I had an incredible weekend last week. I wish I would have been able to write about it sooner, but it took me a full week to digest my experience. It was SO rich.
It all started with an invitation: "We have this Peace Conference happening in your town, and one of our speakers dropped out. Would you consider taking her spot?" Without knowing anything about it, but out of respect for the person who extended the invitation, I said, "Yes, sure; I'll help you out."
An hour later, upon receiving the program, my whole body went into shock. I had to grab my sneakers and immediately go for a run. What had I done? What would I talk about? Why had I been invited?
You see, on that program I had just received, I noticed my name sandwiched among those of a Peace Nobel Prize Laureate, a former U.S. Ambassador, a United Nation negotiator from Cyprus, a retired Admiral who spent his life engaging with people in an effort to prevent war around the globe, and a slew of other very important and meaningful people when it comes to making a difference in the world.
During my run, I implored the law of attraction with every step to please save me from this bind. Something had to happen: Be it a car that could not see me running in heavy traffic in middle of the street, a salmonella epidemic that would make every employee of the Marriott Hotel ill and force Rotary International to cancel the conference, or someone who would just appear into my life with a meaningful story to tell.
Upon my return to my office, I discovered that a business acquaintance had sent me a virtual introduction to a young lady named Liz Forkin-Bohannon from Sseko Designs. From his email, I learned that 26-year-old Liz is a social entrepreneur employing 40 people in Kampala, Uganda, where she manufactures leather sandals so young girls can make money to go to college.
Liz's story is so powerful and inspiring that I will make her the whole subject of one of my next blogs. That said, Liz was my divine intervention. My topic at the conference, "Profit with Principles," had suddenly taken shape and would be embodied by beautiful, young, smart Liz.
The truth of the matter is that there was no reason to panic. I knew my stuff and could hold my own. Moreover, the people with whom I shared the stage, while holding impressive titles, are without a doubt and by far the most embracing, humble, and welcoming group with which I have ever worked.
Further, the people who attended the conference were as powerful and amazing as my fellow speakers. Wherever I turned, I saw people with a mission and a clear understanding that the world could not keep on doing what it does. Acknowledging our differences and honoring them while bridging our humanity is a logical and tangible concept that was shared by hundreds of people in close proximity for two full days. The best part, without a doubt, was the honesty, sincerity, and energy of the people I met.
Prior to this conference, peace to me brought pictures of a white dove flying in front of a rainbow, of children holding hands and laughing aloud. Peace equaled serenity and tranquility.
Today, when my mind drifts to the concept of peace, I see Dr. Jody Williams telling us that peace is achieved through conviction and action -- by wanting to be the difference. Everything else, according to Williams, is (and I quote) "b.s." Conviction and especially action is what, in five short years, allowed her to transform a concept into a U.N. Resolution to ban antipersonnel landmines. Jody inspired all of us to get involved, organized, and be the visible change we wish to see in the world -- and especially in the United States where our sense of security, as people, is eroding very fast.
Other panels focused on conflict resolutions in Cyprus and Rwanda, as well as children who cannot use the bathroom while at school for fear of being bullied in the hallway. We talked about peace through education, which is where I learned about Peace Village, an important organization located in Eugene, Ore., and of the work of Mercy Corps throughout the world.
It really was powerful. It really was beautiful. It really was the best way to spend my weekend. I met some people there whom I will never forget. I wish you could have all been there... I'm ready to be the change I want to see in the world. What about you?
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