I have just spent the last five days in the city of Atlanta Georgia for a conference, the National Campus Leadership Experience, in which I was representing Australian Relays at the homeplace of that bubbling beverage that is now more commonly known than the word “hello.”. With only 1 day to submit my application and a little bit of luck, I was told three weeks prior that I was to fly over with the addition of doing a presentation of how Australia Relays.
My travels started Thursday the 8th in which I began with a train trip to Sydney as preparation for the longest non-stop flight, Sydney to Dallas, (The return, which I am currently on, Dallas to Sydney via Brisbane is longer). Roughly sixteen hour flight later I land to what is only an hour later and then the mad rush to get through customs to get to my connecting flight to Atlanta. Panic had set in when I arrived with only thirty minutes to board my next flight and I was a couple hundred people behind to get through customs. However a few loud comments later I was able to skip a lot of lengthy lines. Silver linings I suppose, a movie (Silver Linings Playbook) amongst others that I watched on the flight. Seeing as my last flight was with United, where there were no screens in front of us, to Qantas where there was a video collection to rival most current modern day pirates, I had no issue with the long flight. I never had issues flying with United but I can definitely see the difference, though the service and leg room is still pretty much the same. Either way you’re stuck in a metal bucket.
Roughly twenty seven hours of travel later I finally made it to the Wyndham hotel and conference centre, where the conference was to be held. After a quick shower it was out for a bite to eat and to put faces to the names of those who helped me with getting overseas. Trying to avoid the urge to sleep so that I could ease the transition and avoid the dreaded jet lag, I had my first rehearsal of my presentation. It was clear at this time that I had not actually fully read through it, they took pity though for my lack of travels. I was still just trying to get used to the weather, a heat to rival Australia with the added pain of being ridiculously humid. Not a massive fan of heat in general and however like most States I have visited, they were experiencing unseasonably extreme weather.
The conference itself was very enlightening. They say that Americans do it bigger, and Relay for Life is no exception. Considering there are no major gatherings at all for the Relay in Australia this hundred odd person gathering was only the warmup to their thousand plus summit they have in a month or two’s time. Not only that this was their summit for high school and collegiate (in other words on campus) only, something that Australia has yet to establish and something that I soon to change.
The whole event was inspiring to say the least. To see so many people volunteering their time and efforts for a single cause is quite seldom seen. With each day packed with multiple sessions divided into both general sessions and work breakouts, the conference was over pretty quickly. Each general session shared the theme of inspirational talks that covered all areas of relay including; what relay is and its current works, it’s purpose and how it helps those, the people involved, relay on a global scale (my talk), technology advancements, further action and inspirational talks. While the breakouts were designed to help educate and shape its participants into more learned leaders and have the tools and resources to create and manage their own teams. By the end of the third day it was more than just learning, it was the bringing together of a nation. It was completed with a Luminaria Ceremony to truly engage the depth of the ACS’s impact and then brought back to life by the youthful exuberance of one of relays youngest ambassadors.
After the conference I was able to spend an extra couple of days in Atlanta to go do some sightseeing before trekking back. With the advantage of a City Pass I was able to see some of the more prestigious tourist attractions including the Coca Cola factory, Aquarium, Atlanta Zoo, CNN, a Atlanta Braves game and infamous American Cancer Society Headquarters. Most of these places showing the rich history of Ted Turner, and more emphatically the power of Media, Marketing and Advertising. There was a slogan in the Coca Cola Factory that stated the Coke would be able to sell without any advertising. Then staring at the various giant billboards and their participation with most to all sporting events I could not help to think that advertising played a major factor in its success.
Finally I would like to finish this post with a tribute to Dr. Goody Klatt. During the conference we were unfortunately informed of his passing and his loss of battle to stomach cancer. He was the founder of relay and it was his motivation and vision to start the first relay back in 1985 where he ran around the track in Tacoma, Washington for 24 hours. The fight against cancer has been severely shortened by his efforts and without him we would not be in the position to be able to finish the fight.
“Celebrate the survivors; remember those who lost the battle and FIGHT BACK! We all need to CELEBRATE MORE BIRTHDAYS and by relaying we keep the HOPE alive through education, community involvement and fundraising for ongoing research. I love you all!” -- Gordy Klatt