Monday, February 26, 2007

February 25th- From Egypt

Today is Sunday, February 25. Tomorrow I leave for home after almost a week in Egypt. It will be a two hour early morning drive to Cairo from Palmera Beach Resort, Ain El Sukhna on the Gulf of Suez. This conference, the 2007 International President's Meeting, is the most important annual gathering AIESEC International. It brings together each current country president and each newly elected country president from ninety countries.

For nine days two hundred plus people examine and account for how they are doing with respect to a strategic vision which must be accomplished by 2010. They are also here to create, discuss and legislate new policy, choose their new International President, six new international Directors and six functional Vice Presidents. They are here to have a good time. And ... they are here to examine themselves as leaders on an individual and personal level.

In this regard, leadership - individual and personal, the new elects are mine all day on day three - Thursday - for twelve hours of experiential leadership developmental training. This is my second year to assume and deliver this portion of the conference.

These are some of the brightest and most energetic young people in the world. College juniors, seniors and master's degree candidates - each fluent in many languages. They thrive on getting things accomplished within international communities and frameworks, working long hours at fast pace with short deadlines and limited resources, playing hard and reflecting deeply.

We begin. I ask what they've heard about the event we're going to create, and request that each establish and clarify for him/herself a personal purpose for the day, and move around the room to share with other new elects what this individual purpose is. Five minutes later we reconvene and listen as some begin to dialogue what has been discussed. They know today is the Samurai Game®. They have all ideas about this. But nobody knows exactly what will happen; only that the stakes are high - one's life - metaphorically speaking. Every purpose mentioned is significant. They have already have to understand that today is a one shot deal. Live it as if it's the only one you'll ever have - first day/last day; or as a samurai might explain, ichigo ichie.

Then someone asks me, "Why do you come here?"; Most of them know about my involvement a year ago in the Netherlands at the 2006 International President's Meeting, and the country conferences involving the Game that followed in Slovakia, Poland and Hungary. My response is, "To serve." This is the oldest and largest international student run organization. It has 20,000 active members committed to constructive leadership, global conflict resolution and a sustainable living
environment. It's only natural to accept the invitation again knowing our involvement with each other will, by ripple effect, touch approximately 2,000,000 people worldwide over the next four to six weeks. Most of the delegates will be highly sought after by companies, NGO's, and government organizations that know the value of having AIESECers on their teams as future leaders. Some of the scouts and
recruiters are already here.

The day was fantastic. They came from Senegal, Latvia, Russia, Japan, China, France, Romania, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Canada, Lithuania, United Kingdom, Bosnia, Brazil, Australia, Peru, Portugal, Iceland, Slovakia, the Ukraine, Taiwan, Mexico, South Africa ... and on, and on, and on. They laughed and got serious and played hard and died (sort of) and came back and challenged each other - wholehearted and generous in everything. It was a day filled with choices, chaos, crisis, disappointment, victory, testing of honor, loss, courage, positive "grabs" and negative "grabs," unfairness and beauty and grace and how to look at each day of life through a vivid lens. Were they satisfied? No. More like - blown away in a positive sense.

A young Kenyan approached me when our day was complete, placed a small booklet between my palms, caught my gaze with his, somewhat reddened, and offered seven short words, "I have something for you, a gift." He stepped back, caught my gaze again and walked away. I opened it and saw he had written inside the cover, "Thank you for helping me discover myself. Thank you for helping me open my heart. Domo Arigato, Kevin." I brought The Little Blue Book Kenya by Kevin Chege, back to my room to save and read on the plane ride home.

Friday, the day following our event, I played tourist ... heading into Cairo and Giza to the Pyramids and Sphinx, and on to the Egyptian National Museum. All overpoweringly magnificent. How else can you explain ten thousand years of history staring you in the face? Returning to the resort, that evening was dedicated to the annual international awards banquet and the announcement of next six International Directors selected from twenty candidates. It was an evening of emotions that ran the complete spectrum for candidates and delegates alike.

Saturday was to be my day of rest, yet with a promise to be available to every new elect at his/her convenience for individual debrief of their leadership/Game experience and lessons learned, loosely translated: "campus office hours 8am until 8pm." At 8pm I decided to call it a night and head for bed, when one of the African contingent invited me to "The African Party" to start at 10pm. "OK." So off to my room and wait. What to do until the party? Read Kevin Chege's Little Blue Book Kenya. That's when I found a new answer and insightto the inquiry asked of me so many days before by one of the delegates, "Why do you come here?"

To be continued ....

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hi Lance!
True, for the game, we knew we had once to live! Same for us, that as Presidents we have once chance to make a difference. Thinking about it, it makes a lot of sense. And adds to the fact that we live for now and should make every second, minute and day count for the lives of others and ourselves.
Paul Mwirigi
President elect 07/08
AIESEC in Uganda