Sunday, 10 August 2008

Classmate most likely to succeed

Did you have someone in your class at school who fell into the "Most likely to succeed" category? You know the sort. Very clever, but not geeky. Confident presenter. Charming. Good looking. Probably plays a musical instrument or two. Captain of rugby or netball. You try desparately not to like him or her but find yourself feeling strangely pleased when they glance over, smile, wink and point a finger at you as if to say "Just you and me, Tom, you and me. Nobody else in this room matters".

Well last week I met about 40 young people all at the same time, all of whom fall without question into the Most Likely To Suceed category. Phew!

The event was a conference at Wilton Park. Have you heard of Wilton Park? Me neither, until I was invited to speak there. It's an unusual place. For one, it's not at Wilton Park, which is in Buckinghamshire, UK. It is in Sussex set in an amazing country pile in acres of grounds called Wiston House. As a recently published history of the place says "Wilton Park has never been a secret. But you will not find it on a map". It's not the sort of place you will stumble across (in fact even aided by my SatNav I nearly didn't manage to stumble across it!). Wilton Park has been holding quiet, intellectual, off the record conferences in true British diplomacy style amongst movers and shakers from around the world since 1946.

The event that I spoke at was called the Atlantic Youth Forum 2008. About 40 young people aged 18-24 from USA, Canada and Europe are nominated to attend this week long event at Wilton Park. They hear presentations ranging from nuclear deterrence to sport as an agent of social change. They listen to speakers from the Private Office of NATOs Secretary General to the Football Association. (oh, and me :-). They visit the Houses of Parliament, the US Embassy and the Foreign Office. So when you were 18 and learning how to balance a glass of beer on your nose to impress the girls, these guys are learning how to balance geopolitical superpowers to impress Members of Parliament. Wow!

So how did I get on with the Most Likely to Succeed? Well, I presented on privacy and identity in the digital world, relaxed and sat back in my chair for the usual one or two polite follow up questions that you typically get from a group of young people, that's if you manage to coax a question or two out of them. The "Most Likely" lent forward in its collective seat, charming eyes gleaming and in accents from Albuquerque to Zurich they fired questions at me for well over the allotted time. Fifty or so erudite and probing questions later, drained of everything I know, have known or ever will know, my emptied intellectual husk was cast into the Sussex countryside.

Fascinating. I will keep an eye on this group of young people. I have a feeling that we will be seeing more of them and I half wonder whether there were one or two future heads of state sitting in the room there, although like true Most Likelies, they would be far too self effacing to give that impression right now...


Agnès said...

Dear Tom Ilube,

Thank you very much for excellent article! You do have a funny writing!
If you had a good time by presenting us your knowledge, we had a fantastic time listening to you!!

Agnès Leroux, French participant to the Atlantic Youth Forum!

Sarah said...

Dear Tom Llube,

I loved your article, and I really hope we don't let you down on your expectations. Your ideas and information were so beneficial to me and I'm sure to many others, wishing you the best of luck in all your future plans.

from the Egyptian girl, Sarah.

Therese Warud said...

Dear Tom Ilube,

For me, it was a real honour to have you enlighten us on the vast possibilities of cyberspace. The sneaky feeling I already had was confirmed; that Big Brother is always watching. But you made me feel that one does not have to be a passive by-stander in the scary cyberspace. It is possible to shape your virtual identity, we must only be conscious of the fact that we leave a digital footprint.

I hope, though, that we will not all of us have our identities stolen at some point, like you foresaw.

I think I speak for us all when I say that I am flattered and surprised to hear you speak of our group in this manner.

Thank you!


Therese Warud

Nick said...

Gratsi mille Sgn Llube,
questo e solo per dire i primi sentimenti di nuovo, ha un bella modo di fare di persone pensonno buono circa loro + un stile di presentazione fantastico :)

though I am still interested to know whether or not you think the movement of people will eventually imitate the speed, fluidity and apparent lawlessness currently enjoyed by information and capital?

Victor said...

Wow!! Powerful...

Thank you Tom.

Anonymous said...

how is Agbolare and Ekpen-akhena, and all in your family? say hi to all.