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The Most Inspiring true Story Of Our Time

Sunday 26 June 2005

A few weeks ago, Dr. Taddy Blecher visited his favorite place: Jefferson County, Iowa.

Voted South Africa’s best speaker, Taddy has met with presidents (like Bill Clinton) of many countries, and inspired a large donation to his school from finance guru Suze Orman.

A leading business magazine: "Blecher is 35, going on 15. He is animated and entertaining, and in an interview, is more interested in helping his interviewer to improve his or her life than talking about himself. "Journalists describe Blecher as a grown-up Harry Potter, because he seems to live an enchanted life.

"Blecher exudes positive energy and childlike innocence, but under that exterior lies one of the most intelligent minds the world has ever seen."

Taddy’s talk (here condensed) at M.S.A.E....moved many to tears: South Africa, 1995: Infighting, crime are rampant. The Rand is falling. The stock market is nowhere. Intelligentsia rent rather than own — so they can exit quickly. Everyone talks of emigrating to Australia, America...

Dr. Taddy Blecher will move to Iowa. Everything’s packed. Two weeks before Taddy’s exit, Maharishi calls South Africa, says "no TMers should leave this nation." Maharishi feels South Africa faces a real disaster, and needs to form a superradiance group.

That night, sleepless in Soweto, Taddy decides to stay. He joins two Transcendental Meditation teachers in non-profit "C.I.D.A." (teaches the T. M. program to the poor).

His parents: "Are you nuts? We spent all this money to get you four degrees, and you’re throwing it away!"

Taddy goes to Alexandra. Twenty people live in one house. Cardboard shacks. No shoes or adequate clothing.

He visits the shockingly run-down, chaotic schools. One depressed headmaster learns what TM is, says: "Are you crazy? Nobody in our school does anything anyway, and you want to institutionalize it! You want to build it into the timetable that they do nothing. I’m not doing that in MY school."

This headmaster eventually learns TM an attempt to end terrible headaches. He loves it, as do his teachers who learn TM also.

Soon, nine thousand students learn TM. The whole area changes. Pass rates go up by 25% in the TM schools. (TM is the only new element.) In control schools (12,000 students) pass rates drop one percent.

Suicides stop completely. (One school had eight recent suicides.) Vandalism, violence deeply drop.

After the students learn, it is "night and day, the change in this place."

Alexandra had been highly stressed. The world’s most dangerous road was in Alexandra. No sane people traveled London Road.

To keep himself safe, Taddy bought an outlandishly purple car.

Taddy: "After a few years teaching TM, we drove around the township. The love, the positivity... London Road completely lost its reputation. Crime fell over eighty percent. No one knew why.

"South Africa won the All-Africa Games, and put them in Alexandra. Unthinkable, until there was all this coherence.

"This had been an area even police avoided. Until WE went in. After we taught TM there for two years, the police felt safe, so police were everywhere.

"In the beginning — no police. When you needed them, you could find none. Two years later, police are everywhere...talking about how they made the township safe — they ’brought down crime.’ We were like ’Yeah, sure.’

"We would not make that mistake again. Before we started our city university, we told the mayor what would happen in his city. Now, every time we see him, we say, ’we told you so.’

"We taught nine thousand kids. They came out of grade pumped up. But, unable to afford to go to University, they ended up not getting good jobs.

"Unemployment is forty percent in South Africa. Apartheid structured this by taking math out of schools. Millions of blacks had no math, no science. This ’education’ was cruel."

Taddy and four friends decided to create South Africa’s first FREE university. Knowing nothing of how to start a university, they talked to professors at other universities, who said you need mucho money.

"Fifty CEOs of companies slammed their doors on us. It was the most insane idea they had ever heard. We had no books, no computers, no teachers, no buildings.

"An old saying: ’Just begin to weave, and God will provide the thread.’

"You don’t have any thread. You just have a desire deep inside your heart. You have a feeling in every cell of your body: this is what you have to do. So you just start. Just out of nothing...

