I recently saw this interview of Trevor Noah, celebrated South African comedian, with his grandmother in South Africa. It’s humbling, refreshing, kind – and funny.
Noah was born and raised in Johannesburg, and his 2016 book Born A Crime details his life growing up in South Africa during Apartheid. His father was of Swiss German descent and his mother was Xhosa. At the time he was born, it was illegal for his parents to be in a relationship, and so his life was literally a crime before he was born. The book really feels like a tribute to his childhood, and notably, his mother – a single mom who came from very humble beginnings and had a difficult life. She was jailed and fined for being in an interracial relationship, was in a violent relationship for 4 years, and suffered severe gunshot wounds when an ex-husband tried to kill her. Despite all of this, she was tough, but also tried to be fair and show him love in the face of adversity.
Today, Trevor Noah hosts The Daily Show, an American late-night talk/comedy show. And while I rarely go a week without trying to catch a few clips of the show, the book offers a much more personal look at him and his life. Some surprising things emerged. He speaks EIGHT languages. His mother actually converted to Judaism and had a bar mitzvah for him at 13. He hosted an educational TV program and was on a soap opera before moving on to comedy. He’s actually a decent ballroom dancer.
“We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.”
- Trevor Noah
The thing I always find incredible about stories like Noah’s are just the sheer amount of hard-work, determination and frankly – luck – that got him from growing up in hiding in Soweto to hosting a comedy show in New York City. I always wonder – who among our 6,000 scholars will become a comedian? Who will end up on TV? Who will become a celebrated author? Is there any that might become all three? As we close out our school year, each and every one of our students have given us the gift and opportunity to help shape them into a successful character this year. And while each of these stories and potential successes gives meaning to the work we do individually, collectively they hold a power that is greater than us. Together, we are trying to expand their imagination of what is possible, and make their dreams more complete.
Congratulations to our scholars as they finish the 2018 school year!