Viswa Subbaraman

Opera and Orchestra Conductor

Asian Excursion (Part 3 - Asia21)

The reason for my stop in Jakarta was as a delegate to Asia Society's Asia21 Young Leader's Summit. I admit up front that I wasn't 100% sure what it was all going to be about. A friend of mine, Paresh Patel, kept encouraging me to apply, and he swore that I would find it a truly life-changing experience, and he was right. The Asia21 Summit brought together leaders under the age of 40 from throughout Asia. As I mentioned in the last video in my previous post, on day 1 I was seated next to a lady from Afghanistan.  We had people from Australia, Tibet, China, North AND South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore... the list goes on. I heard some of the most amazing stories of human courage and resolve. There were incredible stories of empathy, compassion, and leadership. I can say that I left the conference completely moved, inspired, and feeling a lot more insignificant about the contributions I've made in my life.

There was one person who is the leading candidate for prime minister of free Tibet, Lobsang Sangay. He talked to us about how his father was a Buddhist monk who escaped with their family from Tibet when the Chinese took over. They escaped with three cows. Lobsang said that when they got to India, his father sold one of the cows just to be able to send him to a village school in India. (Lobsang later ended up at Harvard Law - talk about achievement).

As I said in a previous post, I ended up being seated next to a lady from Afghanistan on day 1, Nargis Nehan. She started an NGO in Afghanistan to fight for the rights of women and minorities. She told me that she had high hopes for Afghanistan. At the same summit was an active duty Colonel in the US Army, Col Michael Fenzel. He served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and also as Director for Transnational Threats at the National Security Council. He told stories about how he worked to keep his soldiers safe in Afghanistan while also promoting security and development for the country.

More stories to come - stories of Indian F-16 pilots, ex-child sex workers who overcame abuse and work with child-sex workers to help them dream again, Emmy award winning film-makers who penetrated Madrasas to figure out how children are convinced to become suicide bombers, to fighting drug companies over misbegotten patents to make sure third world countries can receive meds.  There were some truly incredible people at this summit - I wouldn't be surprised if there was a Nobel Peace Prize winner in there somewhere.