In the spring of 1894, the world renowned pianist and composer Igcy Jan Paderewski was on his second tour to the USA. He was already a sensation with his flying golden mane and the staccato manner in which he pounded out the keys. So when three students of Stanford University approached him to perform there for a guarantee fee of only 800 dollars, Paderewski was bemused. It was, after all, hardly one-fifth of the fee he would charge normally. But he agreed to perform.
The unofficial students group however made a mistake. They scheduled the performance during the Easter vacation when most of the faculty and students were away. When Paderewski arrived at Stanford the day before the concert, the three students nervously sought a meeting with him. They explained how they could only sell about 250 dollars worth of tickets, and were therefore in no position to pay him the guarantee fee. They promised to offer their persol notes as security and pay the difference later by staging other performances in the university.
Outwardly gruff, Paderewski questioned the three youths. Finding they had spent about 100 dollars, he smiled and told them to keep that amount while he would be satisfied with the balance remaining of around 200 dollars. That was the trifling amount for which the great Polish musician performed at Stanford. But then, Paderewski was a greater human being.
Having learnt their lesson, Stanford students later organised all sports, cultural and other activities under one magement, so that profitable activities could cover the losses of others. One among the three students who had dealt with Paderewski was elected treasurer and mager of all activities. He was Herbert Hoover, born of Quaker parents and orphaned at ten.
After taking his geology degree from Stanford, Hoover worked as a mining engineer around the world, in places as far away from his country as Australia and Chi. A Republican, Hoover would go on to head the US Food Administration during the First World War. He would become intertiolly popular for mobilising a massive relief operation that saved 350 million people from starvation and disease in war-ravaged tions of Europe and the Middle East.
One tion to benefit hugely from Hoover’s ‘peace army’ initiative was newly independent Poland. Having joined politics, Paderewski had become its first Prime Minister in 1919. His deep friendship with Hoover that had begun at Stanford a quarter of a century back would last till his death in 1941. After serving as the 32nd US President in 1928-32, Hoover played another stellar humanitarian role during and after the Second World War. Poland was again to benefit with Hoover’s Commission for Polish Relief providing food, clothing and blankets to millions of its citizens. He would later on head the UN Relief and Rehabilitation Administration that helped to rebuild Poland along with several other countries.
Paderewski’s generosity to Hoover during his struggling days as a student was repaid manifold; a single act of kindness by an individual was amplified back to his entire people.