Keynote speaker – Neal Petersen’s Boston and Weymouth, MA community experiences.

It has been a hectic few days in Boston and Weymouth in Massachusetts. Did a keynote on Thursday to a healthcare Insurance company that operates in New England and has grown for 10 consecutive years as the top satisfaction rate for their type of insurance. We had dinner with the VP of Sales as this was his annual sales conference and met some incredible folks. I was recommended to be the opening keynote buy one of his staff who heard me previously. They are going through major changes with the Affordable Care Act that has created very rough waters and uncertainty forcing major change in their industry. They wanted a speaker who could address continued success against all odds, adapt to the new order in healthcare and become focused on a successful future that still lay ahead. I was the chosen speaker and received once more a rousing standing ovation and huge compliments.

One of their employees whom I had the honor of meeting was an immigrant from Columbia 32 years ago. When Al and his family came to America, moving to Boston from Cali, they always attended the Boston Marathon. They never missed a race. He worked for the company from almost the time they arrived in the US. Sadly, Al was at the finish line of the last Boston marathon and became one of many victims of the bombing. Both he and his wife were severely injured. An active man, a hard working American immigrant, a contributor to his community, Al came close to losing his life. Months in and out of hospitals and several surgeries, his world has changed. We spent a bit of time chatting as he was invited to visit with his work family. Al took a bus to get the meeting place as part of his therapy to regain his independence. He arrived exhausted but invigorated and I met him on his arrival. When he walked into the auditorium, he received one of the greatest standing ovations I have ever seen. Attendees were in tears, especially those who worked for him for many, many years. He has no bitterness to the life that was robbed from him as he today tries to rebuild his life around his limitations. He has set an example of forgiveness, courage, tolerance and the will to move forward in spite of his horrid encounter.

The hotel where we stayed, the Revere Hotel was an interesting place too. There is a restaurant with some great workers. Over lunch Darlene and I had the privilege of talking to one of our waiters, Mohammed from Somalia. As a young man he had to flee his native land due to the war and went first to Saudi Arabia, then lived and studied in Italy before moving to the USA. We discussed the poverty of Somalia and its ungovernable lands that has no real government and is ruled by warlords. After the horrible tragedy that happened in the capital, Mogadishu, that became the inspiration for the movie, Black Hawk Down, things became worst. Poverty rose as civilians fled the war and more and more refugees filled other countries. Somalia has no real wealth, no tourism came and the little industry there was collapsed. The rest of the world had no interest in his country and for the young people there was no future. He fled. But for a few who have remained, war has transitioned several times.

In desperation for revenue and with nothing to lose, the fishermen turned to piracy. Little by little they expanded their new trade. Then taking bigger and bigger vessels working further out to sea, insurance companies began to pay ransom. That ransom for a tanker, or a container ship became huge income for their communities of seafarers. To insurance companies the amount they were paying out was small in relationship to the value of either the vessel or cargo, and no value could be placed on the lives of their crews. To the Somalian pirates this became a major source of GDP for their communities and they escalated till international navies stepped in. Still with just their lives to lose, they escalated their high seas piracy and raised the ransom prices to reflect their risks. It has become a global mess with no end in sight as this is still the major source of income for Mohammed’s country. He has not returned since his boyhood departure and today lives in the US with his American wife and two young children.

Mike who is the right hand arm to the Mayor of Weymouth, Mayor Sue Kay, has worked diligently with Darlene to bring our program to their city. Yesterday morning he fetched us at 7 am to take us to Weymouth High School where I gave three back to back keynote addresses to the entire Junior High and then several additional classes. Some of the youth was most attentive, but unfortunately many were texting as I spoke. This was disruptive and their body language was very disengaged. I am afraid too many youth have been given too much, and they are watching too much reality TV and hence have become very immune to adventurers like me with our accomplishments. Afterwards we went on a tour of the school and lunch in the student run restaurant. Very interesting set up the school has. They have vocational training that is comprehensive and integrated into their school curriculum. Great food and stimulating conversations. One of the senior students came over to talk about Apartheid and South Africa from my perspective and the impact it had on my life. He will be visiting South Africa in June.

The school has a very impressive planetarium, and their vocational areas of training include a woodworking shop, metal shop where I saw a very impressive double grill they made out of a huge pipe, a school of architecture, another school of cosmetology and most incredible of all, a full automotive shop where the public can bring their vehicle to be state certified for emission and have all types of work conducted on a car by the students.

Today I spoke at another auditorium at an event open to the public. We had about 70 people show up, including one of the attendees of our client earlier in the week. That spoke volumes that she brought her grown son who is studying law, to come hear my presentation. We had a great event with lots of questions followed by a book signing. Afterwards my friend Larry drove us to Cape Cod with a new friend who is now giving us each a massage. Tomorrow I will see an old friend and client who booked me for 32 speaking engagements.

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