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Changing Tides, Hope on the Horizon

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What happened to the tidal wave of hope that washed over our country two years ago, promising a flood of relief from an eight-year drought? Well, despite the 180-degree mood swing we're now experiencing, that wave may have taken on a mind of its own and some of us are riding it to new shores and promised lands of our own creations. In our wake we're depositing new grains of sand and seeds of progress, reshaping and expanding the boundaries of our own cerebral coastlines. In other words, 2008 inspired us, and we're still inspired. Far from these lofty adventures, another much more pragmatic reshaping is about to take place: those of our congressional districts. The tide is changing and the boundaries are shifting, leaving a new type of power in its wake. Yet however you look at it, fanciful or practical, change is on the horizon.

In these uncertain days following the mid-term elections, when our country is a tangled web of polarization and impending gridlock, it comforts me to know that there is a growing group of inspired young leaders and post-partisan thinkers who seem immune to this ideological paralysis, instead rising ever higher in our individual and collective pursuits. One group in particular is the Summit Series, an annual 3-day conference held in different parts of the country, which I had the opportunity to attend this past May in Washington, D.C. The Summit's mission is to bring together young leaders and entrepreneurs, giving them the opportunity to share ideas, pitch their latest start-ups, build new business models across various industries, develop strategic partnerships between businesses and charity orgs, and create lifelong friendships. As a result, capitalism and altruism roll over from strange bedfellows to doe-eyed soul-mates. As one perceptive attendee amusingly put it, "Summit is Entourage meets TED meets the Amazing Race." But it's so much more than that. Passion is contagious at Summit, and there's electricity in the air that makes you feel like you've stepped into The Matrix, witnessing a 4th dimension for the first time: real hope for our future.

I believe it will be the type of folks at Summit who will ultimately steer this country back to its zenith. Like Howard Roark in Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, we are our own architects, building ourselves to be towers of greatness; yet unlike Objectivism, we're not interested in self-interest. We embrace inclusiveness because we understand human connection is ultimately why we're on this planet. And why would we limit our opportunity for that connection based on things like race, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, gender, religion, political beliefs, or anything else that adds depth to our shared human experience? Yes, we are largely the group who hit the polls in 2008, excited to elect our country's first African-American president, an individual for whom the sky appeared to be the limit. Though we don't necessarily agree with all of your policy enactments, or lack thereof, many of us still see promise in you, Mr. President, and now that you've had the trial by fire experience you needed, get back to reinvigorating the youth. It's one of your best skills and critical to securing an additional 4 years. On a side note, President Obama invited a select group of Summit attendees to the White House in 2009 for a private meeting to get their opinions on various policy matters. Just the fact that he did this is impressive.

In this movement of inspired young professionals, we're coming together not despite of, but because of our differences. As former President Bill Clinton said during his keynote at the conference, "we spend too much time in cyberspace interacting with people who agree with us." On a macro level, this stifles innovation. On a micro level, it prevents us from allowing ourselves to grow. For how can we grow when we don't use the higher functions of our brain to contemplate ideas outside our synaptic defaults? CNN's ratings suffer while those of Fox News and MSNBC soar. Lately it seems people only want to hear their established viewpoints validated. Ironic, since we live in an era with more access to varied viewpoints than ever before. So much opportunity; why the unwillingness to explore the other side? That's why we need to continue to encourage the open-minded youth; the same generation Obama energized in 2008 and who, unfortunately, largely stayed away from the polls in 2010.

Moving on to global concerns: as Clinton also said at the conference, "the private sector, NGOs and government need to work together to solve the problems of the world." This is precisely what we need to be doing, and what Summit attendees are particularly passionate about. There is no shortage of brilliant ideas in this era of digitization. We're experiencing a cognitive surplus perhaps like never before. Nokia is already making progress in Africa by disseminating bicycle-powered cell phone chargers. Can you imagine how the ubiquity of cell phones in Africa would change things over there? According to David Lane, President and CEO of the One Campaign, "Africa is the Next Big Thing." He is absolutely right. The untapped potential there is mindboggling. But we need the private sector's talents and business know-how to get there ASAP before more and more lives are lost.

So, rather than lament the chaotic political landscape, let's take matters into our own hands and campaign for each other. As the Summitees are doing, let's build online networks and scour the planet for people like us who are immune to jadedness and open to new ideas, curators of the cutting-edge who have passion and an indestructible vision, and who understand the importance of diversity and partnership - as our only chance at making things better is banding together. And let's put our shared ideas into practice. Genuine goodwill toward our comrades is essential. And yes, those comrades could be our competitors in our individual strides to build our personal brands and businesses, but it's all good because we work together, we believe in karma and our individual success is our collective success.

Kate Harold is Director of Artist & Industry Relations and the Gold & Platinum Awards Program, RIAA, but the views expressed herein are her own and do not necessarily represent those of the RIAA.