As I was sitting here next to the former president of Columbia (a good man), during a session earlier this week (at the World Economic Forum Regional Meeting on Latin America) on the relationship between "Latin America and the US Administration, an Obama's first 100 days," I was also calming myself from an intention disrespect hurled my way by one of my fellow (too old in thinking, too arrogrant in perspective, and too self-knowing in everything) panelists from the US. While I was responding to a question from delegates, this man literally took the mike from my hands and began to speak, as if he was the authority and I was there with his permission.
The interesting thing is, no one paid much attention to this obviously impolite approach; their eyes were on me and how I would respond. I have always said that success in life was 10% what life does to you, and 90% how y choose to respond to it. What is your response going to be"
Making things even more interesting, of courseI was not only a discussion leader, I was the only African-American in the room, and possibly the only African-American speaker on the entire Latin American conference. In short, how I chose to respond was about more than how I chose to respond. The potential impact of my actions, unlike this impolite man stuck in the 20h century, could have much deeper implications I thought at that moment.
Back to the story --
After this man stopped rambling on about a combination of "what we could not do," and "how we can be too optimistic," and "how we will be inclined to be nationalistic, and not see the world through wider global lenses," I turned to him and politely asked for the microphone back. In other words, I gave him the respect and dignity that he failed to offer me. Over mess, and not in it.
I ended my remarks simply by saying, "and what I was trying to say earlier, is don't do what he just said." And that was that. He was disrespectful to me, and I believe the gathering, and rambled for 6-8 minutes. I tried to be respectful of him, anyway, and honoring the larger gathering of noted leaders and luminaries present, spoke in the final analysis for 10-15 seconds.
Message-- sometimes, even when you lose, you win.
Keep on doing the right thing, as you will never go wrong, doing right.
Onward with HOPE
John Hope Bryant is the founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE, America's first non-profit social investment banking organization. His work and advocacy at HOPE led then President Bush to sign an executive order making financial literacy U.S. policy. Today, Bryant continues to serve as vice chairman of the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy as well as chairman of the Council Committee on the Under-Served, in President Barack Obama's Administration. Bryant is also the financial literacy advisor to the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Financial Empowerment, and in 2005 was selected in the inaugural class of Young Global Leaders for the World Economic Forum.