As I leave the Island reflecting on my first ever Policy Conference, I feel overwhelmed, connected and informed. The level of content and exposure to VIP’s was overwhelming. In a 30 minute span yesterday, I spoke with Donna Brazile as she was taking in the view one last time before departing; bumped into Thomas Friedman as he got on an elevator, and was nearly run over by the Governor in the lobby as he hustled from one interview to the next.
The connections with colleagues – new and old – were fun and informative. Probably the most productive 20 minute conversation was had with a Foundation executive about what I believe to be a root cause of recidivism within the welfare system – undiagnosed learning disabilities. An opportunity I wouldn’t had otherwise, to share important work being done at OCC with welfare recipients. I’m pretty sure I saw a twinkle in the exec’s eye as he listened and pondered our experience with this topic. Maybe, just maybe, the Foundation will tackle this topic with long overdue research on strategies for solving this critical problem.
Informed – well, Thomas Friedman can expand a mind like no other. Here are a few of his gems, beginning with advice for young adults:
1. Think like a new immigrant – pursue opportunity with velocity and tenacity.
2. Be an artisan – make your work unique – be willing to carve your initials in it - make an impression.
3. If you think you are finished with education – you’re finished with more than that.
4. Think entrepreneurially – in the things you can control – give extra, do more.
I really liked the last bit – not everyone will own their own business, but we all own our positions. Within our position, are we doing more, giving extra within the things we can control?
Revisiting my first post, where I lamented the emphasis on connecting rather than content, I will close with this advice for future newbies: balance is the key. Conference content at the level presented at Mackinac has the potential to plant seeds, generate ideas, innovation, and policy that can change our community. Connections made and conversations at receptions, between sessions, on ferries, in carriages is where the seeds planted begin to grow. No need to sacrifice one for the other.