinds of things we expect to hear on college campuses. What about the fancy new building opening? The expansion of the endowed prestigious center for this and that? The glittering credentials of the incoming class? But by the end of the evening, I kind of wished every school sounded like this.
Imagine that you had never heard of higher education before. You had been living on a desert island somewhere. And suddenly, once you finished Desert Island High School, your parents decided what you needed was an American college degree.
So you show up on this thing called a campus. And you ask your hosts, “What am I to you?”
And they say, “We think of you as a student, kind of. But also as a customer, because this whole thing is going to cost you a lot of money, and we need to get paid.”
“How much?” You ask.
“Well, it depends. Like whether you’re good at things like fencing or rowing, and how much your parents make. But chances are, you’ll have to borrow a lot to pay for your education.”
So you say, “Oh, so I’m really like someone with a big mortgage. I’m a debtor.”
And they say, “Sure. But once you’ve graduated, we’re going to call you every year to ask for donations on the grounds that you are now a member of our community.”
Your head is spinning at this point. “Oh, really? What are those donations for?”
“Well, it’s for this thing we invented called an endowment, which is a big pile of cash that sits with a money manager in New York, which we use as a symbol of how important we are.”
So you say, “Wait, I’m a student, a customer, a debtor, and an investor in a Wall Street hedge fund. Are all businesses in the United States this complicated?”
And they say “No, just higher education.”
This arrangement struck Matt Scogin as deeply weird. He was a banker. He came from a world where financial arrangements had precise definitions: gross sales, net revenue, EBITDA, earnings before interest taxes and amortization. He was an outsider to this world.
He didn’t think like a college president. He doesn’t even look like a college president. He was 39 when he was hired, but looks even younger. I’m short and skinny, he’s shorter and skinnier.
He has red hair and oversized ears, and looks, and this reference will be lost to all of you under the age of 50, a little like Ron Howard in Happy Days. Later, when we were chatting with a group of students, I asked what they call him.
The summer I got here I started saying, “You should call me Matt.” Because my name is Matt.
And then there was like an intervention. The dean of students came, and a couple of other people came into my office and they said, “You can’t have the students call you by your first name. It’s disrespectful to the office of the president.”
So I said, okay. So they call me President Scogin to my face. They call me, who knows what. They call me, Sco-Daddy.
The Scoges, Scogin.
Sco-Daddy. There aren’t a lot of Sco-Daddies in the ranks of America’s college presidents.
When they picked you, was there a sense that they were taking a chance?
Yes. Well, maybe. There was definitely a sense they were doing something unconventional. So they were hiring a young, non-academic. But it was coming from this premise of the board wanted to, a recognition that something needs to be done in higher education. We need to try something different.
And so they hired me and basically said, you can do anything you want except the status quo. We’re hiring you to do something different.
He took the job, moved into a big house near the church in the middle of campus, and started going to the cafeteria and talking to students. Student, customer, debtor, investor, what effect, he wondered, did this have on them?
And I have a handful of questions that I love asking students. I like asking the same questions over and over again, because I get compare and contrast answers. And one of the questions I always ask is, what do you want to do after you graduate? And I always use the word want.
And what I get often as a response is, what I want to do is different than what I feel like I have to do. And I’ll get students say, “I want to do Doctors Without Borders.” Or, “I want to do Teach for America.” Or the Peace Corps, or some ministry. But I’ve got $50,000 of student loan debt, so I’m going to become a, whatever. Consultant to pay off my student loan debt. And then I’ll pursue the impact I feel like I want to have.
It seemed to Scogin that you can’t do both. You can’t ask a student to engage in the pursuit of truth, and at the same time have them wake up in the middle of the night with a sense of dread. Hope as an accounting program, and Scogin was a big fan of accounting. But he felt the way things were, accounting would always win out over philosophy, which didn’t seem right.
I actually think students don’t come to college with a life plan. They come to college with questions, thoughts, and lots of questions about their purpose. And it might be the case that studying philosophy, or studying the classics, is precisely how you’re going to find your purpose.
And yet, if you’re coming with $50,000 of debt, you might get skewed into, you might might feel nudged into studying accounting. And therefore maybe miss something that’s in your purpose.
Okay, back to your college search after Desert Island High. You come to America and what you discover on your college tour is how strangely similar a lot of colleges are.