"We wrote to 350 schools. After two weeks, we had five students who wanted to go to this imaginary university that did not exist.

"Soon we had ten, twenty, forty applications. We used my old company’s fax machine (we didn’t have our own). Eventually four thousand students a university which did not exist."

People phoned to ask, "Where IS this university?"

"Phone us in a week, and we’ll tell you at which building we will register your child."

"Because Monitor’s logo was on the envelope, some thought Monitor (a consulting firm) was the university.

"Some days I saw outside guards holding back forty or more people. Desperate to get in, to take their children to this university. Security said, ’Go away.’ The parents: ’Your university is so BEAUTIFUL!’"

"This is not a university! It is a consulting firm!"

The parents said, "Please take my child." They just didn’t want to hear...

Taddy spent many sleepless nights. "Two weeks before school was to begin, we got a building downtown. It was terribly dark inside — awful. On the fifth floor, we found four hundred chairs. So we invited 350 students.

"At our inauguration, we had no idea what we were doing. We introduced the students to the five of us, the management. Then we wanted them to meet the faculty.

"The five of us stepped back, then forward. So they met their teachers for statistics, math, H.R. management, finance, I.T. We each taught five subjects, which we didn’t really know. Every night, we sweated until late, learning these subjects to teach the students the next day.

"By day two, we had lost more students in one day (100) than any university in history. But the 250 that remained were amazing.

"We talked of consciousness-based education. And why all the other universities, with such huge buildings, etc. — didn’t matter. This was the really great university. It didn’t matter that we had no library, computers — those things are peripheral.

"To teach about computers, we made 250 photocopies of a computer keyboard. We taught every student to type on a piece of paper. For three years in a row, we taught students to type on a piece of paper.

"We created things out of nothing. We had no textbooks, so we used magazines. Using donated financial magazines, we learned investments, finance, English, stock markets. This was their only textbook so students really appreciated it.

"There was so much energy in our school, you cannot imagine. The feeling — I never felt anything like it. All these students — no nothing. No library. All these students coming every day to to university — and so happy. Just meditating every day, studying S.C.I. We did Total Knowledge and Perfect Man."

These kids came from deep rural areas, squatter camps. In every case, they were the first in their family that had ever been to university. In South Africa, 97% of adults never go to college.

"This was the chance of a lifetime. Their village depended on them. We brought one student from every village. We wanted to bring knowledge back to every village — consciousness knowledge, entrepreneurship knowledge...

"There was so much suffering in these villages. But now our graduates go back to teach their to create businesses, farm, manage money...

"If you’re poor in South Africa, you pay 300% to 600% interest per year. If you get a one Rand loan, you have to pay six Rand back. This leads to a lot of woman abuse, child abuse, suicides... So we sent out this army of people to teach.

"Investec Bank visited us, and could not believe what they saw. Students singing, holding hands. The place was dark. They decided to give us their old building — they had moved out of the city (to the suburbs). No one wanted to live in this crime-filled, decaying city.

"We encouraged them to move. We gave bank managers tours of the wonderful suburbs. We were given four buildings in two years. One building we didn’t need, so we sold it.

"Moving into our Investec building, the students were beside themselves. It had marble, imported cherry wood. (Three years ago, I visited M.I.T. I truly felt bad for all these kids at M.I.T. Where’s the marble? Where’s the fountains? They don’t have what our students have.)

"We got American companies to donate FIFTEEN MILLION DOLLARS of books. One thousand copies of every book we wanted — every finance textbook.

"But these weighed many tons. How to get them to South Africa? We learned South African export ships...return empty. We were allowed to fill these.

"We now have 300,000 books. Our business library is better than most universities.

"The five of us teaching was not ideal. How could we get GREAT lecturers?

"Might South Africa’s top accounting firm....VOLUNTEER to teach? They put an ad in their Pretoria and Johannesburg offices. Within hours, 250 accountants signed up. Suddenly our accounting faculty was tops in the country.

