Back from the St. Gallen Symposium
Now St. Gallen is one of those cities that has a Chinese restaurant obligatorily named “Chinatown” – across the street from the Moroccan restaurant named “Sahara”.
and as much as they may try to convince me it’s a large city – “the center of Eastern Switzerland”, they said – the city smells like cow shit. I kid you not. I pointed that out to my friend Frederic – and he responds “well of course, you’re in a village here!”
Village or not, the University of St.Gallen is a renowned business university – one of the best in region assuredly, and attracts a large number of foreign students, mostly Germans.
Back to the Symposium then – I was invited as a faculty member and a “Leader of Tomorrow” (har, har),[see my silly introductory interview which is unrelated to the title they gave it] and my contribution to the conference proceedings was two-fold:
– First, a public interview with Ribal Al-Assad, who happens to be Bashar Al-Assad’s first cousin and a political opponent to the regime, based in London. That was on the opening session, and the full video is actually available online. I had fun grilling him a bit!
– The second was a panel discussion titled “the media, a sword. But who carries it?” and I was opposing aUSarmy major. That was quite fun, too. (no video though – Chatham House rules).
Overall, I had a great time in St. Gallen. I am blown away by the quality of the organization – all students, all the way down to the waiters during dinner, impressively – which seriously beats many ministerial and presidential receptions and conferences (not that I’m a regular, but the few I’ve been to don’t hold a candle to the St. Gallen crew). I’ve also greatly enjoyed meeting other participants from around the globe, as well as the delightful organizing team.
The topic, “Just Power”, was also quite interesting – split into 5 streams or ‘clusters’ addressing different types of power (Politics and arms; Money and ownership; Voice; Leadership and Authority; and Values and Ideas), you were never out of an interesting session to attend!
I am mostly disappointed that a hateful individual like Hirsi Ali was invited to give a plenary talk, but she’s obviously learned to conceal her anti-Muslim vitriol behind prettier words – the “open society” is the keyword she’s been repeating. (Actually I think she’s been refining this theme since I first saw her speak in 2006).
Bottom line – an excellent conference! Will definitely consider going again next year.