Chicago, Illinois was the site of the 43rd annual International Achievement Summit, which took place from June 10 to June 13, 2004. Over the three days of the Summit, 250 outstanding graduate students from 50 countries gathered to discuss the pressing issues of our time with an extraordinary array of the world’s leaders in the arts, business, industry, public service and the sciences.
During the Summit, 34 new honorees were inducted into the Academy of Achievement. Among the past and present honorees in attendance were the 42nd President of the United States, William J. Clinton; the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai; the former Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak; civil rights activist Coretta Scott King; two recipients of the Nobel Prize for Peace, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Shimon Peres, former Prime Minister of Israel; His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan, Prime Minister Recep Erdogan of Turkey, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, President Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia, newsman Sam Donaldson, Star Wars creator George Lucas, film producer Lord Puttnam of Queensgate, musicians Kathleen Battle, Chuck Berry, Aretha Franklin, Naomi Judd and Emmylou Harris; and authors A. Scott Berg, Maureen Dowd, Norman Mailer, N. Scott Momaday, Neil Sheehan and John Updike, all recipients of the Pulitzer Prize.
The Host of the 2004 International Achievement Summit was Mayor Richard M. Daley. The Host Chairman was Catherine B. Reynolds, Chairman and CEO of The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation.
Academy members and Honor Delegates stayed at the elegant Peninsula Hotel in the heart of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. Many of the Summit’s panel discussions and symposium sessions were held in the hotel’s ballroom. The proceedings began on Thursday evening in the hotel ballroom with the Host Chairman, Catherine B. Reynolds, introducing the Summit Host, Mayor Richard M. Daley.
The speakers of the first evening’s Symposium included an authentic hero of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, Congressman John Lewis, who was inducted into the Academy by James Earl Jones. The former Prime Minister of Israel and recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace, Shimon Peres, addressed issues raised by the struggle against terrorism, the unfolding events in Iraq and the long-term prospects for peace — topics he would return to in Saturday’s panel discussion.
In an atmosphere of rising excitement, Mrs. Reynolds returned to introduce the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, who spoke briefly of the tremendous price his people have paid for their freedom, and of the need to foster democracy in countries like his, that have known decades of war and dictatorship.
At the end of President Karzai’s moving address, the entire group traveled to Chicago’s world-famous House of Blues for dinner, where they were entertained by Chicago’s Queen of the Blues, Koko Taylor; by Bonnie Raitt and her band; and by the King of the Blues himself, B.B. King, who held the audience spellbound from the first notes of his signature tune, “The Thrill is Gone.” After his sizzling set, Bonnie Raitt returned to the stage to offer her own moving tribute to her longtime friend and mentor. After B.B. King was inducted into the Academy by Mayor Daley, B.B. and Bonnie rocked the house with an explosive duet of “When Love Comes to Town.”
Friday morning’s first speakers focused on issues raised by the latest developments in medical science, and the most recent findings concerning the origins of life on earth. The first speaker was Dr. Andrew Weil, a pioneer of integrative medicine. Dr. Ben Carson spoke briefly about the deep faith that empowered him in his ascent from a poverty-stricken childhood to his distinguished career as a neurosurgeon.
Dr. Carson and Dr. Weil joined the Deputy Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Susan Blumenthal, Nobel Prize recipient Sir Paul Nurse and stem cell pioneer Dr. James Thomson in a discussion of “Challenges in Health Care,” moderated by the Director of the National Human Genome Project, Dr. Francis Collins.
Among other speakers on Friday morning, Dinosaur hunter Dr. Paul Sereno made a slide presentation of his extraordinary findings, and Dr. Meave Leakey shared her remarkable discoveries of the fossil remains of mankind’s oldest ancestors, discoveries that have re-drawn the family tree of human evolution.
Over the course of the weekend, the Academy heard from many more distinguished scientists, including Dr. Peter Agre, who received the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of the protein that channels water to the cells, and Dr. Alexei Abrikosov, recipient of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics for his pioneering exploration of superconductivity, and Sir John Sulston, recipient of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Medicine, who directed the British component of the International Human Genome Project.
America’s first woman in space, Dr. Sally Ride, discussed her experiences as an astronaut, and her long campaign to encourage more young women and girls to pursue the study of science and mathematics.
Three of Friday morning’s speakers, all from different fields, addressed the ability of the individual to make a difference in society in the face of institutional opposition. Lord Puttnam of Queensgate, the producer of such acclaimed films as Chariots of Fire and The Killing Fields, discussed the responsibility of the successful to give back to society. As Chairman of Columbia Pictures, he struggled to promote social responsibility in the mass media; today he serves as President of British UNICEF.
Aviation legend Burt Rutan, who designed the first aircraft to circle the globe without refueling, made a multimedia presentation of his latest venture, a new space program, independent of government funding. In view of the long decline of public sector support for space travel, Rutan asserted his belief that private individuals must step forward to fulfill mankind’s historic mission of exploration. Within days of his address to the Academy, Rutan had made good on his plan and launched SpaceShipOne, the first privately funded space flight.
Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, recounted his long struggle to bring the first book in the series to print. After being rejected by every mainstream publisher in the United States, the series has become an international publishing phenomenon.
Dr. Collins led a second panel discussion Friday morning, focusing on “Science and Religion.” Panelists included the Chief of Surgery of the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Steven Rosenberg, theologian Martin Marty, and filmmaker George Lucas. Dr. Carson and Dr. Weil returned to the stage for what proved to be a profound and engaging exploration of the most fundamental questions of human existence. Some of these themes would recur later in the weekend when Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Armand Nicholi discussed his renowned seminar comparing the worldviews of Sigmund Freud and the Christian essayist C.S. Lewis.
After luncheon with their sponsors, Academy Honor Delegates, along with Academy members and guests, traveled to historic Wrigley Field, where even Mayor Daley — a well-known White Sox fan — donned a Chicago Cubs hat. Pulitzer Prize-winning author N. Scott Momaday and his friend James Earl Jones took the occasion to read a poetic dialogue Momaday had written especially for the International Achievement Summit, “God and the Bear Talk About Baseball,” a moving tribute to the enduring faith and loyalty of the long-suffering Cubs fans.
After returning to the Peninsula Hotel, Academy members and Honor Delegates welcomed the founders of Google, Inc., Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Only four years earlier, Brin and Page attended the 2000 International Achievement Summit in London as student Honor Delegates; in 2004 they returned to the Summit as honorees. They enjoyed a lively discussion with this year’s Honor Delegates, although they scrupulously avoided any comment on their business or its eagerly awaited initial public offering.
Later in the afternoon, Sam Donaldson led a stimulating discussion, “Keeping the Peace,” with two former NATO commanders, Wesley Clark and Joseph Ralston, joined by Shimon Peres and Vaira Víke-Freiberga, the President of Latvia. The afternoon program ended in a fascinating hour of discussion with the who reaffirmed his belief that however discouraging the morning’s headlines may be, the global trends toward democracy and international cooperation are irreversible.
Friday evening, the group gathered at Chicago’s magnificent Civic Opera Building, home of the Chicago Lyric Opera, where they were treated to a concert featuring a number of the Academy’s talented Honor Delegates and the internationally acclaimed tenor José Carreras. After the presentation of the Academy’s Golden Plate to Mr. Carreras, Academy members and Honor Delegates dined on the stage of the opera house, dressed for the night as a magical Venetian garden.
The evening concluded with the induction into the Academy of three new honorees: Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and a great benefactor of America’s performing arts, industrialist and philanthropist Martha Ingram.
Saturday morning’s activities began at the Art Institute of Chicago, where all were treated to a private tour of the Institute’s world-renowned collection of French Impressionist paintings. The morning’s symposium session took place in the Art Institute’s Trading Room, an exact replica of the original trading floor of the old Chicago Stock Exchange, a beloved landmark of the city’s history.
Much of the morning’s discussion focused on the phenomenon of social entrepreneurship, the power of private individuals to exert a positive influence on society outside of government channels and political institutions. Having enjoyed success in their own careers, many of the morning’s speakers chose to give back to society through philanthropy and humanitarian activities. The first to speak was the stage and screen star Dame Julie Andrews, whose dazzling career as an actress, singer and author runs parallel to a distinguished history of service to the world’s children through UNIFEM and Save the Children.
The Governor of Puerto Rico, Sila Calderón, is the first woman to govern the island commonwealth. Governor Calderón shared a passionate account of her struggle to root out corruption in government and empower the people of Puerto Rico. The Chairman of Procter and Gamble, Alan Lafley, discussed his consumer-oriented business philosophy and the innovative techniques that have restored the company to its former eminence.
Financier and philanthropist Warren Hellman introduced the legendary singer Emmylou Harris, who has been honored for her leadership in the international struggle to ban landmines. A special guest of the Academy, Internet financier Miles Gilburne discussed his Washington D.C.-based children’s reading program In2Books. Entrepreneur and philanthropist Kenneth E. Behring discussed his latest project, Wheelchairs for the World, which provides free wheelchairs to the disabled poor in the most remote and underdeveloped regions of the earth.
The audience was thrilled to hear from civil rights pioneer Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who has continued her husband’s struggle for justice and human dignity. Congressman Edward Markey concluded the morning’s program, moderating a discussion of social entrepreneurship that gave the Academy’s student Honor Delegates the opportunity to discuss their own contributions to their communities.
After luncheon, the gathering returned to the Ballroom at the Peninsula Hotel, where they heard from three recipients of the Pulitzer Prize. The first was the novelist, essayist and poet John Updike. His fellow Pulitzer Prize recipient, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, was inducted into the Academy that afternoon. Later in the afternoon, Norman Mailer, recipient of Pulitzer Prizes for both fiction and non-fiction, offered an uninhibited dissenting view of the honors bestowed on the late President Ronald Reagan.