Williams College looks like Amherst, which in turn looks like William and Mary, which looks like a smaller version of the University of Virginia. Everybody wants to be the same thing; the same look and the same business model. Find as many full-paying students as they can, and charge you as much tuition as they can get away with.
Why are all the colleges the same? My dad taught at the University of Waterloo in Southern Ontario, and they had what they called a co-op program, with a college arranged with local employers to hire students during their off-term.
Everybody was on co-op. To give you a flavor of how it works, I asked a student named Spencer, who just graduated from Waterloo, to give me a breakdown of his finances. This is what Spencer told me.
Total four-year costs. Tuition plus room and board were $122,000. In that time he did six co-op terms working with a government organization, and several firms in his field. And they paid him a total of $81,000.
So his overall cost, out of pocket, for getting an engineering degree was 40,000. That’s not bad. Plus, and I’m quoting here from his email, “I’ll add that a good thing is that the majority of my classmates were graduating with a job lined up due to the co-op program and industry connections.”
Now, do I think co-op programs could work everywhere, and solve every problem? No, of course not. But the University of Waterloo has been running this program for almost 70 years. It’s a huge success. You would think, wouldn’t you, that versions of the idea would’ve spread everywhere by now. That every school that has a problem with students graduating with lots of debt, which by the way is nearly every school, would’ve experimented with ways of connecting with local businesses to give their students work experience, and lighten their debt burden.
Has it happened? No. Why? Because college presidents have their heads in the clouds.
If you kind of look at the trajectory of higher education, it’s just not going to end well. This trajectory of tuition goes up by three to 5% every year. It’s just not going to work. And so this sense of, somebody has to do something. At the end of the day, the thing I love most about this place is our name, Hope.
Hope, by definition, means that we believe problems are solvable. And that’s what we try to prepare our students to be. Hope-bringers, people who go out in the world and run toward. Not away, but run toward the biggest challenges they can find. And that’s why we exist.
And we felt like, and the board felt like, who better than a place called Hope to run toward this big societal challenge? Which is the funding model of higher education.
So Scogin made a radical decision. Let’s make it so students don’t have to think about money at all during their four years of college, and put in place a pay-it-forward model, where you give back to the college after you’ve graduated. That’s the program that Scogin calls Hope-Forward.
To apply, you write an essay describing an area of hopelessness to which you want to bring hope. They started small. After the first two years, they have a total of 58 students in the program. The goal is to enroll a hundred freshmen annually within the next few years, and keep the program growing until it covers everyone.
If you’re coming in, you don’t pay anything. You don’t pay anything for tuition. You sign a, we call it a covenant. It’s basically a commitment. I sign it on behalf of the college, and then the student signs it. So we’re entering into this sort of covenantal relationship. Not a transactional agreement.
It’s not a contract, it’s not a legal contract. But it’s this relationship with mutual commitment. And the commitment we’re making as a institution is we’re saying, we’re going to give you a great education, and then launch you into a life of impact afterwards.
And the commitment the student is making is, they’re going to take their education seriously, and then they’re going to give. They’re going to give something to the college every year after they graduate. We don’t specify an amount, we don’t suggest an amount, nothing like that.
Because we want it to truly be a gift. A gift that’s given out of generosity. And we don’t want it to feel like it’s a different flavor of a student loan bill. We’re trying to move away from a system that’s based on bill paying and replace it with a system that’s based on gift-giving.
So that the relationship with students is not a transactional one at all, but rather a relationship based at its core around generosity and gratitude.
The math behind the pay-it-forward system is, to say the least, daunting. Problem number one is the transition period. A school like Hope takes in about $55 million in tuition. If you say to your students, don’t pay anything until later, then you have to come up with 55 million every year until the pay-it-forward money comes trickling in. If Hope-forward covered everyone, the school would need about a billion dollars to handle that transition period. Problem number two is what happens after the transition period. How do you know that Hope Forward graduates will give back an amount equal to the cost of their education? Scogin freely admits he doesn’t.
Some may give far less than that, some may give way more than that. I think that’s another reason why we decided to not put a specific amount on it. If we say, “You’ve made a commitment to give and we suggest this amount in order to pay off what you would’ve paid through tuition,” well, then people would give that amount presumably. But by not putting an amount, some people may give way more than they would’ve paid through tuition and others will give less.