"Operations management was taught by another top firm. Strategy was taught by Monitor. These guys charge $2,000 per hour, but teach at our university for free.

"We talked to Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Cisco... We are now the only university in all of Africa where you can become a S.A.P. professional.

"No universities can afford S.A.P. (It costs 320,000 Rand to become an S.A.P. professional.) We are the only university that can afford S.A.P., because we get it free.

"Five years later, we have five buildings. Another six buildings were donated, but we gave them back. We have 1400 computers.

"We now have a foundation college, where students come and live. All the college’s tutors are our graduates.

"At our first graduation, we had a thousand parents and family members. Our students had taught 500,000 people around South Africa how to build businesses, etc. — now they were graduating.

"Most parents/grandparents knew no English. They held our hands and cried. Their children now worked at Big-Three automakers, big banks, etc., earning huge salaries.

"These parents earn maybe 300 Rand a month. Their child now earned 12,000 a month. We calculated: For every Rand that goes to our education, 200 Rand goes to poor South Africans.

"These kids came in unemployed. Nobody believed in them. They were down and out. We gave them this education, and they became enlightened, bright citizens with wonderful jobs.

"A Big-Three automaker gave four students a shot at a one-year contract. If they didn’t do well, they would be out. After a year, the firm gave all four...full-time jobs, permanent contracts. Three got company cars.

"We didn’t teach auditing, but one student joined the automaker’s auditing department. He got promoted three levels.

"In their first year in jobs, these students earned four times the entire cost of their four-year education. Over the forty years of their working lives, they will earn two hundred times what it cost to educate them.

"Our first graduation was so touching — I almost cried. I saw a thousand faces of parents whose lives were changed by our education. Their whole villages were changed.

"In the middle of graduation, the students couldn’t contain themselves anymore; they all got up to sing. We danced and sang for fifteen minutes in the middle of graduation — on prime time TV. This had never happened at a South Africa graduation.

"’Last year we miraculously got our full accreditation. You have no idea how hard it was. Especially for people who knew nothing about running a university. We just made it up as we went along. We came up with two hundred new ideas as we went along.

"Now everyone loves our ideas: students running the whole campus; the ways we teach; the ways we use technology. We’ve got educational innovations, financing innovations, access innovations...

"We won the award for the most innovative organization in the whole country. A huge, prestigious award. Seven hundred companies compete every year: giant telecoms, cell phone companies, I.T. companies. It has never NOT been won by an I.T. company. We were the first. "Nelson Mandela heard of this, so we got to see him again. He absolutely loves what we are doing. He was so excited. We won multiple other awards.

"Six years ago, South Africa had 1200 higher-education institutions. After they introduced the new accreditation process, 800 universities closed. Only 400 continued. Of these, only ninety got accredited. Only five got accredited for undergraduate business degree — we were one of them.

"To get accredited took four long years, slaving away, eighteen hours a day, seven days a week. Now our university is a household name in South Africa, especially in poor areas.

"This is South Africa’s only free university. The government does not understand how we have done it. No one understands how we have done it.

"Our kids are doing brilliantly. Many visitors come in, spend time with our students, and start crying. They can’t believe it.

"All our 1350 kids have learned TM. Hundreds are sidhas. Every day we have a powerful group program. You feel it when you enter the building.

"It’s not been easy. We are in downtown Johannesburg — not ideal. Anyone and everyone comes to tell us: they like TM, they don’t like TM. They like this, they don’t like that. Donors have pulled out. Donors have come back in.

"This is what it’s like to do Maharishi’s work. It’s not easy. Nobody shakes your hand every day. Donors threaten to pull out. But you keep on, and keep on. And keep on.

"Really this just arose from the mud. Our students come from nothing. If you meet them, you can’t imagine that they have achieved what they achieved.

"When they come in, English is their fourth or fifth language. They’re so shy. They know no one.

