|Sometimes I just have to step back and be gob-smacked by the life I get to lead.|
Flame-Haired Angel and I spent the weekend in Copenhagen, Denmark, under cloudless, blue skies and perfect spring weather. I was there on a mission, and the Angel had flown along so we could have the adventure together. I had been to Copenhagen before, but not under circumstances like this.
I was there to chair a summit on climate change, an event planned to help mark AIESEC's 60th Anniversary. The summit had been scheduled to coincide with AIESEC Denmark's national conference -- members from universities all over Denmark, and even a few from Norway and Sweden -- so it was packed with students as well as AIESEC alumni and an impressive group of external experts and guests, including the CEO of Carlsberg, a representative from the EU Climate Bureau, and the scientific advisor to the Chinese ambassador.
It was such a privilege to be there, on so many levels. Humbling, of course, that the organisers of the conference asked me to play a part in their national event. I had met the conference's animating force -- the extraordinary Therese Hjermind (look for the curly blonde hair in the pictures below) -- when I addressed the AIESEC International Congress in Turkey back in August. When she invited me to Denmark, I didn't take her seriously. Shows how much I know about Danish determination and commitment. I haven't a clue what exactly I did to inspire her invitation, but I hope I do a lot more of it.
Having made it a condition of my acceptance that Therese really put me to work, I ran workshops and spoke in plenary sessions at the national conference on Friday, chaired the climate change summit on Saturday, then got dolled up in the penguin outfit to be ceremonial host for their gala anniversary dinner, on Saturday night.
A particular honour was meeting Kaj Verner Slot, one of the original seven founding members of AIESEC in 1948. Now 86 years old, Mr Slot was generous with his recollections. It was touching to see him moved by the several spontaneous standing ovations he received: more than a hundred of his countrymen, most of them 65 years his junior, roaring in tribute. He seemed genuinely surprised -- almost nonplussed -- that they would make such a fuss. Perhaps we realise more pointedly than he does how remarkable was the supposedly unassuming initiative he took, with six other business students, in the receding shadow of World War II. Today, it binds together 28,000 students around the world, and more than half a million alumni. (Mr Slot is in the white dinner jacket in the photos below.)
Having done a number of these kinds of events solo, it was so much fun to be with Flame-Haired Angel, who wholeheartedly joined in the intensity and zaniness that is an AIESEC conference. The weekend was full of wonderful moments and all-too-brief connections with sparkling spirits and vibrant hearts. Sharing them with my Angel amplified it all.
As the celebration dinner wound down in the early hours of Sunday morning, I realised I had missed the opportunity to say goodnight and goodbye to my trio of hosts: Therese (Tess), Abhijit, and Margreet. Why you put me in the middle of your plans I may never know, but I shall be forever grateful. You kept thanking me for being there, but I'm pretty sure that sentiment was the wrong way around.
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Flame-Haired Angel and Margreet.
Tess, Margreet, Kaj Verner Slot, and Abhijit.
Flame-Haired Angel with a couple winners of the annual awards announced that evening.
Scandinavian much? Tess and Anna