Things to Be Reminded Of – An Aspen Institute Exercise

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About a year ago I have had the privilege of participating in a senior leaders seminar organised by Aspen Institute in Romania (there will be a new one in November this year). There was a group of about 20 people from the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors, most of them much younger than me: all of them intelligent, dynamic, creative leaders in their respective work.

We had to read ahead of time a number of texts of various kinds, from antiquity to the present time, all of them contributing the shaping the mentality of present-day leaders. There was, also, a scary (for me) task to be pursued at the seminar: enacting fragments from Antigone of Sophocles.

Here is how the seminar for leaders is presented on the institute’s website:

The group of twenty participants debate a series of fundamental readings guided by Aspen US Seminars Director, Dr. Todd Breyfogle, reflecting on values and solidarity into successful and valuable action, as the main thrusts of societal progress. The readings go from classical texts from Aristotle, Plato or Hobbes to more modern thinkers like Nelson Mandela, Milton Friedman or Peter Singer, in a complex and challenging mix of discussions on liberty and equality; ethics and responsibility; faith and spirituality or freedom and dissent-just to name a few.

It all went very well and I had an extraordinary experience, due first to the able way in which Todd Breyfogle moderated the discussions, but also the genuine engagement and brilliance of the participants.

Towards the end of the seminar we were asked to write to ourselves a few things we are taking with us from the seminar, which we would like to be reminded of a year from that time.

These days I have received the page I have written then and I have decided to share it with you, as there is nothing too confidential in it. Here is what I have written to myself about a year ago, on things that I need to be reminded of, from time to time.

* * *

  • I am never alone. I am the result of and I build on what others have been or done, and those who come after me will be influenced by and will build on what  my life has been.
  • I do not live for myself. Because of human solidarity, I have to think about others also, both contemporaries and those who come after me.
  • Being a prophet has a price to it.
  • The burden of responsibility in terms of reception of the truth is not only on the receiver, in virtue of free moral agency, but also of the one who has ‘seen the light’. That is why strategy, talent, and beauty need to accompany the truth communicated.
  • I need to think more seriously about the legacy I am leaving behind.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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