In a Latin accent which we had all come to deeply respect over the previous 8 days, Washington Gibaja Tapia captivated the audience of seventy-five international leaders. As the rain fell around our open air pagoda on the edge of an Indonesian rice field, I watched and listened as Washington's words moved through the group, landing steadfastly in the heart of each listener.
Though many spoke that afternoon, Washington made an especially significant impact. The topic of our conference was Global Healing, and Tapia's country of Peru has been seriously wounded; in large part by US economic policy. "There are 842 million people going hungry in the world each day -- many in Peru -- yet other countries have more than they will ever need. Oil companies and subsidized farming are destroying our sacred lands..."
What was perhaps most remarkable about this scene was not the open dialogue of global challenges among a diverse constituency of leaders from six continents -- though that is truly remarkable. It was not the dialogue's location -- though a spiritual sanctuary on the outskirts of a Balinese rice field is certainly not commonplace. No. What was perhaps most remarkable was that amidst the seventy-five global leaders -- representing journalists, entrepreneurs, artists, venture capitalists, nonprofit directors, media moguls, students, and teachers -- not a single one was over the age of thirty...and only six were older than 25.
That fact seems "amazing" to many. Yet while our young group was accomplished and surely notable; for me, the youthful talent and fervor I saw in Bali was hardly surprising. I smile as I reflect on this; for in my 'under-whelmedness' I realize there is a marvelously overwhelming sense of hope!
In the wake of 9/11, global political turmoil, and myriad natural disasters, I have had the extraordinary privilege of working with this Millennial Generation throughout the last four years as we have risen up to exceed any known expectations of what "young people" are supposed to do.
As the executive director of the national organization for Alternative Spring Breaks I saw more than 40,000 college students each year trade their beer on the beach to volunteer in communities across North America. As the director of the international student conference Education Without Borders in the United Arab Emirates, I've watched over 500 young leaders from 89 countries work across all barriers to seek innovative solutions to global challenges. And that's just the beginning. In study after study, the Millennial Generation volunteers in record numbers. We disregard the status quo. We actively seek meaningful work and value-driven lives. Consequently, I know the greatness this generation is capable of bringing to the world, and I expect nothing less.
Though there is most assuredly tremendous learning yet required of us; I'm here to shout from the rooftops: Wake up! the "leaders of tomorrow" are here -- and with us, the brilliant future of which we all dream is actually possible. In our lifetimes! We have the tools. We have all the people we need. We need only believe it can be done.
Even if you've lost faith in that potential, rest assured that if our latest meeting in Bali is any example, this generation's hope is only growing. And what's more, that hope is being translated daily into a choice to take meaningful and informed action.