My most vivid memories of the Festival of Nations relate to working at a booth rather than attending as a visitor. Board members are actively recruited to man the booths so that they can participate in, and thus better understand, the International Institute’s flagship event.
I was surprised by some of what I found while working in this capacity. I was prepared to sell gifts, snacks and drinks to the festival’s patrons enthusiastically. I assumed that people who sympathized with the Institute’s work would turn up and gladly seek relief from the scorching August weather in St. Louis. What I underestimated was the festival’s impact on people who were attending their first Festival, sometimes by chance, and were being exposed to the Institute’s mission for the first time. On numerous occasions people approached me and asked, “I was not aware of the Institute. How can I join? How can I support the Institute? This is what the United States, and all healthy communities, should stand for.”
These spontaneous comments validated the work of the Institute in a most compelling, memorable way. Sometimes the truth echoes more lastingly when pronounced, in an unfiltered manner, by a total stranger who is sharing an experience with you. I can certainly confirm that I took my commitment as a board member more seriously than ever after hearing this testimony from people I had never seen before.
May we deepen this legacy during this year’s Festival and those to come.