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Willem Kolff

Pioneer of Artificial Organs

It's hard for anybody in the United States to realize how difficult and how exacting the program is of the Dutch high schools, certainly at that time. Here they have a little homework. I would have classes -- four in the morning, two in the afternoon -- and go home with homework for five different things. And, the following morning that had to be completed. And, if in Holland you get French, or English, you don't have it for one year or so, you have that the next year, too.
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Wendy Kopp

Founder, Teach for America

Wendy Kopp: There were definitely teachers who made a huge impact. I think about a woman whose name was Mrs. Fish who was my seventh grade English Language Arts teacher. What I remember about her was just how hard she pushed. I thought I was a perfectly strong student at this point, but she just pushed everyone to their limits. That was very instrumental for me. In fact, all the teachers I remember had that same thing: they just had such high expectations and wouldn't stop pushing. I think she just conveyed the idea that good wasn't good enough, and I think the skill development and critical thinking skills that that year developed were also instrumental. But I also think, I don't know, there's something about that year that probably instilled within me that ethic that you just have to keep pushing to get better and better, and that if you work hard enough it will pay off.
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Wendy Kopp

Founder, Teach for America

Wendy Kopp: I think the funding community started clarifying for themselves what their priorities were going to be, and that took them away from what we were focused on. So there were many things. But I guess what I learned through that, too, was perseverance. In the end, perseverance does pay off. Time and perseverance takes care of and listening! We did listen. We were very open. We did not, it was clear -- I did not -- know what I was doing. So we needed to learn a lot about how to do the program well, how to manage it effectively, how to develop a diversified and sustainable funding base, how to navigate the political challenges more effectively. But we just embraced the learning curve. I do look back and think that the fact that we had to do that the hard way, the lessons we learned through those initial years, and through that era, were very hard-won, and are very deeply embedded in the very core of the organization in a way.
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Henry Kravis

Financier and Investor

I like to tell the story about how I sold magazines as a kid in the seventh grade in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I'd go door to door, and I always had to be the best salesman. I wanted to go back to my junior high school and win the prize for the day of having sold the most magazines. That was a challenge for me. Or collecting waste paper, old newspaper. I'd go around, and I'd collect, and keep them in the garage. And my mother would say, "When are you going to get rid of that stuff?" and I said, "Well, when you take me down to the waste paper dump, we'll get rid of it then." And I'd collect it in my wheelbarrow, and go around the neighborhood, and she'd take me down and we'd load it on the scales, and they'd pay me $1.36, or whatever it was, for my newspaper, and I'd go back and do it again.
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