Monday Musings

A Little Piece of World Peace…

Lehigh name tag
My Global Village name tag… A memento of another wonderful year with some of the world’s best and brightest.

This past week has refocused my thoughts on the importance of “international relations”, how important it is for humanity to get along and live together on this planet without killing each other. Every tiny step toward that goal is reassuring even though it often feels like one step forward and two steps back.

For the past eleven years I’ve participated as a “Visiting Executive” in Lehigh University’s Global Village for Future Leaders. Each summer Global Village brings together over one hundred mostly 20 somethings from around the world for an intensive month or so of international leadership training. These are truly some of the best and brightest from nearly fifty countries. Following an afternoon of my lecturing on  “Modern Leadership”, their asking questions and challenging my assertions, and one-on-one interactions about their hopes and dreams, I came away, as I do every year, with the same belief…and prayer, that by the time their generation assumes the world’s leadership roles running governments and international conglomerates, they won’t want to blow each other up. I remain hopeful that such a new global attitude is possible.

One of the reasons I remain hopeful about the big picture is because in my work and travels I have witnessed many small victories taking place all the time, seen what good people can accomplish on a micro scale; how one person can indeed make a difference.

My first trip to Afghanistan occurred in 2006. I accompanied Toni Maloney, co-founder of the Business Council for Peace, (Bpeace), and a group of volunteers on a mission to assist Afghan women to become entrepreneurs. On of our goals was to help Habiba grow the first real daycare center/pre-school program in Kabul, which she was operating out of small house with a courtyard. The children had few toys and no outdoor play equipment. From the time we spent with her it was obvious that what they did have was a lot of love, patience and support from Habiba and her staff, but they needed to provide a proper facility for the children. My generous friends and colleagues contributed $4000 that went directly in to the construction of a new school building. Bepeace’s total effort raised over $30,000 so the children of Kabul could have a safe, clean daycare center.

Habiba and her students in 2013.
Habiba and her students in 2013.

A few days ago, I received a photo from Toni of Habiba today, watching over a new class of students. She and the daycare center are still going strong providing early education to the next generation of Afghans. I’m very proud of the role that I and so many others played in that outcome. Just as I am proud of all the young, smart, savvy Villagers who will return to their countries with a broader knowledge of their global neighbors.

Until that next generation is ready to lead, the world will most likely continue to careen between crisis and hope..from civil war in Syria, a coup in Egypt, to a new proposal of Israeli / Palestinian peace talks. What we can do in the meantime is light candles in the darkness and use them to show the way.





What Price…

With my husband, Zsolt, in Alaska...
With my husband, Zsolt, in Alaska…
“Life is full of trade-offs. Based on our own value system, we’ll accept a little of “this” so we can have some of “that”. Alaska is one of the most beautiful places on earth but I wouldn’t want to live there because for me the price is too high: A glorious eight week summer of sparkling lakes and mountain meadows surrounded by a couple of months of cool & cloudy rain, sandwiched in between mind-numbing cold and snow. Nearly three quarter of a million people disagree with me and it’s those differences in the trade-off scale that make the world go round.

I wonder what Edward Snowden was willing to trade when he divulged the inside workings of the US NSA surveillance set-up. He has most certainly changed his life forever and at the age of 29, that’s saying something since he likely has much more life in front of him than behind. Believed to be hiding out in Hong Kong, a place that has already indicated they will likely extradite him if the US government requests it, he’s gone from “The world is my oyster international consultant” to one of the world’s most wanted men in the blink of an eye. Being at the center of a media feeding frenzy is almost never a good thing unless your last name is Kardashian.

The personal fate of Snowden aside, he has raised the bar on the issue of “what price” and “what will we trade”…  Now that we know our own government is spying on us, following our communication trails, and storing that information, what price are we willing to pay to stop the bad guys and how much of our privacy and freedom are we willing to trade to do it? On your trade-off sliding scale will you tolerate the intrusion of your government in to your private, constitutionally protected rights in return for the promise from that government that will keep you safe?

As for me; I don’t live in Alaska because the beauty isn’t worth freezing nine months of the year. And as much as I think Edward Snowden should be dragged home and put on trial as a traitor, there is a part of me that is grateful to know the information that he revealed because I also don’t believe my government needs to intrude in the lives of its citizens to this extent.

Monday Musings: Summer Vacation…Timing Is Everything

stockmarketimages After some well placed and well timed hints from me, my husband agreed to take a week off so we could have a “summer getaway”. Nothing fancy, a rented place a block from the water off the Chesapeake Bay. The plan was to sleep, eat, and read. In exchange for his willingness to go away when he’s so busy at work, I, the news & technology junkie whose entire professional universe centers around electronic media, had to agree to “unplug”; a big commitment on my part.

August is usually a good time to for this sort of thing because so many other people are doing it…trying to grab that last gasp of summer before Q4 starts at the office and the kids go back to school.

We certainly picked some week for our summer vacation, a week when our country has suffered two enormous losses: Thirty of our best and brightest warriors in Afghanistan, and millions of dollars in our IRA and investment accounts.

I imagine my husband and I are like many Americans this week, we continued with our lives and our plans, but the relaxed, atmosphere that usually envelopes us on vacation was nowhere to be found. There is a sub-current of sadness that is hard to shake: A sense that it is disrespectful to be carefree when so many have sacrificed so much.

Just as the shock of the tragedy in Afghanistan was easing, the financial markets began a freefall resembling an out of control carnival ride. My “unplugged” promise went quickly by the wayside as the Dow Jones average plummeted. Checking my email, I found a message from the investment firm that we use, urging everyone to stay calm. I sent a quick little reply of support to the operations manager…thinking she could probably use a friendly message, only to have her write back to say that this recent dip has been the last straw for many. Her recounting sounded like a scene from a movie about the Great Depression; people banging on the door, screaming “sell, sell” over the phone, demanding their money in cash.

No matter where you are right now in this great land, from sea to shining sea, it’s a discomforting time for Americans. The families of our fallen soldiers are suffering and need our comfort, while our country is, perhaps, in the process of being changed forever.

I’m going to be glad to get home…

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