During my tenure as a Client Services Manager for the IEEE I did presentations and training events all over the world. I traveled to many countries in Asia, South America, Europe, the United Kingdom and made frequent trips to the Middle East. I’ve been to Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Jordan. I gave a keynote speech at a technical conference in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Representing the IEEE is an honor. The way we were received during this travel was amazing. I used to joke I was treated like I was Thomas Edison, who was one of the founders of the IEEE in 1884. When I was in Azerbaijan I was interviewed on a morning TV talk show!
It is a long flight from San Francisco Airport to the Middle East. Typically, there was a direct flight to Frankfurt, and then another substantial leg to the destination in the Middle East. One landing, in Jordan, really stands out. After I made my way to the Landmark Amman Hotel, I went to the lobby bar to unwind. There are no restrictions on the availability of alcohol in Jordan.
While sitting in the comfortable Mint Lobby Lounge I noticed two men, probably in their 40s, having an animated conversation. What got my attention was they had two boys, probably age 10 and 12, sitting with them. After a while, the two boys came over to me and the older one asked me where I was from.
I told them I was from California, and they seemed pretty amazed by this. He asked me questions about what is it like to live in California, what was the flight like, what kinds of airplanes did I fly on, what was my job like and what was I going to be doing in Jordan.
They loved hearing I was on a Lufthansa 747-400 for almost 11 hours going from San Francisco to Frankfurt, and then another four hours going from Frankfurt to Amman on a Royal Jordanian Airbus A319.
After a brief explanation of the history and function of the IEEE I explained I would be visiting universities, government institutions and private companies to give presentations and do training sessions on behalf of the IEEE. I then went into how important it was for them to focus on and do well in their own education. I also talked about how essential continuing education would be once they started working.
I stressed keeping up with the changing requirements of the work world and even faster moving technology requires life-long study. I talked about learning to use the library very well, and to understand the unique in-depth resources offered in a true library which are not available on the open web. We talked for about 20 minutes.
After the conversation I went over to their table and found out the two men were brothers, one was the boy’s father, the other their uncle.
The men asked me what I was talking about with the boys and I gave them a brief overview. But what really stood out was when I told them I believed the boys were obviously remarkably high potential young men. They asked me why I felt that way and I pointed out how polite they were and how advanced their communication and listening skills were. I said this would serve them very well both going through school and when they eventually got into the work world. The two of them were delighted and thanked me profusely for speaking with the boys.
Later, this meeting half-way around the world, made me think how universal certain things are. Families want to be able to take care of their children and give them the things that will enable them to succeed. All families take great pride in this fundamental goal. This includes a path to opportunity and the education to learn the skills necessary in a rapidly changing world.
They want good health and healthcare, security and sustenance, access to the resources that lead to success. And, perhaps most importantly, they want to receive the recognition and respect that doing the right thing for their family’s merits. At a time when there are so many things pushing humanity and the world apart, it is time to starting looking at things that will pull us back together.