Yesterday I had one of those pinch me days, where I felt like I was dreaming. I was selected to hang out with some pretty awesome and inspiring celebrities at the cool State Department’s Global Diaspora Forum. I say cool seriously because State Department has changed! This is not your mother’s State Department. A few weeks ago I was at an Unreasonable@State event (love the Unreasonable Institute, great organization). It was one of those odd pairings that actually really worked, and when you think about it, it makes sense. So back to yesterday…
When we were being escorted down the hallway to meet the celebrities in a private conference I was asking myself “seriously how flattering and awesome is this”. I got to chat with some down to earth celebrities about running track and field (me), getting up and doing what you have to do even when you don’t want to, staying engaged with your home country, raising culturally aware kids and giving back.
Here are the celebs:
Michelle Kwan is inspiring. She got a Masters in International Affairs while managing to also be an Olympic medalist and World Champion skater. She talked about the sacrifices her parents, Chinese immigrants, made to support her dream. Skating is an expensive sport, but they were determined to provide a brighter future for their children.
I talked to Meb Keflezighi, olympic marathon medalist and runner, about getting started and motivation to keep at it even when it seems like the odds are against yous. He talked about ignoring stats and winning despite being ranked number 39. How he stays motivated: thinking that his competition is working out while his considering slacking off makes him get up and run. The sacrifices his parents made leaving Eritrea with nothing for a better future for their kids. He founded the Meb Foundation to give back to the youth in sport.
James Ihedigbo is the safety for the Baltimore Ravens, the 2013 Superbowl Champs Baltimore Ravens. He also founded HOPE Africa (which stands for Helping Our People Excel ) which provides scholarships to people of African descent. Now this guy is funny. He talked celebrating successes, but not for too long. Seeing what hard work looks like by watching the sacrifices of his parents who came from Nigeria with nothing, got PhDs while supporting 5 children! How his mom wrote a book entitled "Sandals in the Snow", about coming from Nigeria not being prepared for the US weather. Now that's a book I must read.
* Homestrings: Investment platform; enables diaspora investors to select investment projects and funds that focus on their chosen development objectives.
*Venture Hive: Technology accelerator that focuses on incubating tourism, creative IT and health IT firms, including foreign firms, in Miami.
* Pork Delights: Kenyan social enterprise that helps expand local pork production and food security using sustainable farming practices.