Consumer advocate and presidential candidate Ralph Nader joined Congressman Edward Markey and Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, along with inventors Paul MacCready and Dean Kamen, for a discussion of alternative energy solutions. During the course of the weekend, Dean Kamen, creator of the Segway personal transportation device, also demonstrated his latest invention, the IBOT, a wheelchair-like device that can climb stairs.
Later on Saturday afternoon, the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, discussed the future of Africa with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace. Their discussion with the student Honor Delegates, which ranged among issues including the AIDS crisis, ethnic warfare, economic development and the growth of democracy, was moderated by the host of MSNBC’s Hardball program, Chris Matthews.
Chris Matthews later led a panel discussion, “Building a Secure Middle East,” with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Congresswoman Jane Harman, Prime Minister Recep Erdogan of Turkey, and the best-selling author and Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis.
David Gergen, who served as advisor to four Presidents and is Director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, led a discussion of “Media and Politics” with Ralph Nader, Sam Donaldson, General Wesley Clark, and Michael Deaver, a close advisor to the late President Ronald Reagan.
The 2004 International Achievement Summit culminated with the dazzling Banquet of the Golden Plate, held in the majestic Stanley Hall of Chicago’s Field Museum. The Banquet was preceded by a reception in the shadow of a giant Native American totem pole from the Pacific Northwest, and the imposing bones of Sue, a reconstructed Tyrannosaurus Rex. The induction ceremonies began with a performance by the Pipe Band of the Chicago Police Department’s Emerald Society. After the induction of the Class of 2004, the Academy heard brief remarks from the Host Chairman of the International Achievement Summit, Catherine B. Reynolds; the Host of the Summit, Mayor Richard M. Daley; and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York City, a member of the Academy Class of 2004.
With the formal proceedings over, the musical portion of the evening began with a rousing set from the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, and his band. Brown brought the audience to their feet with the propulsive rhythms of “I Feel Good,” “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” and “Living in America.”
The dancing continued, with a joyful welcome for America’s Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, whose thrilling voice filled the majestic hall with a passion only she can deliver. At the end of the evening, an old friend of the Academy, Chuck Berry, took the stage. He cranked up the engine of the original rock and roll machine and let it roar until even the bones of Sue the dinosaur rattled in time.
Divisions of age, race, nationality and religion melted away as diplomats, scientists, students and statesmen, young and old, from all over the world, joined in a carefree celebration of their common humanity. The first dancers to leave the floor emerged onto the steps of the Field Museum and into the cool night air just as fireworks lit up the sky over Navy Pier, a vision that will remain forever linked to their unforgettable memories of Chicago and the International Achievement Summit.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds,
Thank you very much for sponsoring me to attend the International Achievement Summit this year in Chicago. I had an amazing time, and would not have been able to participate without your support. The entire weekend was filled with one incredible experience after another. I do not know how to fully express what a wonderful and exciting event it was. I was exposed to the beauty and culture of Chicago through our private visits to Chicago landmarks such as the House of Blues, the Lyric Opera House, Wrigley Field, and the Field Museum. All of the details of the weekend were perfect. Even our accommodations at the Peninsula Hotel were spectacular. I was extremely impressed by the distinguished guests who attended the summit.
The speakers were fantastic, dynamic, and interesting and, after listening to them discuss their lives and careers, I found myself wishing for several more lifetimes in which to follow in each of their footsteps.
I was also honored by their candor and willingness to associate with us on a social level. I had wonderful conversations with Larry Page, Steve Case, and Sir Roger Bannister, among others. They were so generous with their time and thoughts.
The other student delegates that I met also blew me away. Each one had an amazing story: Olympians, Rhodes Scholars, philanthropists; I was humbled by my company and doubly aware of the honor bestowed upon me when I was invited to the summit. More importantly, though, everyone I met, student and guest alike, was a kind, fun, and “normal” human being with whom I truly enjoyed interacting. I was pleasantly surprised to find that all of the successful and brilliant people who surrounded me were also down-to-earth and enjoyable company.
I would like to share with you one experience I had while at the summit. Sitting in the ballroom at the Peninsula Hotel, listening to Norman Mailer regale us with tales about his childhood and time serving his country during WWII, I was reminded of my grandfather. He, too, is a veteran of WWII. However, after returning from the war, he did not become a Pulitzer Prize winner and member of the Academy of Achievement; instead, he worked in a factory making shingles, on an assembly line making cars for Ford, as an assistant manager at a five and dime store, and then sold carpets for 30 years. He supported his wife, and his four children. Through his and my grandmother’s natural intelligence and curiosity, they set an example of the value of learning for my aunt, uncles, and father, all of whom attended college. Only two generations later, I was sitting at the International Achievement Summit surrounded by leaders and pioneers, and listening to one of my grandfather’s fellow veterans. I was so proud to represent him and my family amongst the distinguished attendees. The granddaughter of a man raised in an orphanage who didn’t have the means or the chance to go to college, I was in the audience of highly educated graduate students receiving the opportunity of a lifetime. Through his determination and hard work, along with that of my other grandparents and my parents, I had been afforded incredible opportunities throughout my lifetime that brought me to the summit. It was truly an example of the American dream of which Mr. Mailer spoke.
