2013 World Leadership Congress

It was Saturday morning. A group of subdued yet on-edge high school standouts made their way slowly from the airport to the shuttle and then, finally, to the Loyola campus in Chicago, Illinois.

The date was July 20th, and the event was the 2013 World Leadership Congress.

A group of 432 US and international ambassadors were about to embark on a week long journey through self exploration, foundation, and dedication. Little did any of them know that their lives would never be the same.

The week started off with Opening Ceremonies, a panel of renowned speakers entitled “Cultures of Faith,” and a presentation on religious tolerance by TLC pupil, Suehaila Amen, from the eight episode series “All American Muslim.” With an emphasis on social media and its precedence in today’s world, the seminar progressed to include a trip to the Museum of Science and Industry and a panel on future technology and innovation.

One of the highlights of the trip came on the second day when Dave Gamache presented Rachel’s Challenge to the ambassadors. This widely used program followed the story of Rachel Scott, the first student killed in the Columbine massacre, in the quest of creating a world where kindness and sensitivity prevails over negativity and bullying. The presentation ended with Dave asking all volunteers and ambassadors to close their eyes and picture a room. In the room, Rachel herself was then said to have entered. Then, ambassadors’ loved ones entered the room. Each ambassador was then asked to tell these people how they are dearly loved and cared for. The night ended with the overwhelming majority of ambassadors in tears and engaging in the embracing of one another.

Using this presentation as a platform, the seminar promoted the ripple effect in arguing that even the smallest act of kindness- a smile on the street or a simple act of compassion- could create a chain reaction of positivity and love.

Ambassadors continued through the week with a wide variety of speakers and panels including one given by international ambassadors and non-profit founders.

Leaders also took part in bettering the world by spending a morning volunteering across Chicago. While most teens stayed on campus to do charity work, many also went off-site to make a difference. While some students went to the Jordan Community School to help students with arts and crafts and others went out to gain signatures for the Sandy Hook

Promise campaign, a pledge to practice kindness and compassion at all times, all ambassadors made a definite difference and had an effect on others.

Groups, sorted by color and number, also went out into the city on the “The Amazing HOBY Race,” where, guided by facilitators, students were instructed to locate various Chicago landmarks in the goal of seeing and experiencing America’s great White City.

Ambassadors also put on an impressive talent show, played a free market game to imitate business and trade, and heard from a variety of speakers including CNN journalist Josh Levs, philanthropist Brian Selander, and HOBY alumni.

Throughout the whole week, ambassadors practiced with renowned choir director Paul Geer to master “Seasons of Love,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and “The Impossible Dream” to be performed at the closing gala for the leadership seminar.

The closing gala, held at the celebrated Palmer House, included a flag presentation, various speeches, a three course meal, and an address by ambassador-nicknamed “HOBY Daddy,” Russ Tanguay.

In the end, ambassadors parted ways to travel back home to different corners of both the US and the globe in tears. Some cried out of sadness from leaving new friends and others out of joy that the week had happened. Regardless, all ambassadors were changed by the seminar in one way or another.

Throughout the week, ambassadors were asked and guided to do two main things. First, they had to identify what they were passionate about. Second, they had to make a plan and goal as to what they wanted to achieve in the real world in regards to their values. Many ambassadors made plans to create nonprofits to better the lives of others or to volunteer in their communities. Others wanted to travel to foreign countries to do service work or do charitable work online. However, many also simply plan to be friendly and smile to strangers to brighten others’ days. Only time will tell if these ambassadors will follow through on their plans.

Only time will tell if these teens will have a global impact. But for now, it is for sure that these young adults have the potential, connections, and ability to do some OUTSTANDING things in the world. And that is all thanks to preliminary HOBY seminars and the World Leadership Congress.

~Jack Donahue