Sunday, September 21, 2003

Millennium Scholars

Whoa! The event with the Millennium Scholarship Foundation was absolutely incredible. And it started as soon as I stepped on the Air Canada French (I, of course, had already checked out their environmental page). I was so psyched to hear another language (pretty rare in the States, some Spanish...but even that is becoming rarer). The announcements in French, the inflight movie in French, the magazine in French. I loved it! If only I could remember more of it.

The Arc Hotel where we stayed was truly beautiful with very zenlike furnishings and full on Feng Shui going on. Aveda in the bathroom naturally. I took a short walk Thursday evening around the neighborhood only to find that we were just blocks from the stunning Parliament Hill and it's many beautiful buildings. Ottawa in general was beautiful. I found out the next day that the meetings were actually IN the Parliament buildings, the West Block to be exact. What a privilege for the students, and certainly for me the foreigner. What amazed me most was that the average citizen could just walk right up and check the buildings out, very tourist friendly. There was even an ultimate Frisbee game going on the lawns on Saturday. Can you imagine that on the White House lawn?!

Meeting the other panelists was only outdone by meeting and engaging with the incredible students that are part of the Millennium Scholarships, the student Laureates. I thought I was pretty hot stuff in college, but these young men and women blew me away.

The 'brands and beliefs' panel was absolutely outstanding. I'm sure all the panelists could have just sat back and let the laureates take charge, but it was really a great opportunity to engage with the students. This was my first experience conferencing with simultaneous translation, so that was quite a treat for me as well. Lots of amazing students in the panel, one in particular turned out to be a great resource for SSF. Ben Barry is one of the young Laureates who at 14 started his own alternative modeling agency in order to give fashion a real face and make it more accessible. His models of all sizes, ethnicities, abilities, etc. can now be seen across Canada. Ben actually invited me to a fashion show going on down the street in which his models would be appearing at the local Hudson's Bay Company store The Bay. At last! Models that WE can identify with. Being big into responsible business, my bet is that Ben will be a major changemaker in the rest of his career as well. MANY other incredible students too.

On Saturday evening we were treated to a feast at the stunning Canadian Museum of Civilization along with outstanding performances that included Inuit throat singing.

Among the many panelists I had the honor of meeting Uzma Shakir with the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) [a social activism powerhouse by the way]; Joanna Kerr, Executive Director of the Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID) [now firmly among the top 10 of my 'favorite people in the world' list]; Canadian filmaker, author and naturalist, Richard Bocking; wellknown corporate social responsibility expert Paul Pellizzari; Pyysicist, facilitator and jazz singer Diana Nalini and illustrator Anita Kunz.

Again, it was such an honor to be among such an incredible and distinguished group of people.

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