Again, thank you so much for sponsoring me. I will never forget my most incredible weekend and my experiences in Chicago!
Nancy E. Adleman
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds,
Greetings! I hope this letter finds you well. Though it is difficult to find words powerful enough to express my gratitude, I am writing to sincerely thank you for providing me the opportunity to attend the 43rd annual International Achievement Summit. The Summit was the most incredible, educational, and enlightening experience of my life.
You mentioned in your Summit introductory remarks that one purpose of the conference is to inspire the student delegates whose dreams will determine our collective tomorrow. I want to assure you that I was and continue to be inspired.
I was inspired by the selfless work of the public servants that we got to meet and hear from: Congressman John Lewis’ stirring speech on his fight for civil rights and his dedication to nonviolence, President Clinton’s charismatic speech on the state of world affairs, and His Excellency Yoweri Museveni’s incredible efforts and common sense approach to conquering AIDS in Uganda.
I was inspired by the breathtaking artistic performances, particularly BB King and Bonnie Raitt at the House of Blues and Scott Momaday’s baseball poem that he read at Wrigley Field. I was inspired by the numerous scientific discoveries and accomplishments, among them Dr. Benjamin Carson’s heartwarming stories and his encouragement to make emotional investments, Burt Rutan’s impassioned speech on breaking boundaries and overcoming obstacles, and Sally Ride’s comments on women in science.
As a business school student, I was particularly inspired by the notable business people in attendance: Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who in just four years they went from being student delegates at the Summit to honorees-their talent and determination, but also their humility, is admirable; Margery Kraus’ incredible accomplishments, generosity, and warm personality; A.G. Lafley’s advice on inquiry and dialogue; and Kenneth Behring’s search for and achievement of purpose in his life.
I was inspired by several of the panel discussions and found them to be extraordinarily educational. The panel on alternative energy solutions and further discussions with Dr. Paul MacCready on the depletion of our natural resources left a particularly vivid impression on me. I hope in some way I will be able to contribute to these solutions. I found the panel on Science and Religion incredibly thought-provoking and was pleased that the panelists seemed to agree that both of these institutions can play an important role in society. The panel on Peace in the Middle East dramatically improved my understanding of the situation. Through several follow-up conversations with guests and student delegates, I was able to learn even more.
I was inspired by the student delegates. I had the opportunity to get to know so many of them and to learn so much about their field of study and their native countries. Finally, Ms. Reynolds, I am inspired by you-by your vision and generosity to make this event happen and to present students like myself with such a phenomenal life-changing experience.
I will be graduating from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University this Saturday with my Masters of Business Administration. I will spend this summer riding my bicycle from Oregon to the middle of Montana following the Lewis & Clark trail. In August, I will be joining McKinsey & Co as a consultant.
I will forever treasure the experiences, learning, and inspiration I gained from the Achievement Summit. I have a renewed motivation to make a difference in the world to make the world better for someone or some group of people. I sincerely appreciate you providing me with the opportunity.
Allison J. Barmann
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds,
I don’t even know where to begin. I’m not sure if words are sufficient enough to describe the amazing, unbelievable, fantastic, mind-boggling experiences I had at the International Achievement Summit in Chicago last month. So let me begin by just saying thank you for inviting me to the Achievement Summit and also for being the gracious sponsor of the single greatest weekend of my life.
The Summit gave me the rare, unique opportunity to meet and talk with an extremely diverse group of my personal heroes: Bernard Lewis, whose work on democracy in the Middle East I have admired for years; Prime Ministers Peres and Barak, who I have long thought are Israel and Palestine’s best hope for peace; General Clark, my personal favorite choice for the presidency, and last but not least Dr. Ben Carson.
When I was growing up, my mother, a nurse, would cut out newspaper articles on Dr. Carson and put them on our refrigerator door to serve as a reminder to us kids of what we should aspire to. Although I never quite made it to medical school, he was a hero and role model for my siblings and I for as long as I can remember, and having lunch with Dr. Carson was a dream come true.
The picture of Dr. Carson, his wife, and I that I took at the banquet might never come down from the fridge. My mother is just so proud.
Of course, the weekend was so much more to me than just meeting famous, accomplished people. My drive to participate in community service activities is stronger than it has ever been, as a direct result of meeting students who have, at such young ages, already given so much of themselves to worthy causes around the world. Also, you have set such a great, inimitable example of generosity and philanthropy that I would like to emulate (on a much smaller scale for the moment, of course). Even if I give away a fraction of the amount that you have given, I will consider my life to be a great success. You are truly an inspiration.
Thank you again for sponsoring my attendance at the International Achievement Summit. I had the time of my life.
