Taking the global stage anew, Pittsburgh is set to host the 2012 One Young World Summit this week, from October 18-22. The international forum will welcome more than 1,500 delegates under the age of 30 from 190 countries in an effort to connect the leaders of tomorrow and allow them to share ideas and concerns with an eye toward meaningful, sustainable solutions.
Event “counselors” will facilitate plenary sessions and are a who’s who of 21st-century global citizenship including Bill Clinton, singer Joss Stone, Kofi Annan, Arianna Huffington, Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia; Pete Cashmore, founder of Mashable; Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus and more.
A consortium of corporate, academic and philanthropic supporters has banded together to bring One Young World to Pittsburgh, and they’ve seized the opportunity to show the world that we, too, are one young world, striving to make the region a home for future generations. In that spirit, here are five delegates from Pittsburgh who were chosen by their companies or others to represent our city at the summit.
Eric McIntosh is director of human resources for the UPMC Cancer Center in Shadyside as well as the health care giant’s International and Commercial Services division, located downtown. It’s a big job for the Beaver County native, who remembers well a modest upbringing in which his dad was forced to shift careers after the collapse of steel. “I’ve hired everyone on this floor,” says McIntosh with pride as he surveys his colleagues. “My job is very rewarding. I get to impact people’s lives for the better.”
McIntosh is also an unabashed booster for the region. “Pittsburgh is a great revitalization story, and other parts of the country are looking to mimic us. People here didn’t say ‘poor me’ after the demise of steel and the recession of 2007. We’ve been nimble and forward-thinking and once people see what Pittsburgh has to offer; it sells itself.”
He hopes to share his enthusiasm with fellow summit delegates. “I’m interested in hearing their perceptions. Is the Steel Tower the biggest building they’ve ever seen? How do they view American culture, and the world? This is our opportunity to be ambassadors for Pittsburgh and the U.S. We need to personify friendly and livable because Pittsburgh really is a fantastic place.”
Dion Harris is an Ethics and Compliance Specialist at H.J. Heinz. His calm demeanor makes him well suited for a role that sees him enforcing the company’s global code of conduct. It’s a mindset he’ll bring with him to the summit. “It’s important to recognize that the differences we have aren’t decisive. We have different lenses on how we view situations, and the moment we start to look at common problems, we can find common solutions.”
At the core of Harris’ belief system is a focus on education, not surprising since he was the first in his family to go to college. “Education is power. With the problems we face today, there’s no way to solve them alone – not one political party, one leader, or one president. We need to undertake these challenges as a people, and the only way to tackle a problem is to know it.” He looks forward to listening, and learning, at One Young World. “I don’t feel we’re ever at a point where we can’t change the future. We’re all leaders, and it’s best to lead with an open mind and thinking toward a common good.”
Kassie Leuschel is a financial analyst at Bayer and provides support to several divisions of the global health care concern. The Elk County native is “ecstatic” to be a One Young World delegate and is sanguine at the prospect of being a leader. “Leaders are important in that they can help inspire people. You also have to get people talking and call them to action.” She sees social media as critical. “You can’t ignore the changes of the past many years. We have new ways to connect – you can talk to someone anywhere in the world. And still, I’m a big fan of the personal and grass roots involvement. You want to combine both.”
At Bayer, Leuschel has found a kindred spirit, a corporation whose values mimic her own. “Bayer has a really good global reputation. We do a lot for the environment and even have a LEED building on campus [in Robinson Township]. We’re a big proponent of kids and education, especially STEM, and my colleagues go to school and speak to kids about this. And during Hurricane Katrina, Bayer didn’t just send supplies – we had a presence there.”
Joe Vehec is an associate relationship manager at PNC and while the Bethel Park native didn’t make a conscious choice to stay in Pittsburgh after graduating from Penn State, he’s happy to be here. “Pittsburgh has a certain draw: it’s homey, there’s a lot of pride, and people are passionate about what they do. It’s a close-knit community.” As someone who has yet to travel abroad, he’s delighted that One Young World is coming to Pittsburgh and has been following the conversations among delegates on Twitter. “I’m reading all these messages and there’s excitement about the conference, to come together for change.”
Vehec is aware of the transformations that need to take place on both a local and global level. “Pittsburgh has been successful before and we can repeat that success. These are the same people, and we can successfully manage our way to the next level.” For him, it’s about sticking together. “There’s a lot of good going on out there and yet, our leaders choose to focus on the negatives. We have to try harder to work together. Our leaders, whether they’re athletes, presidents or artists, also need to be more self-aware of their actions. Our generation looks up to them.”
Lauren Murphy is part of a growth and market strategy team for Alcoa that was recently moved to Pittsburgh from Cleveland. She brings a truly global perspective to the summit, having spent four months in Istanbul as part of AIESEC, a facilitator of international student exchanges and the world’s largest student-run organization. “It was completely revolutionary for me!” says Murphy. “I got out there on my own, didn’t know the language – it was a personal reliance challenge. Once I settled into the rhythm of the city and the culture, I met people from different backgrounds and got to hear their perspectives on various issues.” It comes as no surprise that Murphy admires Burmese leader and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. “I’ve followed her and she’s really sticking to it. The things that she’s been put through seemed insurmountable but she’s come through.”
Musician-philanthropist Joss Stone and President Bill Clinton are among those that Murphy can’t wait to hear at One Young World. “I’ve followed the outcomes from the Clinton Global Initiative, and [Stone] is a good example of how celebrities and entertainers can leverage their fame.” Murphy has a wish of her own for the summit. “Sustainable development for the global population is very important to me, and it’s an important issue for all countries. This issue needs to be top of mind.”