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Imagine a solution that would change the world

Feb. 16, 2013
Terry Eberle
Terry Eberle

In this modern time, when everything is instant through cellphones and work demands are 24/7, it’s rare to be able to get away for a day to just listen and think.

The 2013 Imagine Solutions conference in Naples last week allowed about 600 people to do just that. Twenty-two speakers, all nationally recognized as being the top in their field, spent less than 20 minutes each to leave a lifetime of thought with the crowd.

They all made you ask – what if – they made you feel like you have done so little – compared to their accomplishments — and they all challenged you to find solutions to our common problems.

They tackled the education system in the nation that is not producing enough scientists and engineers. So few, some experts say, we will have 20,000 jobs unfilled in just 20 years. They challenged educators to teach beyond the test. Teach thinking creatively and teach civility to our youth along with reading, writing and arithmetic.

One talked about the looming threat of China not only militarily but economically. We were warned about the epidemic in childhood obesity. Jim Rogers, president of Duke Energy, talked about cathedral thinking, where there are no limits to what can be thought and accomplished.

Amir Abo-Shaeer, an engineer turned high school physics teacher, made a strong argument against standardized tests for creative thinking. “We have to put control of education into local hands. There are a lot of creative teachers out there, they are just beaten down.”

This was not lost on Lee County Schools Superintendent Joseph Burke and Collier County Schools Superintendent Kamela Patton, in attendance with members of their staff.

If there ever was an argument for the need for the arts, you just had to watch and listen to Gospel for Teens. They left the cold and snow of Harlem to energize the room with their dancing, movements and singing. Their sheer energy left people breathless.

They had a few hours between their morning gig and closing the conference. One would think they would head to the beach to enjoy the day in the warm sun since they would be returning to the mountain of snow back home.

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You would be wrong. Patton saw an opportunity to inspire some Collier high school students. Instead of taking days to plan, she got on the phone and called a principal who dispatched a bus to get them. Off they went to talk with and entertain a class. That grew from just one class to a full-blown student body assembly.

Just goes to show that if there is an idea and the will, great things can happen and happen fast.

Craig Kielburger, founder of Free the Children, is the poster child of making things happen. At age 12, he read a story in the newspaper about a 12-year-old child in Pakistan who was killed because he broke away from bonded labor at a carpet factory and was leading a movement to end it.

Kielburger was moved to action and went back to school and started a movement in his class of other 12-year-olds to free children around the world from forced labor camps and oppression. Today Free the Children has 45 participating countries, 3 million young members and has built 650 schools around the world.

Imagine what each one of us could do to solve hunger, disease and ease pain in the world if each of us could only think like a 12-year-old.

There is much more to Kielburger’s story. He was not your normal child. When he was 14, he was out playing in his backyard when his mother called him to the phone. He talked for awhile, seemed interested and hung up. When asked by his mother what the call was about he told her that he was being invited to a meeting of 30 hand-selected people in the world to define the world’s biggest problem. He would represent the youth. The caller was the Dalai Lama.

Terry Eberle is executive editor of The News-Press. Email him at Follow him on Twitter at @terryeberle.

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