March 6, 2015
Good evening, and welcome everyone to the 2015 Families In Global Transitions conference!
My name is Kilian Kröll, I am the Board President of FIGT, and it is my distinct honor to open a conference that won’t leave you unchanged. In our midst, we have distinguished speakers, high-impact sponsors, extraordinarily committed volunteers, and most of all people who have dedicated their lives to supporting those who move around the world a lot. I’m talking about parents, teachers, counselors, HR executives, entrepreneurs, artists, researchers and adventurers – in other words, everyone in this room tonight. Welcome.
You know, a hotel is a perfect setting for talking about global transitions: from the staff to the guests, most everyone here has experienced moving across borders, dealing with culture shock, adapting to unfamiliar customs, being the stranger and welcoming strangers. In this cross-cultural microcosm, in this interstitial space, we get to ask, "Where is home?"
It is not by coincidence that we're returning to the mother of all loaded questions for global nomads. The theme of finding home was originally inspired by an op Ed in the New York Times, which Julia Simens showed me right after last year's conference. In this article, the author talks about how he as someone born in South Africa, educated in the UK and living in New York sometimes feels what he calls “displacement anguish.” There was something about this notion of Finding Home that struck us as newly relevant -- that because technology, travel and intercultural awareness have made trying to be "at home everywhere" normal for humans around the world, we might simultaneously be glossing over the basic human need of feeling rooted, safe, secure, and whole.
Julia and I ran this article, and our thoughts about it, by Fanta Aw, last year's keynote speaker who dared us to voice issues we don't often acknowledge in our expat community: financial insecurity, social inequality, political strife, aging, divorce. Fanta reminded us that the current large-scale displacement of peoples, by natural, military or economic disasters, and massive-scale human migration, allows those of us who have dealt with questions of displacement on a personal scale to share our findings with practically all of humanity. We who have conducted research, counseled transnational families, and supported those sent of foreign work assignments now have the opportunity to help the world at large to Find "Home" Amidst these Global Changes. Helping those who've been uprooted to connect with their sense of purpose and belonging, wherever they may be, might just bring the planet to a new sense of equilibrium. This is the potential I see in bringing up this question -- What is home? -- again today.
This weekend, in this hotel microcosm, we will engage with ideas from people whose approaches are as diverse as the places we've traveled from. We will experience performers, educators, entrepreneurs, researchers, humanitarians, business owners, trainers, counselors, artists, writers, parents and kids. We will be challenged to think about "home" in terms of ethnic identity, literary perspectives, business practices, intergenerational communication, non-Western approaches to building community, volunteer organizations, and the ritual act of saying goodbye and hello.
And most of all, we will experience new feelings of being at home in all the interactions we will have with each other over the course of the weekend. I encourage you to let yourself be transformed this weekend, both professionally and personally, by what you learn and whom you meet, by ideas that resonate as well as disagreements... One thing I know for sure about FIGT is that my personal highlights have always been unplanned and unexpected.
One of this year's programmed highlights, however, is our opening keynote, Mr. Teja Arboleda. And to introduce him, I would like to welcome onto the stage a woman who really gets the connection between personal transitions and global business. Ghadeer Hasan is not only the FIGT Sponsorship Chair, but also the Vice President of Relocation Services at CORT Business Services, a Berkshire Hathaway Company. CORT is a proud Gold Sponsor of FIGT, and here to represent CORT, please welcome Ghadeer Hasan.