And I think what this model does is it gives us, as an institution, we’re highly incentivized to help our students be successful. The more successful they are, the more opportunities they’ll have to give. And likewise for our students, it’s kind of like the onus is on them. When they’re in their earnings years, then it’s up to them to determine how important their education was in launching them into their career. And they’re then paying them what they think this was worth. And I think it’s up to us then to make the education so valuable that they’re grateful for it after they graduate.
You are sailing into the unknown.
Is Matt Scogin crazy? Maybe. But I have to say that I’m an optimist on Hope Forward. First, I think that Scogin is right, that the success of the program depends on the school convincing its graduates that their education was worth something. Although it’s early, the evidence so far is encouraging. The students admitted into Hope Forward as a group have slightly lower academic credentials coming into the school than the rest of their freshman class. But after their first year, they’re outperforming their non Nope Forward peers. There’s something different about your attitude towards school once you’re inside the gratitude generosity loop.
Second thing, most of the students at Hope grew up in the church, and this is how a church works. You don’t pay church tuition at the door. Sometimes churches encourage you to tithe a 10th of your income, but most times you just give whatever you can. And the congregation and the preacher trust in God that whatever comes in from the offering on Sunday morning will cover the expenses for the rest of the week.
I remember one of the things that President Scogin said was that were trying to fund higher education the way that we fund churches, which is through crowdfunding. And I felt like that metaphor helps it make a lot more sense to me.
I met with a group of Hope Forward students at one point. This was a sophomore named Olivia. Pay it forward made sense to her, conceptually.
The idea of a church is you give what you can, when you can, and you give because you want to and because you believe in the mission of the church. And I feel like that’s a really great metaphor that helps me understand what we’re doing here and what the purpose of it is, so it’s the same idea.
Madison was part of the group too. The same Madison who spoke at the Mitch Albom reception.
I feel like once you’re given, someone’s generous towards you, it is so much easier to be generous towards others. And that’s also how I think of God’s love. When I experience God’s love through other people, it’s so much easier for me to share that love with some other people, with other people. And I just feel like the whole thing, it’s meant to be contagious, so generosity is easier when someone has shown generosity towards you.
Third thing, and maybe the most important thing, why do we assume that giving out of the spirit of giving is hard? This is a little bit of a tangent, but those of you who are regular listeners to Revisionist History will know the special antipathy I have for Princeton University. A school with 8,478 students and an endowment of $36 billion. Princeton’s endowment is so large that in nine of the last 11 years its investment earnings had been greater than its entire operating budget. To give you a flavor of this, and forgive me because this gets me so riled up. In 2021, Princeton made a $3.77 billion return on its endowment. But the school’s annual budget was just under 2 billion, meaning they could cover all their expenses just on the check they get at the end of the year from their wealth managers on Wall Street and still have $2 billion left.
In the previous episode, I handed out the first of the Revisionist History prizes, which honor extraordinary performances by elite college administrators. The inaugural prize was the George Santos Memorial Award for Egregiously Deceptive Self-Promotion, which went to Columbia for their brazen manipulation of their US news rankings. Well, I have yet another prize to award, the Perpetual Motion Award, for the school that comes closest to running on its own power forever. And the clear winner here is Princeton.
I did a little blog post about this and let me quote from myself here. “Princeton could let in every student for free. The university administrators could tell the US government and all of its funding agencies, ‘It’s cool we got this.’ They could take out the cash registers in the cafeteria, hand out free parking to all visitors, give away Princeton sweatshirts on Nassau Street, and fire their entire accounts receivable staff and their entire fundraising staff tomorrow. They could say to every one of the hardworking professors on their staff, ‘You never have to spend even a second writing a grant proposal again. Free at last, free at last.'”
But here’s the thing. Even though by any rational measure Princeton no longer needs to raise any more money, the alumni of Princeton still give money to Princeton. A higher percentage of Princeton graduates give money back to their school than any school in the country. A Wall Street guy named James Yeh in fact just gave Princeton so many millions of dollars that Princeton opened a brand new residence hall called, wait for it, Yeh College.
Yeh College will help advance the expansion of the student body so that additional high-achieving students will realize the benefits of a Princeton education, enhance the diversity and vitality of our campus, and go on to contribute to society after graduation.
