GLIDE hosted a talk in June 2014 with Ben Horowitz and Lars Dalgaard where the two giants from Andreessen Horowitz discussed Horowitz's best-selling book The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers and explored the intersection of tech and community. Felicia Horowitz introduced the chat by sharing her personal journey and the power of community from the city of Compton to SF Bay Area. You can hear her introduction in the following video, or read it below.
I'm actually shaking in my boots right now. I usually leave the public speaking to the pros in my family, Sophia and Ben, but I'm so passionate about this particular topic that I decided to try and fight through my jitters to share my story with you. So first, I would like to thank you all for coming today. I would like to thank you for what it means for GLIDE, and more importantly for what it means to the community that GLIDE serves. Perhaps, most of all, I would like to thank you for me. Because you see in my mind, we are all GLIDE. Yes, GLIDE is a church but the reason I'm here today has nothing to do with religion, or life after death. It's about making the community that we live in better. It's about making life better.
Many of you know me in part through the work of my husband, Ben. Ben Horowitz is the author of the book The Hard Thing About Hard Things. Being married to Ben puts me right in the middle of Silicon Valley but I'm actually from a very different place. My family moved from Shreveport, Louisiana, to Compton, California, many years ago. For those of you who don't follow hip-hop music, Compton is a very non-tech community. In fact, some people would describe Compton as more of a TEC-9 community. So when I read about the backlash and the riff between technology people in San Francisco and the rest of the community, it concerned me greatly. It seems as though we're spiraling into a world of 'us and them.' We need to make this into a world about all of us because if we don't, I'm would be like that kid in Malcolm in the Middle. I just don't want to have that in my life.
I know that many of you are in the entrepreneurial struggle, and trust me -- that's a struggle I know all too well. It can produce great outcomes but it is often brutally hard. There's a parallel struggle that has been known to produce equally great outcomes. The Superbowl MVP, the world's greatest woman tennis player, the hedge fund manager who turned Yahoo around and made a lot of money doing it, the first billionaire musician. What do Richard Sherman, Serena Williams, Dan Loeb and Dr. Dre have in common? I'll give you one hint -- they share the same roots -- the city of Compton. That is why this topic is so important and why I would like to share my story to illustrate the value of all of us working together.
My parents are both African-American and they grew up in the very segregated South. Like most black people in the South, they attended all-black schools. Both had to work full-time early on in their lives. There were no prospects for them to go to college because they had to continue to work to support themselves and their families. But make no mistake -- my parents are great, great people. In fact, my mom is here today.
As a kid, my favorite song was from this movie starring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross. You may have heard of it, it was called The Wiz. It went, "When I think of home / I think of a place / Where there's love overflowing / I wish I was home / I wish I was back there."
"There" was my home and I'm very proud of that. In fact, when I think back on my childhood, that song -- the melody, the words, those memories -- come to mind. But even with all the love and support, my parents couldn't afford extracurricular activities or things for me to do over the summer. Left to my own devices, the activities in my neighborhood went down a very dark path from things like drugs, prostitution, gang violence. My next-door neighbor from then is currently serving a life sentence in jail. Some of my friends were killed; others were addicted to drugs.
They were all great kids from amazing families but they were kids that society had forgot about. I could have been one of those kids. I wasn't one of those kids because my free time was saved by the generous work of loving people from Southwood Baptist Church. For no charge, I was able to spend my days learning how to read, socializing with other great kids, and learning to give back to my community. Society didn't forget about me because a few kind people thought that it was important that I get a chance at life.
For me, it was the greatest gift of time, compassion, and love. That was far more valuable than money. Even if we didn't have the Juicy Juice boxes, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or whatever perfect snacks that could have been, I would've happily gone hungry to spend time with the wonderful women and men who taught me so much and laid the foundation for me to be the first person in my family to graduate from college.
They changed my life. They saved my life. We can all make a contribution, and I'm living proof that your contribution will matter. Please, let's not let our differences divide us into subgroups because, we are all in this life together. Thank you.
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