Allison R. Binns
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds,
I am writing to express my most sincere gratitude for such a fantastic weekend at the International Achievement Summit. Since arriving in Britain I have been a guest at numerous social events with a variety of impressive people, but none can compare to the incredible experience of my weekend in Chicago. From the fantastic hotel to the sumptuous dinners, everything was world class and beyond my wildest expectations.
In particular, I wanted to thank you for assembling such a fascinating and widely varied group of honor delegates. It has been my experience that events similar to this focus only on political figures and often ignore the great achievements made by individuals in the arts and especially the sciences. As a future medical doctor, I was very pleased to meet and listen to such an impressive group from all walks of life, and especially the physicians and scientists.
Some of the other Marshall Scholars and I walked out of the first session on Friday morning, excited at the thought of two hours spent on issues of medicine and science, the same issues that will confront us in the next century.
It is truly an inspiring moment for someone such as myself to meet my childhood heroes, to stand in wonder of their abilities, and in the next minute, to stand in wonder of their generosity and kindness. I come from a modest background and have been fortunate enough to receive scholarships to cover most of my education, an experience not shared by many of my classmates. It gives me great hope to learn that many of the influential figures of this past century and the present day were once in similar positions. It gives validation to dreams I have nursed from an early age.
Thank you again for such an impressive weekend, it is an experience I will not soon forget, particularly as I keep in touch with many of the other students I met whilst there. I hope that you continue your important work with the Academy to make every summit as memorable and inspiring as this one.
With warmest regards,
David M. Brogan
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds,
I struggle to find words to express my gratitude for having the opportunity to participate in the 2004 International Achievement Summit. I can still remember the day that I learned about the Academy of Achievement last fall. I received an email from FedEx notifying me that I would soon be receiving a package. At the time I received the email I was on leave from medical school working in a biomedical science research lab as part of an HHMI fellowship. When the invitation was sent I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of some DNA samples from a collaborating scientist in Spain and my first reaction was that the FedEx package was from her. I hadn’t heard of the Academy of Achievement and I remember even being a little disappointed when I saw the package wasn’t from Spain. Little did I know that the contents of the Academy’s package would have such a profound impact on my life.
Each time I recall the events of the weekend in Chicago it only seems more surreal.
Among the highlights were hearing Prime Minister Ehud Barak discuss the future of the Middle East with Prime Minister Recep Erdogan of Turkey and hearing Sally Ride describe her first time in space.
As a future physician-scientist and especially memorable experience for me was hearing Drs. Francis Collins and Steven Rosenberg debate the role of faith and spirituality in scientific research.
Hearing the honorees speak and perform during the Summit was incredible, but what made it truly extraordinary was having the opportunity to interact with them over the course of the weekend. Equally as impressive as meeting the honorees was getting to know the student delegates invited to this year’s Summit. It was truly inspiring hearing about what so many young people have already accomplished.
As I finish my final year of medical school and prepare to enter the next phase of my medical training, my goal is simple: make the world a better place. Some question this aspiration and label it as naive optimism, but I know better. Because of your generosity and vision, I know hundreds of people who already have and will continue to do just that. Thank you for providing me with a renewed sense of optimism and hope for a better future.
With utmost respect,
Joshua A. Englert
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds,
I cannot thank you enough for the opportunity to attend the 2004 International Achievement Summit. I can honestly say it was the most amazing experience of my young life. As a die-hard Cubs fan, I never thought I would be walking through their dugout and locker room, let alone while talking with George Lucas and Dr. Ben Carson. All of the musical performers, in every genre, were spectacular, and it was great to see and hang out with some young artists who have the talent to make names for themselves. Having spent a great deal of time in Chicago, I was quite pleased that we visited nearly all of my favorite “tourist” locations, and I would have to say that the hotel was beyond anything I could have expected.
On a more professional note, it was a great honor to meet so many world-renowned scientists, since I am a biomedical engineering student. I had a great conversation about my research with Dr. Rosenberg over dinner at the Civic Opera House, and I was truly inspired by the words of Dr. Francis Collins and Dr. Peter Agre.
I was very impressed with all of the speakers, especially President Clinton, Congressman Lewis, and Dr. Andrew Weil. The panel discussions provided some very memorable moments for me, particularly when they became a little heated over the Mid-East peace process and the role of the media in politics. It was also a treat to meet Martha Ingram, even though we both had to go to Chicago to make it happen.
As awed as I was to be in the company of so many accomplished people, I had a great time getting to know many of the other student delegates, and was really quite awed by what some of them have accomplished already. I think that we will all aspire to one day make it back to the summit as honorees, following the leads of Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Thank you again for the experience – I will never forget it.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds,
I would like to sincerely thank you for your sponsorship in providing me the opportunity to attend the 2004 International Achievement Summit. I cannot begin to express how honored I feel to have been part of such an amazing experience. I was elated to return to my hometown, Chicago, and revisit my favorite places, which will now carry special meaning as I remember hearing B.B. King belting the blues at the House of Blues, N. Scott Momaday, and James Earl Jones reading poetry at Wrigley Field, José Carreras singing at the Lyric Opera House, and Aretha Franklin and James Brown grooving to Motown at the Field Museum.
