Saturday, September 5, 2009

Rwanda (Part 2)

richard branson Pictures, Images and Photos

We're seated at table 53. It isn't the last table in the football field sized room, but it is the one closest to the exit and a stream of people rush past me all night on a desperate search for the washroom.

I'm at our company table at the NQI Corporate Excellence award gala at the Metro Toronto Conference Centre in September 2008, enjoying a delicious steak and shrimp dinner and making small talk with corporate executives from some of our premier client organizations. The bottles of wine on the table help the process along.

I had misunderstood the program and believed the featured speakers would be Senator Romeo Dollaire (author of Shake Hands With The Devil, his terrifying story of the Rwanda genocide) and Sir Richard Branson (who needs no introduction).

However, it turns out Dollaire had spoken at the luncheon earlier that day and, although he was seated in the room (somewhere), he would not be speaking tonight. Many of those at the table had been at the earlier luncheon and the talk at the table was all about an extremely moving experience I had missed.

Then again, it might have been more difficult to enjoy the dinner learning about poverty in Rwanda where the average income is around a dollar a day and where grinding poverty was one of the factors behind the genocide that had taken place there.

As for Branson, he was receiving an award from NQI, but not until tomorrow. I'm not certain he was even present at the dinner.

Of all the men who carry the title "Sir", Branson is the only one who fits my image of a knight. Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney I'm sorry. If Branson was transported back in time and made the Sheriff of Nottingham, he would perfectly fit the part.

Instead, the purpose of tonight's dinner was the awarding of Certificates of Excellence to 37 corporate executives and corporate teams whose workplaces had been judged at the bronze, silver and gold levels in their quest for Excellence and Healthy Workplaces.

At the Silver and Gold Levels each company got to play a 30 second video of the changes they had made to qualify for the award, they each got their picture taken with an Executive from NQI and their President got another 30 seconds to express his/her pride in their workplace.

Although it sounded repetitious the stories actually proved to be fascinating and inspiring.

But I had been looking forward to hearing from Dollaire, whose book I loved even though it was gut wrenching, and was disappointed.

Arriving back home on the GO train at 10:45 I detrained to a cold drenching rain. With neither umbrella nor raincoat for protection as I trudged back to my car, I got soaked. My black suit, worn this once in the last six months, would have to go back to the cleaners.

It would be a year before Rwanda and Senator Dollaire's names would come my way again, this time at the festival of the Arts on the grounds of the Guild on a bright and sunny day.

I'll tell you about it tomorrow.