Tennis star Andre Agassi started his inspirational Kickoff Keynote discussion at Workday Rising by paying homage to the city that came together in the face of tragedy one year ago.
Journalist Soledad O’Brien, who interviewed Agassi onstage, noted he was a Las Vegas native and mentioned the just-announced $1 million Workday endowment to a University of Nevada, Las Vegas mental health clinic that has been providing critical mental health services to many people in Las Vegas following last year’s events.
“I don’t think there was a person who lives in this city who wasn’t personally affected,” said Agassi. “Las Vegas is the best city in the world to live, but most people don’t know it yet. It’s an incredible city because it was born in the middle of the desert. It has its culture just like New York City has its culture, but here it’s pretty simple: If you dream it, you can do it. That’s how we roll.”
O’Brien also asked him about going from being the No. 1 ranked tennis player in the world to No. 141 in the space of two years and then climbing back to No. 1.
He started by reminding the crowd that outside validation rarely equals happiness. The first time he was ranked No. 1, a friend called to tell him the news. “And I was like, I’m number one. Wow. I don’t feel like it. . . .That moment was the start of a demise in my life.”
He came to realize that he’d never been in the driver’s seat of his own life; driven to tennis fame by a demanding father, he was always a passenger. Then, after watching a news segment about how limited educational opportunities for disadvantaged youths can set off a long chain of bad consequences, he realized he wasn’t the only young person who didn’t get to make their own choices. Agassi decided he wanted to make a difference, which led to the founding of the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education. An estimated $185 million raised has helped fund 81 charter schools that boast highly successful graduation rates, according to Agassi.
“The best part about the second half of my career is it had nothing to do with me,” he explained. “And funny enough, when that transition happened, I started to take it in and enjoy tennis.”