Throughout the four days, there were many moving moments and I would like to share with you just a few that are etched in my mind: Kenneth Behring’s tireless commitment to providing wheelchairs to the disabled, ostracized individuals throughout the world, Dr. Ben Carson’s personal struggle to follow his dreams of becoming a neurosurgeon despite being told early in his career that he could “excel in any field… outside of medicine,” Nobel Laureate Peter Agre’s encouragement to persist in the face of failure because “if you’ve succeeded 51% of the time, you’ve come out on top in the end,” and President Clinton’s vision of a compassionate and peaceful America that acts “multilaterally when it can, and unilaterally only when it has to.”
On a more personal note, the Summit has changed my life in three important ways. First, before this experience, I was beginning to feel discouraged by the many obstacles a woman faces in acquiring a leadership position. When I received the invitation, I was intrigued to learn that Mrs. Reynolds, our host, is a brilliant entrepreneur, an amazing philanthropist, and a woman who has never given up on her dreams. Then, I had the opportunity to meet my co-sponsor, Assistant Surgeon General, Dr. Susan Blumenthal. We discussed many important public health issues such as women’s and mental health and the obesity epidemic. Furthermore, she shared her own journey in becoming a leading female physician and encouraged me by saying that each life we touch is one more reason to never falter from our dreams.
Lastly, I really began to realize that all the student delegates have faced hardship or discrimination of some sort, yet we have all managed to hold on to our dreams. And thus, I begin to see only challenges instead of obstacles, cohesion instead of isolation, and accomplishments instead of failures.
I owe a deep gratitude to you and all the people working with the Academy for making this such a memorable experience. I hope that future student delegates will also feel the same unity and reaffirm their service to humanity.
With sincere appreciation,
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds,
It’s been only five days since I returned from the 2004 International Summit of Achievement, and while I am physically back at Harvard and continuing with my Ph.D. research, my lingering thoughts are still quietly nestled in our wonderful host city of Chicago. I don’t recall ever experiencing this intense kind of nostalgia after a conference, but perhaps it is because I still remember exchanging meaningful words with Former Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, outside of the main lobby of the Peninsula Hotel. Or perhaps it is because I can still feel the firm handshake and see the kind smile of Retired General Wesley Clark. Or maybe it is because my feet still hurt after dancing all evening to the music of Aretha Franklin and James Brown with the other student delegates during the Golden Plate Banquet. Ultimately, I know that the root cause of my nostalgia is simply due to the indescribable overall experience I had at the International Summit of Achievement. I am truly grateful to have been a participant at this year’s summit and I wanted to express my warmest thanks to you and your husband, Wayne.
During breakfast on Saturday, I was fortunate enough to sit next to Jack Canfield, the author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. The conversation began with both of us marveling at the accomplishments of past honorees but quickly digressed into a thoughtful discussion about defining our life’s work.
Mr. Canfield explained how he eventually realized his life’s mission after years of soul-searching. After listening to me describe the different career trajectories I could follow, he sincerely urged me to listen to my heart, not my head, when choosing between two very different kinds of personal ambitions. I was touched by his candor, kindness, and sincere interest in the questions I raised about my dreams and aspirations. I never would have anticipated these types of valuable conversations and experiences the day before I arrived in Chicago.
Mrs. Reynolds, I am grateful to you and all of the members of the Academy who shared their inspirational stories, shook hands with awestruck graduate students, and generally encouraged us to adopt the widest, grandest vision of our lives. Now I am even more determined to influence the lives of economically disadvantaged women through advocacy and public policy. I am doubly more confident that I will significantly improve the lives of women in the United States in some fashion. Thank you for allowing me to participate in the Achievement Summit. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to repay your very kind generosity.
Therese S. Leung
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds,
Warm greetings from Zambia, the real Africa!
I would to sincerely thank you for your generosity that allowed me to attend the International Achievement Summit in Chicago last month. Being at the Summit was a humbling experience that changed my life in ways I could not have imagined.
Firstly, I was amazed to discover that many of the achievers are just regular folk. I had the opportunity to speak to General Wesley Clarke, who also read Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) at Oxford and was surprised to find how charming and warm he was, especially after watching him dance to Chuck Berry with the President of Latvia. The Google guys, Larry and Sergey, talked about how just four years ago they too were honor delegates at the Achievement Summit and now they are multibillionaires. They made phenomenal success seem so attainable.
Secondly, I found the words of the speakers inspiring. Ben Carson talked about having a dream and keeping it alive, even when those around us have little faith. It reminded me of my ninth grade when my teacher doubted my ability to pass my Junior High School exams to get to the tenth grade. His doubts only fuelled my resolve to do well. And I did. Listening to Ben Carson made me realise that just as much as we need people to inspire us, we also need people who put us down, because it is only then we are capable of mustering our inner strength and resolve that helps us keep the dream alive.
