The last time I was anywhere remotely Northwest was two years ago as the CPP Campaign Director for Children of Vietnam (Agent Orange Project). All I remember from that experience was donuts, hipsters, and a no taxes in Portland – just kidding. I also remembered the people and the contagious level of warmth they had with someone they barely knew.
Fast forward two years later and I was back in the Northwest region – this time in Seattle for their Leadership Summit. I was invited to be their Friday night keynote, starting off the entire summit – no pressure right? It was my first experience as president to do a speech in public outside of when I first got elected. In fifteen minutes, I have to share my journey to where I am and be able to somehow connect with the constituents through words without getting to know them prior. The experience was very intimidating, trying to figure out what to say that will drive the point home. I was so nervous… until I saw the audience. It was a more intimate environment that what I had in my head and the people there were beaming good vibes toward me. A few familiar faces here and there but mostly younger faces trying to gain as much experience from summit as possible.
Seattle’s Leadership Summit was different from most I have been to. While most summits focus on the content of their workshops, being progressive and trying to develop leaders – this summit touches upon those elements but focuses on developing people and the stories they brought to share. True to their theme of “Bridging our Paths,” this weekend-long retreat had curriculum designed on strengthening the connection between participants throughout the northwest region with one another. There were times where we laughed on skits incorporating the Vietnamese language, felt silly doing icebreakers designed to embarrass families, and bloated from all the eating (the Chicago hot dog will always be better than the Seattle hot dog, cream cheese on a hot dog… what?). At the end of most events, I would usually have an overwhelming feeling that something was done right and hope that in the air was something more than just relief that the event was over or numbers of new found friends – I would hope that participates are aware that they were a part of something bigger. At the end of the Seattle Leadership Summit, I can honestly say that the overwhelming feeling I got was this: revitalized.
Every organization goes through a cycle – one where there is immense growth, plateaus, and when the organization is just in trouble. Sometimes it might be because there is a lack of vision and end goal for the members or sometimes organizers don’t have those resources. Or sometimes the people involved have not been inspired by the right people at the right time. Summit this year was the right place and the right time because apparently, the constituents were so overwhelmed with the new energy they harnessed that they placed in a bid to host the upcoming UNAVSA-12 Leadership Conference. As announced earlier, we are more than excited for Seattle to bring their energy and warmth to the conference. They have ideas and a huge array of experiences will hopefully put together a conference that shares their passion, their genuine love, and their food to the rest of the continent.
So Seattle – welcome to the family.