Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The times are a changing

I spent last weekend in Washington, D.C. It is an underrated, beautiful city which is really worth a 2-3 day visit. We were there for a USA Rugby Board meeting and to attend the traditional New Zealand Ambassador’s Shield Rugby Match. The game was to celebrate an amazing initiative with Hyde School, an inner city, low income, urban development with all the problems you would expect in a public charter in the inner city. Over the last decade, Tal Bayer has run an initiative at the school using rugby as a catalyst to create character, growth, recognition and pride. The results have been spectacular. 50% of African-American males from Washington, D.C. never graduate high school. In contrast, 100% of Hyde senior rugby players are accepted to 4-year anniversaries.



We celebrated this initiative with a dinner hosted by the New Zealand Ambassador, Roy Ferguson and his wife, Dawn, at their residence at the New Zealand Embassy. It was a beautiful evening that brought together business, government, academia and sport, all driven by shared beliefs and shared dreams. The conversation, as well as the food, was stimulating and it was a joy to hear Roy talk about democracy and rugby. The timing could not have been better as it was within one week of America’s decision to choose Barack Obama as their president. It was also 12 hours after New Zealand’s decision to elect Prime Minister John Key. Both these choices were driven by a desire for change, the need to refresh and an optimistic trust in shared, inclusive values. America and New Zealand share many things and hopefully these two new leaders will bring their countries closer together politically and in the vital (for New Zealand) trade arena. It was a pretty buzzy time to be in Washington I can tell you.