Thirdly, I learned that it is important to allow myself to fail by taking risks and holding strong beliefs. Bill Clinton said he would rather have the words ‘I failed’ written on his tombstone than to have never tried at something. Similarly, Scott Momaday’s poem read ‘it is better to have “struck out” than to have been “called out”.
I have always been risk-averse, always sought to take the safer route. But with the Rhodes scholarship under my belt, I feel confident enough to explore my options – be in doing a Ph.D. in Political Economy in the US or working for a mining company in Brazil or as a consultant in Johannesburg.
Lastly, being in Chicago and experiencing the warmth and hospitality of its wonderful people made me understand better why the United States is such a great nation and what makes Americans so proud and patriotic. I hope that I too can someday contribute to creating a positive image of my country, Zambia, and the African continent. I also hope that Africa can play host to an Achievement Summit in the near future.
Thank you again.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds,
There are people with whom we surround ourselves for our entire lives and they barely make a dent… then someone comes along for a very short period of time and makes an enormous impact. In a nutshell, this is how I feel about you and your colleagues at the Academy of Achievement. This past weekend at the International Achievement Summit in Chicago has enabled me to retrench my priority for balanced impact, and I sincerely thank you for this once-in-a-lifetime experience and opportunity.
It has been difficult to explain my experience to my family and friends. How do you explain sitting in a room and watching the likes of Ralph Nader, Chris Matthews, Sam Donaldson, and Wesley Clark openly debate US foreign policy? How do you explain Bill Clinton prioritizing his time to travel straight from the funeral services of President Reagan to visit with us? For the only child in my family to attend college, much less to now finish my Master’s degree, I will remain in awe for some time.
Because of your generosity, I had the opportunity to listen intimately to the music and message of Bonnie Raitt, a woman I truly admire. I heard A.G. Lafley discuss his views on dialogue and inquiry-based decision making for business and social problem-solving.
I engaged in an informal lunch discussion with Dr. Paul Nurse regarding the issues of morality versus science and how this must be developed into a keen communications strategy for those affected.
Further, I dialogued with James Earl Jones, one of my favorite entertainers of all time, about how his reading of poetry at an early age helped him to understand his God-given talents of the spoken word.
These experiences only scratch the surface of my weekend. This has been an experience that has absolutely changed my life, and I want to thank you for your generosity and your vision to connect the leaders of today with the aspiring leaders of tomorrow.
Best Wishes to you – I sincerely look forward to our paths crossing again.
Brian A. Myers
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds,
Thank you for your hospitality and generosity in hosting the International Achievement Summit in Chicago from June 10-13, 2004. It was an amazing experience which surpassed all expectations. The opportunity to hear so many inspirational speakers from such diverse backgrounds was intellectually stimulating.
As an African, I was excited to hear President Museveni and Archbishop Tutu voice their opinions about the future of Africa.
The panel on the Middle East was also extremely interesting. Furthermore, it was heartening to find so many fellow student delegates with similar views and life goals.
This was my first trip to Chicago and I definitely intend to return. Our accommodation at The Peninsula was stellar and the dinner in the breathtaking Fields Museum stands out as a particular highlight of the trip. I was particularly impressed with the organisation and attention to detail which was apparent in every aspect of the Summit. For instance, the trip to Wrigley field, complete with baseball caps and hotdog vendors gave the whole experience an authentic feel.
Thank you once again for this amazing opportunity.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds,
I am writing to express my most sincere thanks for including me in the 2004 International Achievement Summit. Although the Summit concluded two days ago, the conversations, presentations and performances will certainly remain a source of inspiration for me for many years to come. As you and others warned throughout the weekend, the experience cannot be easily described to friends and family, nor am I adequately able to express the depth of my gratitude for your generosity.
On the first evening of the Summit, Governor Sila M. Calderón approached me to welcome me at the opening reception. As an aspiring human rights lawyer, I could not have imagined a more serendipitous opportunity to explore how human rights are protected and advanced in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. As we discussed her advocacy on behalf of the people of Vieques, I began to realize that this weekend would be unlike any other.
Governor Calderón graciously shared her experiences and listened to my aspirations with enthusiasm and encouragement. This conversation was simply the first in a series with leaders from government, science, activism, media and the arts. Each conversation throughout the weekend expanded my perspective in ways I could not have anticipated or imagined in advance.
There were several of us from Harvard who were apprehensive about leaving in the middle of our graduation to be able to participate in the Summit. I can say unequivocally that it was a wonderful decision that I will encourage other students to make in the future. I am so grateful for the relationships that the Summit has fostered and the creativity and commitment to which I was exposed.
Thank you for the extraordinary opportunity to visit some of the most beautiful places in Chicago and hear some of the most accomplished people in the world discuss their specialties as well as themselves.
I must confess that the exceptional students of diverse talents, interests and backgrounds inspired me as much as any other aspect of the weekend. To discuss international affairs with students from France, Jordan, Israel, Singapore, India and Colombia (all in the course of one meal!) was a rare honor.
Additionally, hearing the aspirations of young men and women from so many disciplines validated by their heroes was truly inspirational. Thank you for your commitment to public service and the support that you have extended to us as students committed to serving the global community.