"They have heard their whole lives they are nobody. So we get them into every competition we can think of. Every day we tell them: ’Man is made in the image of God. You are the greatest people that ever walked the earth.’

"We had some $10 bikes donated. In big races, people ride $1,000 or $10,000 bikes. One of our students got a map and a light...and (without our knowledge) bicycled 300 miles to compete in a race.

"He got lost, and was exhausted when the 100 kilometer race STARTED. He finished in the top ten, of seven thousand competitors. With a $10 bike. He had no money for lodging, so he immediately bicycled, day and night — his big trophy tucked in his shirt — the 300 miles home.

"In 2004, a Microsoft competition sought the top person on earth in Microsoft Word and Excel. Forty-seven of our students competed in this, against thousands of top students from other South African universities.

"Our students scored highest in the whole country, in both Word and Excel. These students had never touched a computer. They had learned only on a piece of paper. Microsoft flew them to France, where a little girl of ours came in third in all of Europe.

"The Dalai Lama visited us. We put a thousand students in front of him, sidhas in front. He was to stay forty minutes. After ten minutes he told his helpers, ’Cancel my other appointments. I am not leaving.’

"He stayed three hours. At the end he held my arm and said, ’These students are so BRIGHT.’

"He had never seen children like this. We told him about TM and Maharishi’s programs. He said this was his favorite thing in South Africa.

"Now the Dalai Lama himself personally sponsors a student to come to CIDA. The Dalai Lama told us a black friend...had said ’black people can never be as intelligent as whites.’ He had come to know that, and given up trying."

The Dalai Lama said, "You are absolutely wrong." To prove it, the Dalai Lama is sponsoring this man’s son to go to CIDA. The Dalai Lama insisted on paying the full fees for this boy.

2003: Taddy got a call: "Oprah is coming to visit you." Taddy: "Oprah who?"

"Oprah Winfrey came with a entourage. We put her upstairs with ten young sidhas. After an hour, I walked in. Oprah was shining, excited. She had never heard young people talk like this. She kept saying, ’But how could you know that?’

"They told her: ’We all do Transcendental Meditation.’ Oprah: ’TM? That is so fantastic.’ From that moment on, that’s all Oprah spoke about. She loves TM.

"She talked to giant groups of students. All she talked about was how she meditates every day. We don’t know if she does TM. She went on and on about meditation.

"She wanted to fund us because we have meditation. She gave us $1.3 million to build a ladies residence.

"2004: Oprah turned fifty. Her staff said her favorite thing in the last few years was our little university. Her staff’s birthday present: checks for $4,000 and $10,000, to sponsor students in Oprah’s name to come to our university.

"We don’t have fighting in South Africa anymore. It’s gone.

"All these people emigrating — they are all coming back. Our stock exchange is at an all-time high. The Rand has doubled in strength. An unprecedented number of businesses are starting. Business confidence is at an all-time high. People are so positive and they don’t know why.

"In a newspaper article, a Parliament minister challenged the police: ’I don’t believe you have reduced crime by 70%. I know crime has fallen, but you have not done anything different as a police force. There must be something else going on.’

"One of our buildings was valued at half a million Rand three years ago. We just sold it for 6.3 million Rand.

"Occupancy rates have increased. They were decreasing for twelve years."

"CIDA students were chosen to judge the African version of ’The Apprentice’ TV show.

"The government of one province volunteered to donate land to CIDA, so desperate are they to educate their youth.

"Will this model work in America? I don’t know. But we could find something. Certainly it’s possible. We just have to desire it enough, and it will come.

"Don’t fear failure. If anyone has had failure, it is us. We made so many mistakes. So many things went wrong. But all the time we just have this invincible support of natural law.

"Every day you just have to be in the Self. Just tap into what Nature’s telling you, and what ideas come up. Because every day there are ideas.

"Every time our backs were against the wall — which was often — we just went inwards. Eureka! An idea comes.

"That’s what you can do as well. That’s really how you do it. It’s very simple."


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