Last week, I attended the Hillel Institute in St. Louis, with many others. It was a nice time, including the first night’s well-run Pub Night that had followed the [non-plenary] plenary session of the Richard Joel Exemplars of Excellence awards (which, I’ve got to say, was the most smoothly run awards presentation I’ve ever seen).
However, and getting to the title of the post, one of the biggest surprises of the conference was Wayne Firestone’s presidential plenary address. Entitled, “×™×”×™×” ×˜×•×‘: It Will Be Good”, Firestone spoke on even though the organized Jewish community wrings its hands pessimistically over the three Is of this generation: Individualism, Incivility, and Israel, we won’t. There is so much opportunity: inasmuch as there seems to be a great deal of individualism, millenials get connection, they get community and that they process experiences not as individuals, but as communities. Furthermore, millenials are not self-absorbed, they are absorbing. However, the content of his speech was good, but was shockingly good was his presentation. One aspect that jumped out at me afterwards was his omission of fillers in his speech – what a goal towards which to aim! Also, he had quite an energy to him as well as being comfortable speaking in front of the audience. It was an inspiring instance of public speaking (in the Jewish community(!)) which I certainly see as a benchmark for which we can strive.
What is also impressive is, from what I heard from various people, that he hasn’t always been this good and has been improving – may we all strive for such improvement!
UPDATE: The video is online.
If you are looking for follow-up from my previous posting about Hillel’s Twittering, see here. I also had a brief posting on one particular aspect of the conference here.