ASF Talks: Great Minds Come Together on Campus

The 6th annual ASF Talks premiered on March 20. With art welcoming attendees by alumni Sumie García ('05), Miguel Ángel Salazar (‘07), and Pablo de Laborde Lascaris (‘05), the tone was set for a new format and a night of erudite intellectual immersions that challenged all the senses. This edition of ASF Talks took on a new form that included the presence of alumni art, embedded videos, a panel discussion, and traditional talks. Anakarina Piña (‘99), Alumni Relations Specialist, explains, “We were trying to be more inclusive by having talks, videos, and the panel to open up to other speakers who were distinguished but couldn’t be there.” The experiment worked and the 6th edition marked a true evolution in the ASF Talks.

ASF Talks is an alumni signature event. Last year’s edition focused on a theme that went to the roots of the 130-year-legacy of ASF by celebrating the school's values: Justice, Understanding and Truth. This year’s theme ventures into a more ambiguous ether: dreams - and the power they harness in our quest to achieve that which gives us purpose. In this theme for the evening, nine alumni, one employee and her husband, and one ASF dad took to the stage to remind us that all is possible. Attended by parents, students, faculty, administration, alumni and friends, the goal of "gathering our tribe" and the purpose of celebrating the values that the ASF community treasures, was achieved by the Alumni Association.

 

 

Alum Alonso Iturbe (‘14) served as Master of Ceremonies. His affable demeanor eased the attendees and guided them through the night of speakers and big ideas. Prior to the opening, Iturbe shared, “I am not really nervous, but more excited. I like being on stage.” Before the first speaker, Iturbe used the metaphor of memes in his opening monologue. A meme is an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. That set the stage and began the focus on Dreams.

A novel is like a jealous mistress that demands all of your attention . . . she sits on your shoulder and tells you of the sins you have written and those you still have to write.” - Alberto Mansur (‘95)

Alberto Mansur (‘95) was the first to take the stage and share his talk on Dreams, “Dreams. We are here to talk about dreams. ASF is a good place for dreams.” he continued, “Some of my best dreams started here.” Mansur shared it was a Journalism course that ignited his passion for writing. A former lawyer turned writer, Mansur hosts a well-read blog and is contributing writer for Forbes and Rolling Stone Mexico. His first novel Lo que Mata no es la Bala was published in 2016. He shared the often-difficult relationship he has with his characters as he writes, “A novel is like a jealous mistress that demands all of your attention . . . she sits on your shoulder and tells you of the sins you have written and those you still have to write.” Mansur is currently in the process of writing more sins in his second novel.

 

 

Next to take the stage was Eduardo Terrazas (‘42), who through a pre-recorded video expressed the impact his time here at ASF had, “I have had a good life. The American School Foundation played an important role in that.” To the audience’s surprise, Terrazas, a renowned architect turned artist, was in attendance and addressed the FAC with a personal greeting after the video. With over 600 works spanning 45 years, Terrazas was humble in his remarks his generation was the first class to enter ASF on the new campus. He did inform the audience that he had an upcoming show and would be in touch with the Alumni Association with more details. The video shared was the work of Álvar Martinez, ASF Visual Communications Specialist.

A new feature to the ASF Talks, in addition to the featured alumni artists, was the panel discussion led by Amanda Berenstein (‘97). The panel’s topic was a discussion of “The City We Dream Of”, an open conversation about the Mexico City that was and the one they believe it can be. In a casual setting, six armchairs set in a semi-circle on stage hosted the discussion. Berenstein, who is CEO of Weber Shandwick was joined by Andrea Césarman (‘86) architect, designer, and curator, Andrés Lajous (‘01) Mexico City's Secretary of Mobility, Gary Alazraki (‘96) writer and director, Roberto Capuano (‘02) Director of Metrobús, and Jorge León de la Barra (‘02) Head of Operations for Econduce, joined Berenstein on stage to share their thoughts and connect ideas. "The 19th Century was the century for empires. The 20th the century for nations and the 21st the century for cities." Césarman poignantly positioned the tenor of the conversation.

Changing things that work is much harder than changing things that do not work.” - Andrés Lajous (‘01)

Moving from what transportation looked like when they attended ASF to the pressing needs of the city today, Berenstein judiciously shared the stage and time equitably. In one round of questioning, the issue of the micro-buses that move tens of thousands of citizens to and from home and work and everywhere in between was brought to light. Lajous shared the dysfunctionality of the functionality of the business model. “The drivers of the micro-buses take home the money they collect. The more they collect the more they make.” Lajous described this as a broken business model that is functioning. To the audience’s pleasure, Lajous’ final statement on the paradox left them nodding in acknowledgement, "Changing things that work is much harder than changing things that do not work.”