Margaret L. Richardson
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds,
I would like to sincerely thank you for giving me the opportunity to attend the 2004 International Achievement Summit. I must admit that when I first heard about the event I was more than a little skeptical. I found it hard to believe that such a thing could really exist (and that I would be invited to participate). Never have I been happier to be proven wrong. From start to finish, the Summit was simply amazing.
Over the course of the weekend I had the pleasure of hearing the eloquence of such speakers as Representative John Lewis and President Bill Clinton, the beauty of José Carreras’s voice and the power of performances by the likes of Bonnie Raitt and B.B. King. I was able to hear of the adventures of Sally Ride and Meave Leakey and see stimulating panel discussions about pressing issues such as violence in the Middle East and world health care. Had I only raised my hand quicker, I also would have been able to take batting practice at Wrigley Field. I will be forever jealous of those lucky few who got to smack a baseball around at one of the greatest venues in sports.
All this would have made for an incredible experience on its own, but the Summit was made even better by the fact that the student delegates were not merely passive listeners but active participants. I was able to meet and talk to people ranging from James Earl Jones to Ralph Nader to Martha Ingram as well as other students from around the world.
I had my opinions on some issues changed from hearing new viewpoints or arguments and my opinions on others reinforced by those who could articulate their ideas much better than I can.
I found that my low opinion of some prominent figures was totally unjustified once I had the chance to meet them as people and not as thirty second TV spots, a lesson I hope will remain with me in the future and I had my admiration of others redoubled.
Even someone as cynical as myself has to admit that I was genuinely inspired by attending the Summit. I have returned to the Rockefeller University to continue by Ph.D. work and although it is coming as something of an adjustment to walk into a room and not see a head of state or a Nobel Prize winner, I nonetheless have found that I am approaching my work with a renewed vigor as a result of attending the Summit. Thank you once more, I am truly grateful for the memories and the inspiration I have gained due to your generous sponsorship.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds,
I have just returned to Oxford after a wonderful visit to Chicago for the Academy of Achievement Conference. The weekend was filled with so many rare and exciting moments that it is hard to summarize in one short letter the amazing experience I had.
However, there are two interactions that stick out in my mind and were particularly special because of their personal and impromptu nature. On the bus back from the House of Blues after an amazing performance by BB King and Bonnie Raitt, I was sitting and chatting with one of the scholars when Congressman John Lewis stood up and proceeded to capture the entire bus as his audience for an awe-inspiring story about his role in the non-violent campaign against racism in the 1960s. He started his story by saying “Well folks, we’re on a bus, so let me tell you a story about a bus ride…” and then told us the true story of his participation in the Freedom Rides We soon realized that this man was a large part of the reason why we could all sit there together on the bus as students of varied races and backgrounds.
Also a special (and unexpected) treat was being able to speak one-on-one with my long-time hero, inventor Dean Kamen. When I was in college, I worked on a motion-detecting device that was used as a replacement for the traditional cane for the blind. To be able to speak with Dean Kamen, who has made so many great advances for the disabled population (most notably his recent wheelchair that walks up stairs and allows the person to sit at eye-level), was a real honor.
We spoke of each other’s interest in developing tools for the disabled and will certainly keep in touch and maybe even collaborate in the future.
For the opportunity to have several wonderful interactions and experiences like these two, I thank you. The Achievement conference was filled with a plethora of similar out-of-this-world moments and it was truly an honor to be a part of the event. Thank you for your continued support of endeavors like the Achievement Conference
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds,
Even after a few days have passed since I have returned from Chicago, I am struggling to find the appropriate words to describe how grateful and happy I am to have had the honor to participate in this year’s Academy of Achievement Summit. Thank you so much for putting together this remarkable program, and for giving my fellow students and myself the opportunity to participate in it.
It is, of course, difficult to identify the most remarkable aspect of such a weekend of superlatives. On reflection, what set this event above and apart from other instances where I had the chance to meet famous people was the inspiration that was omnipresent. The air was full of goodwill, you could almost touch it. Almost everybody I met had a true and sincere interest in contributing something positive to this world we live in. Yes, it was great for me to be able to discuss my dissertation (on “competence and loyalty in organizations”) with George Lucas, Steve Case, Ehud Barak, and many others. Yes, it will probably be long before I hear B.B. King, Jose Carreras, and James Brown in private concerts on three consecutive days.
But all this pales against what I took with me in my heart: a newly strengthened belief that a single person can really make a difference, and that despite so much hate, war, and lies in the world, there also are many brilliant young people who fight (yes, fight!) for love, peace, and truth.
This may sound corny, but it should not. I hope I can convey to you how much this event meant to me and how powerfully it affected (and will continue to affect) how I think about my career in research and teaching. I will take the liberty to keep you updated regarding my next steps in life every now and then.
I wish you personally all the very best of health and happiness, and may you succeed in inspiring many generations to come.
Alexander Wagner, Ph.D.