It was just an hour and I am still in awe.
This afternoon I attended the book launch of The Globalization Lecture Series Compendium together with Julien “Jo” Dio (’09) at the Asian Institute of Management.
Ces Noble of the AIM Policy Center found it appropriate for their compendium and published Julien’s write up as part of an article on “Globalization and the Filipino.” Julien’s piece was touted as the perspective of students from a science and technology high school which is indeed “a strategic platform for globalization.” (See pictures at the end of this entry.)
Alright, that clears that what, when, where. Now, how overwhelming and why? What follows is a personal account of the event. Read on and discover why I’ve never been more nervous my entire life!
The program was due to begin at 5PM but started a little later because the auditorium to be used for the book launch was still being used for a video conference. I had been there since 5PM and planned to wait for Jo to arrive. She texted me that she would be late, so I helped myself in when I was invited to sit down for the synthesis portion of the video conference.
That auditorium was incredibly high tech and “flat”. The video conference was actually a symposium where their guest speaker (I failed to catch his name) was all the way in Europe. On the wall were two screens: one for ‘near’ which showed how the person on the other side would see the entire room and another for ‘far’ which showed us who we were talking to.
And they did nothing but talk about globalization, the flat world, political and economic institutions, and administrative costs! If I had a tail, it would be wagging ferociously. Instead I was grinning from ear to ear as I listened intently to the closing moments of the conference. I didn’t catch exactly what was being discussed, but I would hear terms I would only read about in books or teach in class. Here were people who talked about it like it was their second nature, and I admit to getting lost a few times.
At one point, the ‘far’ video feed disappeared and the synthesis speaker — Dr. Federico Macaranas — made a joke by apologizing about the ‘technological divide’. And the entire room laughed! So did I! Oh my. This is my kind of room! What a geek.
I took a moment to look around the room and I felt I was watching an economic conference on CNN! It was full of captains of industry, expatriates from Europe, India and China, academics, economists and policy makers. Before Julien came, I was the youngest person there. I was probably the only one who was just a college graduate. I’ve never felt so small. To be honest, I felt so out of my league considering how these people lived and breathed globalization whereas I would only study it as a hobby!
The book launch began a little past 5:30PM. One of the major sponsors of the AIM Policy Center, Mr. Klaus Preschle, opened the ceremony by reading a passage from Thomas Friedman’s The Lexus and the Olive Tree. Again, I was grinning from ear to ear.
Then Dr. Federico Macaranas, editor of the compendium, took the stage and presented the compendium to key contributors. Industry heavy weights took turns thanking AIM for their effort and commenting on globalization and the works of Thomas Friendman. Even retired Senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani was on hand.
But what happened next really shook me to my core. Ces Noble approached me and asked if Julien was still coming (it was already 5:45), and I said that she might be late. In that case, Ms. Noble said, I will receive the compendium and say a few words — which meant a thank you and a quick (around 5 to 7 minutes) comment on globalization.
My heart began to beat wildly and I couldn’t calm myself down! There is just no way I could speak in front of all these people!
My inner voices began shouting. All those tiny demons who used to tell me “I can’t” began to speak in chorus. “You’ll sound stupid.” “You won’t get it right.” “You’re nothing to these people!”
Then one calm voice imitated Bruce Lee and said, “Be like water.” I managed to laugh inside. And then Jo texted. “Sir, I’m outside na.” It was 5:50.
A little devil in me said, “Heh. At least now you don’t have to talk.”
After bringing Jo into the room, it was then our turn to be presented the compendium. My heart was still beating wildly until Dr. Macaranas introduced us by saying, “And this afternoon we have a most pleasant surprise. We have with us today friends from the Philippine Science High School.”
With those words I realized, “I can do this”. And then he just had to say, “We have Professor Perez with us. Any words?”
Holy shit. This is it. Professor? Oh, crap. And the first words out of my mouth?
“Julien, do you have anything to say?”
Everyone had a quick laugh and with that, all my tension disappeared.
I took the stage as I would often do, reminding myself to keep it honest and speak from the heart. I am not an economist. I am not an ambassador. I am not a policy maker (yet). I am a high school teacher, and that is the unique perspective I bring to the conference. Everyone has their realm of expertise. With Jo beside me, I was reminded of what is mine.
For about three minutes, it didn’t matter who I was talking to. They were people genuinely interested with what I had to say. I began by relating to them; I spoke about my own experience in reading Thomas Friedman (since they all started with that) and how it inspired me in teaching globalization and the flat world to my students. I then made a quick comment about Pisay Meets World, and how it brought Jo and I in front of them today.
It wasn’t the best speech I have ever given, but it was the best I could give under those circumstances. It went well. The crowd appreciated Julien and I being there, and gave us an applause right after I ended and congratulated AIM for the stellar work. I am incredibly happy that I lived through those minutes.
We then joined everyone for photos and cocktails afterwards. (The pictures should be e-mailed to me soon!) Jo and I acquainted ourselves with some AIM people, and we recounted the story of how a high school social studies project ended up in the hands of a think tank such as AIM.
Overall, it was an overwhelming afternoon for me.
I am incredibly proud of Jo for making it despite an injured clavicle. Her effort is astounding, and her presence meant a lot to the people at AIM. Ces Noble told us that her presence was key, since it made the whole endeavor even more authentic and genuine. Afterwards, I told Jo through text that she has accomplished a great thing today since the greatest success is that which we never expect. Take care, Jo, and get well for a new school year awaits!
As for me, I realized one thing today. In between feeling so overwhelmed by the people in that room, and having overcome my nervousness of speaking in front of all of them, I realized that I can do this. I want to be part of this world. I can be part of this world. Those people make tough policy decisions everyday. They look at the world and work to make it better. It is something I’ve always wanted to do. I can do this.
Lately, I’ve been feeling that I am being called to live another life. I am growing convinced that teaching is just one chapter in my life and it is about to end. I know that I haven’t done everything I can do as a teacher, but I am realizing that I can do even more in a different capacity, a different dharma, so to speak.
In realizing that, together with everything I’ve seen, heard and felt today, I’ve definitely had the most overwhelming hour of my life. Nothing can be greater than knowing there is much more possible, and realizing you can have it.
Some pictures of The Globalization Lecture Series Compendium featuring the work of our students.