Written by Ivana Gusic, Head of Public Relations and Marketing at AIESEC in Austria
This is not a story about current conflicts that are happening in the world. It is not about rockets flying over our skies or ending wars. It is about smaller things. Little things. But the kind of little things that keep a person going forward; that bring the spark into everyday and strengthen the belief that this world is worth fighting for.
In a small town in Hungary named Gyor, 50 young people from AIESEC in Austria attended a conference to plan for the upcoming year and cover numerous topics relevant for the executive bodies gathered there. This conference itself is special because it brings together young people from 6 different countries: Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria, Serbia and Brazil. But that is another story altogether.
AIESEC Central European Congress gathering young people from Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Austria.
The moment that matters happened towards the end of the conference.
I was holding a session — last session of the day about external exposure (since I am Head of PR and Marketing). I was very skeptical of how it would go because everyone was tired from the six-day conference, which was almost over.
There was a part of the session that I completely forgot about; this small task which turned out to be the spark of greatness. I remember I almost skipped it. You never know what is going to be the biggest moment of the day. Usually the moments you believe will be insignificant turn out to be big ones.
The task was to “Discuss in pairs the topics that we, as voice of youth in Austria, could write about; topics that AIESEC is really passionate about; topics that may seem ordinary, but matter.”
After a couple of minutes, it was a moment to share. I thought a couple of people would share and that’s it.
It started with a few remarks and turned into fiery exchange of ideas and opinions.
Forty young people in leadership positions voiced their opinion, passionate about making a change in their hometowns and their country — from educational gap between formal and informal education and skills and experience required to find a job today, to racism in the world and Austria and how to tackle the integration of immigrants for a more peaceful and tolerant world. The issue of aging population and how to empower youth to ensure a sustainable development. Women leadership today in the world and in AIESEC (which is abundant with women in leadership positions).
Internationality and positive aspects of it in today’s globalized world, where conflicts seem to appear like fireworks. Start-ups and the concept of entrepreneurship and innovation as solutions for challenges facing the world today. Tackling social challenges and addressing those that are relevant in a country.
And many more. At least 20 people were actively sharing and feeding of each other’s ideas.
I was standing on the stage, listening to one person after another saying their opinions, listing topics they are passionate about and they would like to write about. I remember I didn’t want the exchange of ideas to stop. I was so overwhelmed by the passion about the issues mentioned and flabbergasted by a wide variety of interests. Forty young minds awake and aware of things that don’t work and willing to do something about it. Have you ever witnessed something like that?
I haven’t before.
I remember that when my enthusiasm and disbelief settled, I was angry — at people saying that youth today is passive; that we don’t care about anything but ourselves. I remember standing in the room with 50 people who paid to come to a six-day conference when they could have gone to the seaside like their friends did. I remember them talking at 7pm in the evening about issues in the world and at home they were passionate about and wanted to solve. And I remember one thought above all others.
That there is greatness in young people. They are aware of the world they live in — technology has made us interconnected and informed. They are passionate and they have an opinion. They are ready to be heard and to contribute to changes if the world will let them.
So how can we empower them? How can we make sure they get a say in what kind of world is being built for them? What kind of world they will live in?
Maybe you’re thinking now that we’re young and that we’ve got a lot to learn yet. And this is true. We don’t know everything. But we have ideas and we are ready to learn. And we’re worth it.
So it should begin today, because 5 to 10 years from now, some of those forty people will have leadership or executive positions. They will have the opportunity to decide which course we take, for better or worse.
Imagine if everyone thought like that. Imagine if everyone cared. Imagine if the world was made up of this type of young people — interested, aware, concerned and willing to participate and change the world for the better. Imagine the world they would be able to build.
And help them — help us build it.
This story was written in contribution to the AIESEC Everyday Leader Series, which showcases stories of everyday leaders who are changing the world. Share your story with the world.