NAFSA Day 1, or I R a NOOB

Well the first full day of conferencing was intimidating and overwhelming. There are over 7,400 hundred people here! Over 104 countries are represented too. O_O! After missing a connection with some folks at Campion College in Australia, I went to the newbie meeting and then was kind of lost on where to go, what to see and what to do in such a huge expo.

I finally decided to check out the International Education expo in the main hall, and it was cool but a little bit of a shock in terms of sounds, colors and people. After finding a few colleagues, we walked a while to find this place Beat Box Diner, which is a literal greasepit. The tagline on the menu says “Turning Grease into a feast for over 60 Years!”

Have to admit though, it was one of the best grilled ham and cheese I’ve had in while. We found a better rought back to the Convention center, and I went to a Project Management talk for short term study abroad programs. It was good but a lot of what they suggested, we already do that… but we did get some good ideas.

After this session, we we’re herded over to the hall for the plenary speaker, Colin Powell.

On Gen. Colin Powell’s speech: After much patting each other on the back for various accomplishments, the plenary speaker was finally introduced… former Secretary of Defense Colin Powell. I really am disappointed in his speech. At first, he came across as a humble everyman, glad and appreciative to be there; glad for what we do as International Educators because he is the child of immigrant parents.

Then he veered off of that to talking about everything from the current war on terror to his tours in Vietnam, meeting President Gorbachev before President Reagan went over during the cold war… what really burned me about his speech was the following:

A.) He really either didnt know his audience and didn’t think about his remarks before yesterday evening… or he knew and went on with a speech that was half pre-made, half cut and pasted from other speaking gigs.

B.) It seemed like he was more interested in giving us folk lore like examples of happy, smiling immigrants selling hot dogs in push carts in NYC that give him free food in thanks for just being allowed to be in this country. BS I say… I seriously doubt Colin Powell can just wander freely anywhere in the world, let alone have some immigrant hot dog vendor insist he take a freebie because he’s just so fucking grateful for the chance to be here.

C.) Telling us how much you miss your personal jet and adoring crowds does not endear you to us. We do not and cannot ever relate to your former offices so cheerfully regaling us with how you got to skirt airport lines and saunter to your private jet to the cheers of adoring folks really, really doesnt help us.

D.) He told a brief story about supposedly being wanded in an airport after stepping down as Secretary of State. Supposedly the young man checking him over recognized him, hence making him wonder why he was being checked in the first place. Well, a little thing like 9/11 is why he got checked like that; assuming the story is even true. I don’t care who you are, but especially if you are Colin Powell, I would think you wouldnt try to tell a light hearted story about how you were checked by security because you tried to board a plane late, with no luggage and paying in cash. Especially after 9/11.

E.) Overall his speech was that of a politician and grandstander In my own little humble opinion. I don’t think he was a poor choice for the speaker, but he could have done much, much better.

I wish the recipient of the lifetime achievement award had been our plenary speaker, he was much wittier and on point than the former Secretary of State.

The rest of the evening was spent at a so-so opening reception, then Ruth Chris’ steak house for dinner. Fantastic food and the bill did’nt choke me up when I got it.

Now off to a shower and a 8 am session.