Thursday, May 26, 2005

AIMS: Vancouver Meeting

So I went to AIMS Canada's first event in many years in Vancouver last night. Dave Forde, who's the GM of AIMS had asked me to come to the event when I was in Toronto at SES a couple of weeks ago. I lined up a few meetings to coincide with the event, and made the short trip over. It was nice

I met lots of interesting people - which is always the best part of my day - including a few who I've known about for a while, but never happened to meet properly.

Anyhow, there was maybe 40 people there, so not a huge attendance. But I would say that the people there were of high quality, and well connected in the local scene. Many seemed to have the attitude - I'll show and check this out for next time.

One person commented on the low turnout. Which actually brings me to the point of this post.

About 18-20 years ago I was very politically involved. I was attending a French college called Jean-de-Brebeuf in Montreal, and I organized a number of individuals to come through the school to speak. One such individual was a very nice man, who I thought would be a big draw. After all, I believed he was going to be Prime Minister of Canada one day, and I was sure everyone would be interested to hear him speak. There were about 1000 students in this college / CEGEP.

A couple of weeks before the event, I met with this man at his office, and he asked me what sort of turnout I expected. I informed him that the room held about 80 people, and I hoped to have a majority of seats filled. He smiled slowly, and told me he looked forward to it.

The day came, and I was nervous - a number of people promised to come, and did. Some only came for 10 minutes, and left, but about 25-35 people were there constantly. Another 20 people probably flowed through. I felt let down. I had not delivered, and I was extremely disappointed.

The man though was not. He was thrilled. Then he told me a story. When he was a couple of years older than I was at the time, he was at University of Toronto. There was a rising star in Quebec politics called Rene Levesque, (If you don't know who he is, look it up!), whom he invited to speak at the U of T.

He was very excited about his star speaker, separatism in Quebec was just a nascent political force, and its leader was coming to speak at U of T. He was sure the turnout would be huge, and booked the largest available hall for the event. The day came, and he proudly escorted Levesque into the room, and found 3 people in a hall which could accommodate almost 1000. He was shattered. But Levesque loved it - he got to have a good conversation with three very interested, highly educated people who disagreed with his perspective rationally. He benefited from the meeting.

Hearing this story made me smile, and feel much better. It also explained why this individual had smiled when I gave him the expected numbers. About 18 years later, he became Prime Minister of Canada, before that he was Finance Minister in his opponent's government, a government which turned huge deficits into soaring surpluses. He did a great job as Finance Minister.

I have not seen or spoken to him since 1990 - 1991. But when people ask me for my opinion of him, I always say, "Paul Martin is an extremely nice man. Of all the political leaders I have met, I believe that he is possibly the nicest on a personal level."