Menlo News February 06, 2023

Dr. Richard Antoine White Inspires Students to Dream Big

His moving story encouraged resilience, discipline, and kindness

Musician, author, and educator Dr. Richard Antoine White visited Menlo for the Parent and Faculty Education Conference and spoke at an all-school assembly where he shared his remarkable and inspiring story of perseverance. Students listened closely as Dr. White talked about surviving on the streets of Baltimore with his mother, without a place to live, and never enough food. Dr. White was eventually adopted by his grandparents where he reluctantly adjusted to a life of rules, routines, and school. He decided to join the school band and suddenly found his sense of purpose.

After years of determination, Dr. White is the first African American to earn a doctorate in music for tuba performance. He is currently an associate professor of tuba at the University of New Mexico, as well as the principal tubist for the Santa Fe Symphony and the New Mexico Philharmonic. His book, I’m Possible: A Story of Survival, a Tuba, and the Small Miracle of a Big Dream, tells the story of how his ability to keep dreaming big helped to save his life.

“You may want to do something that may not exist yet,” Dr. White told the students. “That doesn’t mean you can’t be it or do it. Some of you are dreaming, some of you have ideas. Don’t give up. Look inside yourself and make the impossible possible. Always think ‘in spite of’ instead of ‘because of.’ How many of you have said, ‘Oh, I can’t do that because I don’t have time’? Instead, I want you to say, ‘In spite of not having enough time, I will do this because I can. And I will show you that I can.’ There is no greater strength than standing up and showing the world that you can do something, because you have decided to do it.”

After an emotional Q&A session where students asked Dr. White how he found the courage to keep going despite all the obstacles he faced, he reminded them that even if you have been dealt a bad hand, “Always remember that you have a ticket to the greatest show on earth: life.”