This is complete gibberish. The sense of community that a college gives to its students has nothing to do with the architectural design of the dorms. This is the way the Four Seasons talks about a new hotel. But here’s the thing, Mr. Yeh, a very, very smart man who graduated with a physics degree from Princeton and went on to make many, many billions on Wall Street, believes it to be true. So true in fact that he got into his Bentley, loaded up the trunk with coles, and drove them down I-95 to Newcastle. And if you don’t understand that reference, may I refer you to Mr. Google.
My point is we have plenty of evidence that smart people will give huge amounts of money to their alma maters for the stupidest of reasons. Why do we find it hard to believe smart people will give small amounts of money to their alma maters? For the best of reasons. Or to put it a little more charitably, maybe Mitch Albom was right, giving makes you feel like living.
Matt Scogin was sitting in on my meeting with the students. He didn’t speak until the very end.
There’s this line in Matthew, it says, “Freely you have received, not freely give.” I think there’s this crazy sense in higher education where most people know that not everyone has access to a great education, but there’s this sense in which it must be the case that ultimately those who do get access to a great education somehow deserve it, like this meritocracy. And it just feels like that’s meritocracy gone totally off the rails. At the end of the day, a Christian doesn’t believe that anyone deserves a good life. If we really got what we deserved, we’d all be screwed. A Christian believes that anything we have that’s good is a gift of unmerited favorite from God.
And I think what you’re hearing from these students is this profound sense of, “We’re ready to just live into that.” I heard somebody once described generosity as this mindset of circulation. Like you take a book out of the library and you know it’s not yours. You’re just going to read the book and then you’re going to give it back to the library so that somebody else can read it. And I think that’s the way a Christian ought to think about everything we have, everything we own. God gave us stuff just so that we could circulate it. God blesses Abraham in the Old Testament and He says very clearly why He blesses Abraham. He says, “I’ve blessed you so that you can be a blessing.”
And I think that’s the way Christians ought to view everything we have. Everything we have is this unmerited gift, and then we’re just going to radically give it to the world so that we can be a blessing with the ways we’ve been blessed. And I’m putting words in your mouth, but I feel like I heard that from your stories in a pretty powerful way. You guys are amazing. Thanks.
Here, by way of contrast, is a passage in the commencement speech of the President of Harvard, Drew Faust, in 2018. She has the entire graduating class in front of her. Her goal is to give them words to inspire them on their journey into the greater world. And then she starts listing the unprecedented headwinds at Harvard the institution had faced as it sought to educate the very best and the brightest.
We have faced a political and policy environment in increasingly hostile to expertise and skeptical about higher education. The unprecedented endowment tax passed last December will, we estimate, impose on us a levy next year equivalent to $2,000 per student.
Holy Toledo, they have dared to tax our $56 billion endowment. I don’t know, under the circumstances I’d rather ride with Sco-daddy.
I want to play for you the end of Mitch Albom’s speech at the Hope College reception. He stood at the front of the room, slight and unprepossessing, big head of black hair, casually dressed. People are standing and milling around and eating canapes. And he starts to talk about how this whole idea of giving makes you feel like living taught to him by Maurice Schwartz slowly took over his life. He started a scholarship fund that grew and grew, then a charity to work with the homeless. And then finally the project that has occupied him ever since.
And in 2010, I heard about the earthquake in Haiti and I’d never been to Haiti, probably couldn’t find it that easily on a map.
He heard that the earthquake had destroyed an orphanage. So he got on a plane and flew to Haiti.
And what I saw there will never leave my mind. I’m sure many of you remember that earthquake. It was devastating. In 45 seconds, it killed nearly 3% of Haiti’s population. Of its population. Can you imagine in America, that would be about 9 million people dead. And left about 10% of its population homeless.
The orphanage was in ruins.
And the toilets were a little bit more than holes in the ground, and prior to that were fields where kids would use rocks to bang on other rocks so that the rats would run away if they had to go to the bathroom at night and then they would use the rock for toilet paper. So we had our work cut out for us. And I began to go back with some guys from Detroit and we had an idea to fix the place up.
Now the thing is, what stuck with me the most were the kids, the kids who were there and their smiles and their joy and their faith and their belief that things could get better. Those kids were the reason that I came back and came back and came back and came back. Every single month since February of 2010, for the last 13 years I’ve been in Haiti at that orphanage. And we began to build it up with guys I bought down from Detroit. Again, all I did was ask. I didn’t have to pay anybody, they all came as volunteers. And we built the first kitchen and the first showers and all things that didn’t exist there before. And we began to grow, we got bigger and we got bigger and we got bigger.
