American Leadership Conference Pilot Series Begins
The first of three pilot sessions of the American Leadership Conference (ALC) took place at the 4 W 43rd St. Learning Center in Manhattan on Saturday, March 11, 2017. Co-sponsored by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), The Washington Times Foundation, and the Sun International Peace Federation, the program brought together approximately 100 attendees for a day of focused study, reflection, and discussion on the themes essential to successful and principled leadership.
Opening Plenary Session
At the outset of the program, Dr. Ki Hoon Kim, Chairman of UPF North America, and Dr. Michael Jenkins, President of the Washington Times Foundation, each emphasized the centrality of God-centered families to the resolution of the challenges of our time in their opening remarks.
“As Richard de Sena [President of UPF USA and emcee for the day’s program] said, I wear many, many hats…[but] I am very proud of myself. I have only one focus and one hat at the end of the day. Even though we have many critical challenges these days, I am a family man…. This is the only hat I wear and carry with me all the time, wherever I go, whenever I wake up, whenever I go to sleep. More than anything else, the greatest and most critical point is how we can bring family values back to our American society, government, and community.” –Dr. Ki Hoon Kim
“The Washington Times Foundation…calls upon all people to solve their problems by recognizing that we have one Creator, one Heavenly Parent, and that if we understand that, we can see that we don’t have enemies. We should not see others as our enemies. They’re just part of our family that’s a little uppity, and the way our family will calm down and come together is we have to live for them. We have to show that we’re more concerned about them than we are about ourselves. Then even an uppity relative can have your back. They can really change.” –Dr. Michael Jenkins
They were followed by Maria L. Vargas, President of the Sun International Peace Federation and Executive Director of the Office of Latin Affairs of UPF USA, who added to their comments a passionate articulation of the necessity of peacemakers committed to creating a world of peace.
“We have tools with us today like never in history to bring about rapid change, to bring sustainable development, to end poverty, to end disease. We have the tools, we need the political will and the continued commitment of all peacemakers throughout the world. I have worked with the United Nations—this is my 24th year. What I have learned and seen the most is what a few committed people can do. It does not take masses to change society. It is the heart, and the fire, and the spirit of the Creator that motivates these people. You, distinguished leaders in this room, are the light, are the peacemakers, are the very same ones that will usher us into a new world of peace.” –Maria L. Vargas
After these opening remarks, Mr. Thomas McDevitt, Chairman of UPF USA, took the stage to introduce the purpose and goals of the day’s program. According to Mr. McDevitt, the event, titled “Discovering a New Paradigm to Address Our Critical Challenges,” was organized to identify an easily replicable model of education that can provide American citizens and leaders with the intellectual and heartistic insights needed to find meaning and meet the contemporary challenges of our time.
The program consisted of four sessions, titled “True Character, Leadership, and Governance,” “Marriage and Family as Our Essential Resource,” “Building Community and Civil Society Beyond the Boundaries of Race and Religion,” and finally, “America as God’s Hope—Is This Even Possible Today?”
Key tools provided to the attendees of the program were a pen, a highlighter, and a “sourcebook” that included selected readings on each of the day’s four main topics, as well as historic speeches given by the founders of UPF and the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU), Rev. Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, and prominent addresses given by American presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
Each session proceeded in four parts. First, a representative reader would read aloud from the sourcebook on a particular theme. Then, a commentator actively working in a related field was invited to convey briefly their insights about the reading. The rest of the attendees would then engage in roundtable discussions to share their takeaways. Finally, a few representatives summarized their roundtable insights and presented them to the entire room, making for an altogether unique and interactive educational experience.
Many powerful readers, commentators, and audience members contributed to the program throughout the day. During the second session, Dr. Michael Balcomb, President of FFWPU USA, for instance, invited the audience to join the growing Marriage Blessing Movement, a collaborative effort to revive family values through the reinvigoration of marriage in America and around the world. Pastor Tanya Edwards of the Family Church of New York City later gave an impassioned reading for the fourth session, declaring with conviction after her reading her confidence that concerted effort can bring America back to God. And Joseph Placide, President of Sure Access Communications, described eloquently the challenge and opportunity now faced by America and the world to bring about much needed change.
“What is our responsibility, given that we have so much to give and that we’ve been given so much? Within the boundaries of this great nation lie all of the possibilities for good. But we are also faced with many of the perils that can consume us and cause paralysis, preventing us from doing good. Around the world, in many places, it’s still the best of times. In others places, well, I don’t have to enumerate the problems for you. What am I asking of everyone here, what am I asking of myself—that collectively, we have to do what? We must look deeper, look inward, do more, aim higher, and go further.” –Joseph Placide
Throughout the day, attendees were also privileged to hear musical selections from Grammy Award nominee Bruce Stephen Foster, whose set ranged from beautiful renditions of pop hits like the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” and Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” to intricate classical guitar melodies from Barcelona—which were so astutely played that they even moved some to get up and dance.
Two more pilot sessions of the ALC are scheduled to take place in Clifton New Jersey on March 25 and in Washington, D.C. on April 1. Anyone interested in attending the programs to offer feedback and support the development of ALC nationally and in his or her local community is welcome to attend.
For the American Leadership Conference in New Jersey, you can register here.