Friday, January 5, 2007

day 2, part 1: inspiration & frustration

after i had the best night's sleep (even if it was short) that i've had in months, the day began at 6:30. i have a king bed...ahhhhhh. because of my apartment situation (long story) i am embarrassed to say that i currently sleep on a *twin* bed. yeah, you heard right. a *twin*. so after making imaginary snow angels when i dove onto the pillow top, i slept like a baby among the downy comforter and five! pillows. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

breakfast started at 7, and i had wanted to try to get there early to be towards the front. i ended up down there around 7:15 and of course everyone had the same idea. i ended up not too far back and in the middle.

today was going to be all day with mr. al gore. the first part of the day, he was going to give the presentation in it's current form (i'll talk about this more later, but the presentation is very very fluid). the second part of the day, al and his scientific advisor (dr. richard ali) were going to take us through the presentation slide by side, sharing both the science and the thought process of it all. truthfully, i was still a little bit in awe that i was actually here and a part of all this.

before mr. gore began, we were almost *begged* by the head of the project and one of the sr. mentors to please not ask questions during the explanation portion. there were a few reasons for this. One, we had a LOT of slides to go through. The presentation that we were given was 400ish slides. The shortened, tailored version we were going to go through was almost 250, and we weren't starting that portion until about 11. two, mr. gore is, obviously, very passionate about the topic of global warming and is happy to talk about it for as long as anyone will let him. the words his staff used were "distracted" and "sidetracked". three, mr. gore is also very gracious and we were told that he would answer questions as long as there are hands in the air and so it was up to us to exercise restraint. time was all very important because they did not want to run over into tomorrow, which is more about presentation training and techniques, which are also highly important.

at the time, i thought - but of course! we're all adults! later on, i would change my opinion, but i'm getting ahead of myself.

and then mr. gore gave us the presentation. as someone who thinks she is a pretty okay writer, i'm finding myself lacking words for the experience. i was blown away by the movie, but to see it in person, to hear it directly from the person who has been developing this thing for about 30 was almost surreal.

while mr. gore is both passionate and gracious, he's a whole lot of other things. he's an amazing speaker, stronger than i had thought. he is capable of shaking his audience up. he's funny - and i don't just mean the planned jokes, but also funny in a clever-thinking-on-his-feet sort of way. he commands the room with charisma, authority, knowledge, purpose and...dare i say, optimism. he is even capable of stirring feelings of patriotism. even in me, which, at the moment, is no small task.

now before you think i'm endorsing gore for president or something (where *would* i get that idea!) let me put the record straight.

i do not think that gore should run for president.
right now.


1. i think that if he were to run in '08 he would lose a lot of the credibility on the global warming issue. there are already those who think he is using it as a platform in the political arena. i do not think this is so - it is very clear to me that the man really gives a damn about this issue, and its not a matter of presidential prep. call me naive, but i simply don't think he would risk the harm that (more) partisan politics would have on the climate crisis right now.

2. if he's considering running for president, the best thing he could do is wait and gain the trust of more of the middle/moderate republicans through how he is handling the climate crisis. already, there are plenty of republican folk that are getting a bit more open minded to gore, and as he continues to emphasize that this is NOT a partisan issue (and, it's not) , there will be a greater opportunity to open people of all political persuasions eyes to what he is really made of and what kind of leader he is.

but moving on. aside from mr. gore's oratorical prowess, the other thing that struck me was his vast knowledge of the subject and of science in general. this was both inspiring, and intimidating as i am neither a great public speaker (yet) and certainly do not have what anyone would think is a deep science background. when you watch the presentation there is no doubt in your mind that he knows precisely what he is talking about all the time. illusion or not, it feels fantastic to listen to a leader who can actually string words together all on his own.

but let's not get parisian ;)

actually, one of the many funny things mr. gore talked about in terms of the presentation (and i'm jumping ahead but it's late and i'm on a roll) is budgets. when you are presenting, you have all sorts of budgets. "everyone knows what a household budget it. unfortunately, not enough people know what a national budget is." ~giggle~ so as presenters, we have budgets on things like time, complexity, and even hope (i.e. the gloom & doom messages vs optimistic ones). we also have a "political cheap shot budget. but our maximum budget for these are two, and must immediately be followed by an apology of some kind." ha.

so after two + hours of the longer version of the ppt, we had a tiny break and then it was back to the room for the step-by-step version. again, the director pleaded with us to restrain on the questions, and made sheets available to us for us to write down any queries we might have and assured us that they would be answered. and then gore's "right hand man got up" and said "okay, you've been asked by all the nice people, and now i'm going to demand that you please restrain yourself and please do not ask questions because we will go off track. it's happened in every session and it will happen here but it is essential that we stick with the time so everyone gets the full benefit of the day. i know you all understand this, but i'm telling you that human nature is going to take over, and once one person opens the can of worms there is no turning back. so PLEASE - write your questions down." we got our question sheets, and again - i thought, surely we'll get through a bunch of slides before the questions begin.

i could not have been more wrong. do you want to guess what slide we were on when the ice-breaker raised her hand? hmmm?

slide 2.

and it wasn't even a question. it was a comment. about the notes. in our workbook. that it said "dark side of the moon" and should have said "far side of the moon". gee, that's not something that could have been handled in a note, or told to a mentor.

everything the mentors and directors said was true, and once the can was open, it was a flood gate of comments, opinions and questions just about every single slide. and if you've seen the film, the beginning isn't even the tough science!! this was not helped by al's gracious nature of taking every question, and also by his asking...anyone have questions? for almost every slide, because it was an invitation for those people who, frankly, just love to hear themselves talk.

don't get me wrong - i was in a room with a bunch of intelligent and impressive people of all ages, fields and walks of life. it's not a knock on the general quality of the comments or the questions. but we DID NOT have time for it! between 10:45/11 and 12:45 or so, we covered NINE slides N.I.N.E.

while i literally could listen to al talk for a few days straight, as a non-scientist, i was one of the many people who wanted to make sure that we got through the whole presentation because i needed to, damn it! i was immensely frustrated with each question, and even more so, the comments! while people may or may not have had a valid suggestion (remember, this is a presentation that is 30 years in the works and we were all seeing it for the 1st or maybe 2nd times), we've been told from the beginning that they want our contributions, but that was not the time. ~sigh~ can you tell i'm a little annoyed?

on that note, i must go to bed, because it's another 7 am start tomorrow, and talking about this is getting me a little more tomorrow.



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