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lucid thoughts

July 17, 2003 Thursday

Dinner with the Dean

To my alma matter, University of the Philippines, where she is Dean of the College of Fine Arts, and to the United Nations where she chairs the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, she's better known as Professor Virginia B. Dandan. To me, she's Ginny. Up until a week ago, I never knew she existed. However, a call from my father about his childhood friend coming over to Toronto gave me a chance to offer my assistance during her stay. She was to come here for a UN-sanctioned meeting at the University of Toronto with some 20 or so academics and experts (on the subject of human rights - women's rights in particular).

From the outside looking in, the position seemed glamorous….a life of global travel, dining with royalty and heads of state in the finest and most expensive restaurants in the world, working out on the world's best capitals - round the UP academic oval, along Geneva lake, the Champs Elysees in Paris, the Rambla Catalunya in Barcelona and in Central Park in New York. However, up close, conversations with Ginny gave me a glimpse of what lies behind that glamorous facade. To be at that pivotal scene is to carry a burden…to feel the loneliness standing up alone against a tide of issues whose answers are never simple…of surviving failed attempts on your well-being, and to put a lot of personal matters 'on-hold' for the greater good.

I've always wondered what it's like to break bread and converse with people who have the position and capacity to make changes on a global scale. I've read books or seen documentaries about Kissinger, Sadat, Mao Tse Tung, Lenin, the Kennedys, Castro and Che. Every single time, I've wondered what it's like to be in their audience while they grapple with world affairs that will affect the lives of many. How do they think? Do they have brilliant minds? Do they have sharp analytical minds? Do they have the uncanny gift of winning the hearts and minds of people within their orbit? Are their hearts in the right place?

Ginny, in her unknowing way, answered a few of them for me. She is one of those people who leave a mark on you. Her wit, her intelligence, grace, charm and grounded humanity make her a very interesting person. In the swirling landscape of huddled masses and distinguished elites, I am fortunate to come across 3 such people whose demeanor and values have caused me to rethink a few of my own. They don't happen everyday.

I looked forward to an acquaintance with her visit - I received friendship in return. With a standing offer to use her flat in Geneva as a base for a European exploration next year, I may get the rare treat to chat with her again over coffee.

-- TheLoneRider

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