NetApp CEO George Kurian addresses the crowd during his first speech at the company's Insight conference on Oct. 3. Held in Las Vegas, the event was nearly cancelled after an Oct. 1 tragedy that resulted in more than 500 injuries and 59 deaths.

Published: October 3rd, 2017

LAS VEGAS – George Kurian faced a challenge that few leaders have, and none would want.

On the morning of Tuesday Oct. 3, NetApp’s CEO faced a crowd of more than 4000 attendees at the storage and data management firm’s annual Insight conference, and began his keynote by acknowledging the shadow cast over its festivities two days before.

“We’ve gathered here today in the most extraordinary of circumstances,” he said. “Just a few hours ago, a senseless tragedy took the lives of 59 wonderful people enjoying an early fall Sunday evening, and impacted the lives of another 500 who will never know a Sunday evening to be the same again.”

Before continuing, Kurian led a moment of silence in honour of the victims killed and injured by Las Vegas resident Stephen Paddock, whose Oct. 1 rampage had affected thousands of evenings two days before.

NetApp, Kurian told the audience, considered “all of the possible range of options” after Sunday’s news, including cancelling the conference, though he did not tell reporters how close that possibility came to be.

The company, he said, consulted with all parties involved in running the event, including local authorities, hotel staff, and vendors, before choosing to move forward.

“I know that there’s no easy or right answer in those circumstances,” Kurian said. “We had over 3200 people here yesterday at the start of the week, and today we have more than 4100 people attending this event, and so we felt that given the range of considerations this was the best thing to do.”

“Given all the possibilities… us pulling together as a community in light of this tragedy would be one way to show the world that we intend to move forward,” he continued. “We aren’t going to let the senseless lack from one person defeat all of the good that so many of you have put together over the past year, nor will we let it diminish the excitement and the possibilities that we can, by coming together, bring to the world over the next year.”

Together, Kurian said, he hoped that Insight’s attendees could begin what he called “the journey of moving from grief to grace.”

“I hope that together we light the first candle of hope in the valley of darkness, and signal to the world that there is so much good in it amidst this one senseless tragedy,” he said. “Despite the circumstances, I’m happy to be in Las Vegas this week, to share our commitment to empowering our customers to change the world with data, to teach, and to learn together.”

“So I welcome you. I look forward to having a really good week together, where we collectively can shape the future of the world.”

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