 

Federico Salas (‘73) hosted the second pre-recorded video presented. Salas is the current Ambassador of Mexico to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Salas was invited to speak, but due to the demands of his position was unable to attend. His video was the collaborative effort of Sharon Fastlicht (‘97) and Televisa.  Salas, like Terrazas, shared the importance of his experiences at ASF in achieving his dreams.

Another addition to the new format of ASF Talks was the drone film production produced by Tarcisio Sañudo. With a darkened FAC and the audience on the edge of their seats, Sañudo’s film captivated the beauty and the magnitude of  “city mobility”, the focus of his production. This feature is part of a trilogy project where he captures “the beauty and chaos at the same time.” His work is seen internationally.

 

 

Diane Clement, ASF Middle School Activity Specialist, and Ricardo Godínez, CEO of Atomika, shared the stage after the panel discussion. Beginning with a warm hug and a kiss, Clement and Godínez explained and then demonstrated a talk they believe keeps their relationship healthy and connected. Clement expanded, “It is a conversation that consists of four questions that are very purposeful, and it is how we end every single day.” In their talk, there is one statement and three questions:

  1. Tell me about your day.
  2. From everything that happened, what really matters?
  3. What can you do so you can feel this emotion every day?
  4. How does this action get you closer to living the life of your dreams?

 

 

Four rules serve as a framework for the conversation. Godínez explained that there are no judgments between them about what is being shared, the person answering only talks about how they feel, and there are no distractions: phones, kids, tv. Clement explained the purpose of the talk, “When you invite someone to tell you about their day, you allow them to talk about the moments, all to them to express those feelings that are associated with those moments, . . . most importantly you give them a chance to share some of the ideas and some of the dreams that if you do not say out loud have a very high probability of ending up in the idea and dream graveyard.”

Following Clement and Godínez, Arturo Cervantes (‘84) took to the stage and in an impassioned talk left the audience spellbound, motivated, and standing in ovation. As a professor of public health at the School of Health Sciences of the Anáhuac University in Mexico, his research and experiences have driven him to push for change. It is that drive that centralized his talk around a powerful phrase, “Tikkun Olam“ – to heal the world. “Healing the world, fixing the world, trying the best we can to improve things is . . . one of our (ASF’s) core values.” he shared. In these core values of justice, understanding, and truth, Cervantes attributes his fight against the brewing storm of  injustice and inequity here in Mexico.

It is very evident that we are privileged and thus, Tikkun Olam holds the responsibility we have as men and as women to help transform the world, to help take steps to improving the lives of others that are not so fortunate.”

Cervantes pointed to the rates of homicide, traffic fatalities, and robberies in México to drive home his gut-wrenching question, “What kind of Mexico are we allowing to happen?” In this question, Cervantes’ answer was a call to action, “Tikkun Olam is this idea that the responsibility is not only for our own moral, for our own personal growth, our own material well being, but for the well being of our community, the well-being of society . . . we can no longer be silent . . . it is from our positions, from our work, we must take a stand.”

 

 

The last speaker to take the stage was Marco Antonio Karam, an ASF dad and the Founder of Casa Tíbet México. Karam’s approach to dreams was an intellectual dive into the spiritual reality of dreams. In a talk entitled Dreaming Yourself Awake, Karam posited dreams happen in non-lucid and lucid states. When lucidity is achieved in a dream state according to Karam, “There is no limit to what we can do. We can dream ourselves awake.”

 

 

 

Working collaboratively with Sharon Fastlitch (‘97) and with the Institutional Advancement Office, Anakarina Piña (‘99), Mariana Veytia ('01), Erika Arévalo ('03) guided by Cecilia Cepeda and Daniela Escalante (‘02), who hosted last year’s talk, provided the leadership this year as the Committee Chair. Six sub-committees organized, promoted, and successfully delivered ASF Talks 2019. Escalante spoke at the first ASF Talks and has been involved ever since, “This year's Talks were particularly fulfilling. . . During ASF Talks I fully understood why: we take our truths seriously and we stand by our words and listen to others. We talk with pride and loud voices, we stand up straight, we laugh, we dance on the spot, we are bold and free and proud of where we grew up.” Escalante was grateful to recognize the contributions of the sponsors of the talk that included: Robert Craig (‘97) and Porco Rosso, Kado, Mente Verde, Tinted, Tanqueray, Club de Vinos, Dulces Enchilados and Buna.  

The new evolution of ASF Talks left many particularly pleased and looking ahead, Chad Schwaberow, Head of Upper School shared his thoughts, “The video added a nice mix media effect that pleasantly broke up the format. The panel discussion was interesting and including the audience made it more engaging. However, I think  the idea is good and can be improved upon next year.” It is that ever pursuit of improvement that moves ASF Talks into its 7th year. The lessons learned are the changes for tomorrow.


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