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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Festival of Thinkers (part one)

The Higher Colleges of Technology often has fairly high profile visitors come for a visit. Abu Dhabi Men's College, the school where I teach, is one of the main places that foreign dignitaries end up. I asked someone about this and was given the answer, "When business people or diplomats come to Abu Dhabi, they go to the Emirates palace. After that where else are they going to take these people?" The company I work for likes to have high profile events that give the school the appearance of a prestigious hall of higher learning. One of those events runs Monday to Wednesday this week and is called the "Festival of Thinkers." Basically, the school invites a bunch of people who are the top in their field to come and have discussions about contemporary topics such as poverty alleviation, health and obesity, cultural diversity and whatnot.

The thing about it is that they really do invite top names to come and discuss these points. There are a number of Nobel laureates including John Nash (the subject of the movie "A Beautiful Mind"), the King of Sweden, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Steve Forbes, Mike Moore (former prime minister of New Zealand, not the film maker), just to name a few. It's a great opportunity for some of the higher level students, though some might argue the value of the exercise with all the effort and expense. For the most part it's a show to raise the prestige of the school.

The program includes some panel discussions of the topics in front of an auditorium then breaks into 30 different round-table discussions of ten people each. Each table has a moderator to keep the discussion going and a recorder to write down what's been said by whom. The moderator is supposed to keep people from grandstanding and to give everyone a chance to speak. I've heard that after a few years experience with this annual Festival of thinkers they choose people to be moderators. Somehow after being in the country for three months, I was chosen to moderate a discussion with a neurosurgeon and a former president of a top level architecture firm. To see the full cast, click here. I'm at table 30. You can click on the column heading for table to have it sorted by table.)

I'm not really nervous, just wondering what the heck the organizers were thinking by putting me in as a moderator. I volunteered late and they must've just had a cancellation by someone who was supposed to do it and just slotted me in the moderation position. If you want more details of the event, click on a few of the hyperlinks and it will kind of explain what I haven't. I'll keep everyone updated on how things go.


  1. I moderated the round table discussions with the thinkers and students.


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