Blog: Amplify

Another Openin’, Another Show… (With Apologies to Cole Porter)

The beginning of opening session is just a few short minutes away. I arrive early to find a seat while trying to avoid the strobe light clearly flashing above my head. As I loiter in the lobby, here are some general impressions thus far.

I will not get to every session I want to hit, and need to be able to read the culture to see if moving from one to another is acceptable or verboten. The conference program appears jam packed, with each session entry more intriguing than the one before. Stay tuned on that one. Clearly, participants seem to travel in packs and are well acquainted with each other. I think they sense me as a lone wolf without my pack. My conference lanyard has scored me a few polite nods from fellow attendees (despite my heads down texting appearance). I believe the nod might be a strategy to read others’ name tags. I am still trying to read that one.

I think I overheard that the opening session is over lunch. This creates an urgency to find the right seat. I make my way to a table in the center section and secure a seat. I’m waiting for the first victim, I mean colleague, to join the group and holding my breath.

Happily the table fills up with new faces from New York, New Hampshire, and even farther flung India, China, and Brazil. The conversation is lively: organizational proliferation, the NBA playoffs, the topics ahead, and who will be attending which session.

The plenary begins with a video about our collective work. It’s very powerful. The best statement was, “Not to shine a spotlight on what can’t, but rather to show the world what can.”

Hopeful. I guess that sums up my work at Simon Youth Foundation. We ignite hope, we encourage our students to start here and go anywhere. Our partner public schools accept students where they are and take them to where they want to be.

I sense a theme developing here. It seems like I’m at the right conference. Why are you here?

I look forward to seeing and hearing from you. Please don’t let me sit by myself! To my disappointment, I’m not the only one in a bow tie, but I am the only one with a shaved head and a bow tie.

Michael Durnil is president of Simon Youth Foundation, a member of the Council on Foundations.

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