A couple of weeks ago I had the great honor of speaking at the 2017 World Knowledge Forum in Seoul, South Korea (17th to 19th October). The theme for the 18th anniversary of the World Knowledge Forum was “Inflection Point: Towards New Prosperity.”
One of the most inspiring speakers at this event was Ban Ki-moon, eighth secretary-general of the United Nations. He spoke twice to the few thousand gathered in Jangchung Arena and raised many points of concern around climate change. “We don’t have a Plan B because we don’t have a Planet B.” He also shared, “we have to be constantly learning and we have to be constantly engaging in order to make the world a better place.” It was truly an honor to hear this humanitarian speak. He was the key figure in making the Paris Agreement a legally binding treaty less than a year after it was adopted.
On the second day of the event, the opening keynote was given by Hillary Clinton. It was my first time hearing her speak in person. I’ll keep it simple and say I love this woman. What an ambassador she is for politicians and humanity in general. She certainly had the hearts of the few thousand people that were gathered at Jangchung Arena that morning.
I was also invited to attend a special VIP dinner one evening hosted by the chairman of Maekyung Media, host of the World Knowledge Forum. This dinner was my first experience being in a room with many political and international leaders, plus men and women who have made significant changes in their countries and around the world: former prime ministers of Italy and Sweden, former presidents of France and Estonia, deputy prime minister of Korea (I loved his talk — he has such a good understanding of the mind), former UN secretary-general, ambassadors, and some amazing men and women who are impacting the world in so many different ways from arts and sciences, to women’s rights and education, to mathematic and economics, and more.
Reince Priebus (former White House chief of staff) made it a point to walk across the room and chat with me, curious as to who I was. Though we have very different political points of view, we talked for a good 20 minutes. I feel that because I can focus well I can also listen well. That combined with asking good questions (something I’m learning that people need to be taught how to do), I was able to hear the human side of his story. As Hillary Clinton pointed out in her keynote, if you only surround yourself with people that share the same opinion as you do, you will never learn and grow.
After conversations with many people in the room, it became crystal clear to me that all of them were clear about their mission. Most if not all of these missions were aimed at making a difference in the world. How successful they have or have not been at it is not for me to judge, but they have certainly sacrificed much to get to where they are and faced both praise and criticism along the way — primarily from people who have done nowhere near what these men and women have accomplished in their lives.
I’m also of the opinion that when you stand up, speak your mind and share your thoughts, you are irrevocably setting yourself up to have people either like you or not like you. I decided long ago that I would share my thoughts — better to do this than not at all. And I have to admire all the men and women at this dinner, regardless of what political party they represent or what mission they are championing, for actually doing something and serving people at large. Most people don’t actually do very much or anything at all to serve humanity and this planet that we live on. It’s true and sad.
It was truly an amazing and transformative trip for me in so many ways. I left realizing I need to step up my game and make a bigger impact in this world and to help bring greater awareness surrounding climate change. What are you doing to make Earth a livable place in the future? If you’re not doing your part, you should!
I’ll conclude by saying I loved my trip to Seoul and all the wonderful Korean people that I met who were sweet and kind. Thank you for making my first trip so Seoul so special.