07/01/2006 10:57 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The World Cup, Al Gore, and the Era of the Translator

We have the technology. We have more than enough people. We have the requisite knowledge. We have strong, benevolent, and wise leadership (It's not in the traditional positions of power at the moment...but shift your focus a bit. It's there.) Given the opportunity, I suspect we even have consensus from the overwhelming majority of the globe's population that every human being should have the right to lead a free and dignified life in a non-toxic environment absent of nightmarishly high levels of CO2.

Why then, if we have the tools and resources, and we have agreement on at least a few most basic things, do we not harness all we have to get what we want? A just, peaceful, clean and sustainable planet earth.

"Well, Jake, if you knew anything at all, you'd realize it wasn't quite so simple. There are national and global politics, corporate empires, religions, a nonprofit/NGO sector that will never compete..." Yeah, yeah, I've heard it. In multiple languages. I get it. I just don't agree that those issues make it impossible to create the positive future so many people already imagine. Granted, the problems are a pain in the ass...but they're not deal breakers.

One thing I've noticed in getting to know nonprofits, corporations, governmental entities, educational institutions, and religious leaders is that despite often wanting, believing, or even saying roughly the same thing; in general, these entities don't know how to work with each other. In just the last few years, our ever-flattening world has created the basic capacity for these groups to connect with one another more and more each day. However, even with the eventual erasure of some of these technical barriers, a greater issue all too often remains: even if these societal sectors can communicate, they don't know how to communicate. They don't speak the same language. They don't play by the same rules.

Enter the next great leaders of our time: the translators.

I'm not talking about Mandarin to English, Hindi to Arabic, or any other such ethnic transfer - though those are increasingly vital as well. The Era of the Translator is defined rather by those who can effectively establish shared understanding between the languages of the corporate CEO, the nonprofit executive director, the state congressman, and the leaders within a community. Their integral approach synthesizes the resources and efficiency of business, the mission and passion of the nonprofit/NGO sector, the policy created by government, and the needs of those who are affected by all of them each day.

Examples of truly successful translation are not pervasive, but they do exist, and they're becoming ever more common and intelligent. In the last two weeks in fact, we've been graced with two extraordinary translation models - one of which has been around for some time in the World Cup, and the other of which was holed up deep inside a cage called Al Gore... waiting to be released in Joseph Campbell fashion as AL GORE.

National Geographic Magazine's June feature "The Beautiful Game" does more to describe why soccer is a model for translating and connecting globally disparate entities than anything I could ever write (in an extreme example: the game of soccer has temporarily suspended a civil war in the Ivory Coast); but all the recent writing on Al Gore has been largely focused on getting him (re)elected rather than the extremely important translating he has done.

With his now famous Mac in tow, Gore has not only delivered the most crucial of messages to the masses, but he's done so in such a way that everyone from Richard Cizik and the National Evangelical Association to Goldman Sachs to the world's top climatologists are signing on and taking action. The "former next President" has spoken in such a way that people don't just hear; they resonate. They don't just see; they connect...and they are inspired to make a change.
That is translation at its best. That is leadership at its best. And one doesn't have to be President of the United States to lead the global community (in fact, right now being President seems to be more of a hindrance). Beyond the many other great things Gore has accomplished through this latest evolution, his service as a first wave translator may prove one of his most lasting achievements for the twenty-somethings waiting to take the reigns at the highest levels of citizenship, business, and government.