I suppose that to some extent it is inevitable: in order condition ones’ mind to solve the mysteries at the edge of human understanding, a certain amount of stress must be placed on the brain. Similarly, solving the world’s problems, running major corporations, devising solutions to problems that daunt even the most optimistic, all these feats that are beyond a normal person’s abilities must necessarily require people with unusual abilities, unusual minds.
Kiran Bedi, therefore, must have a very unusual mind indeed; she has worked in virtually every sphere from local through international, was the female tennis champion of Asia at the age of 22, acquired a Ph.D. in Social Sciences, was India’s first female police officer, worked her way from traffic cop (who once had Indira Ghandi’s car towed) to Deputy Inspector to Civilian Police Advisor for the United Nations Peacekeeping operations. She has, to say the very least, an exceptional mind.
I was lucky enough to hear her talk – not lucky for the contents of the speech, although it did highlight some interesting and important pieces of information – but lucky because she came to Woodstock School to give the opening address at the Woodstock School Model UN conference in March. This is impressive enough, without mentioning that in order to speak here, she apparently turned down an invitation by Bill Clinton for another engagement.
Returning to my original point, her speech was a work of sublime intellect, balanced somewhere between incomprehensibility and boring simplicity. Her points were numerous, and interspersed with anecdotes that ranged from amusing to heartwarming to complete non-sequiturs. My hypothesis that formed around twenty minutes into her talk is that something about the work she has done – some task that was given to her – has stretched her working memory far beyond that of a normal person. Her ability to tell a story and return to the precise moment she deviated from her original idea is uncanny. It did make her speech a challenge to follow at times, but it did not detract from her message: take advantage of what you have.
If you are given advantages in life, it is your responsibility to do as much as possible with those advantages. Bedi herself talked about how her family was able to send her to a good school, provide her with support, and maintain her good health. Pointing out that the students at the Model UN clearly could each count upon the same blessings, she challenged them to find something that interested them, and pursue that goal.
I cannot say how many students made the effort to listen to the entire speech, digressions and all, but speaking for myself I can say it certainly made me consider many things.