One of America’s most successful writers has been going to Haiti, a place that the rest of the world has all but given up on. He’s gone every month for 13 years with a group of his friends from Detroit driving back and forth from the airport in an armored car because much of the country is controlled by criminal gangs. And why does he keep going? Because he discovered, quite by accident, that giving makes you feel like living. When Albom heard about Matt Scogin’s experiment, he told some of the students at his orphanage about it and they applied, answered the same essay questions as everyone else.
Our kids with these new facilities have learned from the very beginning that they are there to help one another. And so we found it funny when in the application process they ask, what is your community involvement? And the kids who filled out the application said, “Mr. Mitch, like what are we supposed to put? What does this mean? Community involvement.” And I said, “Well, it means what do you do for others?” And I said, “Let’s talk about what you do for others.” And 15 minutes later we were still listing things because every day our kids take care of the other kids. Our kids are their big brothers and big sisters. They are their sources of caring and food and cleansing and washing and feeding and dressing and taking to school and watching out for one another. And we go out into the community and help with the streets or when we used to be able to travel around, our kids would go to a place where they had premature babies were born and they would hold the babies because nobody ever held these children and they had no human contact. Our kids, most of whom have no parents, come from places where in many cases we have to invent birth certificates because we literally don’t know where they came from, how old they are, or who their parents are and these kids are holding other little babies to make them feel welcome in the world.
I have seen their ability and their desire to give back. So when they filled out that application, it was easy to say what they’ve done for others. All of our kids know, they don’t even have to agree to it because it’s part of our DNA, that when they’re done with college and we send all of our kids to college or graduate school our first one just got accepted to medical school last month and we’re going to have our first doctor. So if you can be like Jewish dad, proud of a Haitian doctor, there we are. And we find money to pay for it. But they know that the first thing they do when they graduate is they come back to the orphanage and they work for two years giving back at the orphanage from the place that gave to them. That is the concept. That is the concept of Hope Forward.
So our kids were living this concept. They had to break it to you, Matt, but it ain’t original. Our kids have been living this concept from the very beginning. And speaking of kids, I can’t see so well, but you may have noticed some of those pictures a little earlier.
On the screen behind Albom was a series of photographs. There were two teen girls together and then a boy and then another teenage boy flexing his muscles.
All of them last June graduated from our school. And what is always the best moment that we have at our orphanage, and all of them now are right here at Hope and they’re in this room right here. They’re already going to kill me for showing those photos. So I’m not going to make them come up and be acknowledged in the front, but they’re here Somenza and Kiki and Teta and JJ. And if we have any luck, we’ll have two more or maybe even three more coming here next year.
So is Matt Scogin crazy? I don’t think so. I think everyone else is crazy for giving up on the idea that giving makes you feel like living. I wish you could have been there in that room listening to Mitch Albom and Madison and Matt Scogin and all the other revolutionaries in Holland, Michigan, who believe that gratitude and generosity can help us rebuild what is broken.
So we’re very proud to be associated with a program that is embodying the very belief that we teach at our orphanage to Have Faith Haiti Orphanage that you are responsible for one another in this world. And from the minute our kids arrive, they know that somebody has taken responsibility for them. And from the moment they leave us, they know that they have to take responsibility for somebody else. That is a good circle and we’re proud to be a part of it.
This episode of Revisionist History was produced by Ben Denaf Hafry and Lee Mengistu. This is actually Lee’s last show with us as she’s moved on to the world of audio fiction. If you want to hear one of Lee’s great accomplishments on Revisionist, check out our Little Mermaid series. Lee, we will miss you. Jacob Smith, Kiara Powell, make up the rest of our producing team. Our show runner is Peter Clowny. Original scoring by Louis Scarra. Fact checking by Kashaw Williams and Talia Amlin. Mastering by Flon Williams. And engineering by Nina Lawrence. Additional recording by Jonathan Fagel and Ben Ugama. Special thanks to Matt Scogin, Jason Cash, Mary Remenschneider, and everyone who welcomed us at Hope College.
I’m Malcolm Gladwell.