Call Randy Antik the Pied Piper of Thinkers and Doers, and say “thank you” to this co-founder/CEO of Imagine Solutions for recruiting thought leaders from around the world to his annual conference here. It has added considerable luster to a town that is now also a home to such acclaimed institutions as the Naples International Film Festival and the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples. In advance of this year’s gathering on Feb. 27 (see our profile on its emcee, Tyler Mathisen), he sat down with us to talk about memorable moments since the beginning in 2008.
“I’ll jump on a plane and go anywhere,” Randy says, in pursuit of a compelling prospect. And sometimes he can stay right here and reel in renowned achievers from the far corners of the earth. That’s exactly how the extraordinary Sabriye Tenberken made it here in 2011. At 23, this blind German woman had traveled over the mountains from Nepal to Tibet to create a Braille in Tibetan and open a school for blind children who previously did not have the opportunity to attend classes. “I worked it through her agent in Germany, and then her boyfriend provided some help with the program we set up,” Randy says. “She had a walking stick and purposely walked to the front edge of the stage to show how she could handle it. The audience stirred a bit uneasily, until getting that she was in control and just making a point.”
About his other courting adventures: There was the flight to London to land controversial global financier George Soros that went for naught because Soros got so sick he was hospitalized and couldn’t manage a meeting … and the time Randy flew the red-eye back from San Francisco with Gen. Stanley McCrystal, celebrated for his distinguished military career. “I’d like to be one of your speakers,” the general said to Randy, but then discovered he had a more lucrative $50,000 speaking engagement in San Francisco the same day. Randy believes it’s just a matter of time before he gets McCrystal to speak here.
And he’s still cultivating two other hot prospects—fabled musician Yo-Yo Ma, and David Brooks, the highly respected columnist of The New York Times. Randy got to know Yo-Yo Ma at the Aspen Institute’s ideas conference and then later in Lenox, Massachusetts, and actually gave him an idea that culminated in the formation of an arts program for schools and communities. “He’s got such a busy schedule,” Randy says, but he hopes to land him sometime down the road. Randy’s known Brooks for years—“I’ve thrown a ball in the park with his son,” Randy says—and believes he can one day lure him down here as well. Randy knows that legendary NBC anchor Tom Brokaw is in Sanibel a lot to visit with a dear friend, but realizes that illness has sapped Brokaw’s energy and believes it’s unlikely he can persuade him to take on an Imagine Solutions presentation.
It’s clear there’s a special place in Randy’s heart for the young talent he’s brought to the conference. His eyes light up when he talks about, say, Craig Kielberger from Toronto, Canada. At 12, Kielberger went on 60 Minutes talking about the need for youngsters to have their own voices. He started a program for kids to do volunteer work. Kielberger was in his mid-20s when he appeared here in 2013, and Randy says, “We put him in front of people who can make a difference.” Some 20 million young people have participated in the program since its inception.
At last year’s conference, 11-year-old jazz pianist Joey Alexander wowed the crowd with his playing. He had become an overnight sensation playing a solo at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, where its artistic director and renowned musician Wynton Marsalis called him “the future of jazz.” There were two problems with his appearance, Randy says. One was that he had a contract to play on a Steinway and the house piano is a Yamaha. Some strategically placed tape covered that situation. Plus, Joey was a little too short for the piano bench and needed a boost from some books placed underneath him.
And Randy can’t help exulting over the success of the Gospel for Teens group from Harlem in New York City, which lit up the audience with its music and bounce. The principal of Naples High School, Randy says, persuaded the group to sing at an assembly while still in town, and the 500 kids attending were so enthralled they didn’t want to go back to class.
So, welcome to Master Recruiter Randy’s 2017 roster of thinkers and doers. There’ll surely be a number of them making his memories list.