During the summer of 2017, I visited Atlanta, Georgia for the first time for Rotary International Convention. These were my impressions…
From the cheap seats on a plane, I used to bemoan those sitting in first class. Just one more class system meant to separate those who have means and those who do not. Despite a first-class flight from Seattle to Atlanta, I still feel this way, except my tune has changed a little bit now that I have been given a taste of the good life. Comfortable seats, drinks at the ready, the best version of airline food, little pillows, and blankets in case you get chilly are enough to tempt me to change my mind… Almost.
In a world where violence continually steals headlines, organizations like Rotary International exist to wage unflappable peace. From my seat at a breakout session on the subject, I was moved by my organization’s efforts to end Polio, bring water to poor communities, ensure maternal health, enrich lives through literacy, invest in the next generation, and so much more. In the face of so much despair, it fills me with a great deal of pride to count myself among the ranks of an organization doing so much good in the world.
33 is an interesting age to attend a Rotary convention. The activities planned for older adults are focused on the arts, golf, and tastes of high society. For those under 30, the focus is on experiences like a Pub Crawl through some of Atlanta’s best bars. Needless to say, for a single night I pretended to be younger than I am. After an evening of beers and shots, my real age became a reality; there is no hell like nursing a hangover when you’re in your thirties.
At a Rotary convention, you meet people from all over the world. With 1.2 million members from almost every country on the globe representing every variation of man and woman under the sun, it doesn’t take long to fully grasp the reach of this organization while walking the convention floor. This level of representation is valuable. The diversity makes the conversations richer and more varied. It also makes the level of impact more astounding.
I haven’t spent considerable time in America’s south. As someone who grew up in Oklahoma, I have always judged this region from afar and through the lens of history. Without a doubt, what I’ve read has sullied my opinion, but this is why we travel. We should go with the intention of having our worldview altered in some way. The Atlanta I knew before my trip was not the Atlanta I left knowing. For that opportunity, I am grateful. I should also say that I am itching to return.
The Power of Diversity
There is true power in diversity. The organizations that focus on the merits of diversity are the organizations that will win the 21st century. This diversity has to be about more than skin color. It must be celebrated across all variations. This gathering of ideas and perspectives will make companies and organizations such as Rotary more nimble and able to respond to a global marketplace of ideas. It took some time for Rotary to realize this fact, at least in the United States, but the secret is out, and clubs are scrambling to respond.
Changing of the Guard
I am a member of the often-derided generation known as millennials. Slowly, we’ve become the largest force in the labor market. We’ve started running for political office. Over and over again we’ve demanded a seat at the table. After much consternation, our wishes are being granted. In companies and organizations the world over, this means a changing of the guard. Many have wrongly chosen to focus on the negative aspect of this transition. Instead, I would ask leaders to focus on the positive. New approaches, opinions, and ways of looking at work is a good thing. It can create efficiency, unleash technology, and create systems for improvement. Cross-generational work is where the magic lies and how the future will be won.
Lord help me, I love southern cooking. Fry it all. BBQ everything. Give me another helping of greens and okra. I am there for all of it. As a connoisseur of southern cooking, Atlanta was built for me. Of all the places we visited, the institution that is Mary Mac’s Team Room was my favorite. As plates of food reminiscent of everything my mom cooks hit our table, I found myself in my own little slice of heaven. When the bill came, and we were forced toward the exit, I swear I left 10 lbs. heavier.
Hailing from Seattle, Atlanta is f**cking hot in June. That’s all.
This is another one of those trips where Brandon was supposed to be my side. Instead, finances got the best of us and I was forced to travel alone. There is so much of this world I want to experience with Brandon standing next to me. With each year we progress in this relationship, I find myself disliking being without him for events such as these more and more. Perhaps, that’s how I know I am truly in love.
Be good to each other,
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