"Where Was This Google All This Time?"


I went to an amazing, amazing event earlier in the evening (NextGen Africa Forum @ NYU June 14), and I am blogging away, sipping - more like gulping - mango lassi I made. Mine does not look as good. I put too much yogurt and ice cream and not enough mango pulp into it.

You had to be there to feel the magic of the moment. Online video will not be able to replicate it. When was the last time I went to an event in town this amazing? It was that good. And the four people on stage, I had never heard of their names only two days ago.

I was hoping some of the crowd would spill over to the after party, but there were maybe a half dozen people there and I left.

I was a few minutes late. Somebody was already speaking. She was in the process of introducing the Vice President of Malawi. After the event was over, I walked over to shake her hand. I tried to muster some protocol, or at least my version of it, in the process.

"Madam Vice President, it is an honor to be able to meet you in person, and shake your hand like this," I said.

"Thanks for coming," she said simply and moved to shake the next hand. I took two steps back, lingered around for about five seconds, walked sideways three steps and walked away. Then I spotted the Goods4Good leader, the emcee of the event.

"You are in some kind of an ad," I said to her. "I looked you up on YouTube yesterday, and that showed up first thing."

She looked amused.

"Good question," she said.

I had asked one of the questions from the floor.

"Hi, my name is Paramendra. There has been tremendous buzz in social media about this event which is how I found out about it, there has been buzz all the way to The Huffington Post. Until yesterday I had never heard of the four of you; that makes me an ignorant person. I looked all four of you up on YouTube yesterday. I am very impressed with the work you have done ...... My question is, would it be possible to scale your good work, because the number of affected children is just so large, or do we not have a big solution to the big problem?"

Ann Veneman gave the best answer. She said ultimately these problems have to be tackled at the policy level. But Dr. Jane Aronson gave the most heart warming answer. When I met her in person later, I said that to her in different words.

"The take away lesson for me with you is," I said, "you have to maintain good spirits, you have to be cracking jokes, and you have to having good time, while you work on big, hard social problems, or you are going to not be able to do much good."

That spirit is exemplified in Jane's funky green Gandhi glasses. Blue? It was green at the time I talked to her.


A few minutes later when I got to pass by Melissa Kushner, the emcee, one more time I said to her, "I sent you a tweet earlier." She reacted like I had sent her a parcel.

"Thank you," she said.

I made small talk with a few people from Malawi. So I met this one woman from Malawi, she said she did her college in Arkansas. I have been to Arkansas, I said. A minute later another woman from Malawi walked into us. I asked if they knew each other. They said no. So I introduced one to the other. One lived in the Bronx, the other in Westchester.

I told them a Westchester story. A family friend of mine - a doctor - from my hometown in Nepal lives in Westchester, bought a house, is raising his family and stuff. Somebody new from that town showed up in New York City a few months back. He got taken to the house.

"He lives in the trees," the new guy said later. He was not impressed. So much for the aura of suburbs.

I showed up for the event dressed formally. Well, that means putting on a white shirt. Otherwise my favorite form of attire has only one thing missing from what I was wearing: the white shirt. And the tie stays out of range. The tie is the most useless piece of clothing ever. Maybe it is good for wiping your nose or something.


The take away quote from the event for me that gave me a belly aching laugh did not come from the main part of the event, or from the four featured panelists, and this might reflect my tech bias.

A Tom Rielly got to talk for a few minutes towards the end, and he showed eight minutes of a film about the guy who is now headed to Dartmouth College.

William Kamkwamba, author, "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind," and......
William Kamkwamba - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
William Kamkwamba | Profile on TED.com
African Leadership Academy - William Kamkwamba

So this guy goes through hell and high water, and years later he gets to access Google, and does a search on windmills, and tens of thousands of diagrams show up that could have saved him so much work, and so he says,"Where was this Google all this time?"

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
William Kamkwamba
www.thedailyshow.com
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