In just a few hours, delegates of the One Young World summit heard talks on various global issues from Bill Clinton, former president; Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi banker who developed the idea of microcredit and microfinance; and Bob Geldof, singer and political activist. So after a day of serious discussion, the OYW delegates were ready to lighten the mood at an after-party on the Roberto Clemente Bridge.
As the delegates and ambassadors inched their way across the bridge through a sea of people from more than 180 nations, many stopped momentarily to pose for photos with the University of Pittsburgh cheerleaders, who were welcoming guests. Others headed directly for the food vendors, who handed out samples of meatballs, pierogies, lasagna and a smorgasbord of cookies. The fruit stand was not as popular.
The atmosphere felt a little like a carnival. Delegates could have their photos taken while wearing feather boas and over-sized sunglasses or watch an Uncle Sam hobbling on stilts and juggling glow-in-the-dark pins. There were also performances from live bands and local dancers.
The air had grown cold and it began to drizzle by the time the party started around 7:30 p.m., but the atmosphere was charged with a sense of excitement, unity, idealism and hope as the delegates reflected on the first day of the summit.Antonio Cossa, 23, a delegate from Mozambique, said he was moved by Muhammad Yunus' speech to the group. Mr. Cossa hopes to apply Mr. Yunus' words to a potential project of reforming the education system in his home country, which he said is failing to properly teach students.
"(Mr. Yunus) told us how lucky we are, this generation, and he managed to show us the challenges we have as young people. He said that problems are an opportunity for us to create a social business," Mr. Cossa said. "(Mr. Yunus said) what's wrong is not the people, it's the system, so we need to build up a new system. That's what stayed in my mind."
Sarah Oraby, 26, is an engineer at Siemens in Chicago who visited Pittsburgh for the first time to participate in the OYW summit. Like Mr. Cossa, she also felt Mr. Yunus offered some useful wisdom in his speech.
"You think you have to come up with something amazing or you need to be a genius to come up with a good idea, but he did the opposite of what everyone else was doing, and it worked," Ms. Oraby said.
Coming to Pittsburgh for the first time from Paris, France, 29-year-old consultant Julien Ancele was so inspired by the day's speakers that he almost forgot to enjoy himself at the bridge party.
"I felt pressured to act. That's my key feeling. Clinton was the guy with knowledge, Yunus was an enthusiastic guy and, in the end, Geldof put such pressure on us, but in a positive way," Mr. Ancele said. "I was saying to myself, 'Instead of going here and having a party I should go home and start acting now.'"
The bridge party ended with a roaring display of fireworks, sending all the delegates back to their hotel rooms to rest up for the second day of the summit tomorrow.
(Photo: One Young World delegates from over 180 countries mingled during a party on the Roberto Clemente Bridge Thursday evening. Emily Petsko/Post-Gazette)