The British are Coming (to Philadelphia)

This morning wraps up the 25th annual conference of the British American Project, a fascinating group that brings young Brits and Americans together for cultural exchange and social discourse. I was baptized into this group at the Los Angeles meet-up in 2008, missed the 2009 gathering in Edinburgh, and then served on the host committee for this year’s bonanza here in Philadelphia. Next year will bring us to London and the year after to New Orleans, although family obligations and cost considerations make me a solid “maybe” for both.

Though I am not super active and am in fact am very much a fringe player within this crew, I quite fancy this gathering, and not just because its members are so incredibly smart, enthusiastic, and well-connected. In many ways, my participation seems out of character:

• The group is largely fiscally liberal, while I am staunchly conservative and pro-markets;

• The group is leery of fundamentalism and is proudly secular, while I am a Bible-believing Presbyterian elder; and

• The group is very extroverted and loves to party and drink into the wee hours, while I am more on the introverted side, don’t do alcohol, and have been known to hit the sack before 8.

And yet, in the spirit of being open-minded and desirous of having my viewpoints stretched, challenged, and even changed sometimes, it is these very differences that make me gravitate towards this group. It is natural to want to cozy up with people whose shared beliefs make you feel good about yourself, but I tend to be quite the opposite. Let me be found in the company of those who chastise the groups they don’t know I affiliate with, that I might hear how the other side thinks. As noted above, in some cases, it sharpens what I am about, while in other cases, it gives me pause and sometimes even makes me consider anew a position I thought I had already settled on.

In closing, I say kudos to the other host committee members and especially my dear colleague, Farah Jimenez, who served admirably as conference coordinator even though she knew just how hard it is to herd 200 energetic young BAP’ers through a gauntlet of sessions and locations. Not sure when I will discourse with you all again, but at the least I will see you all in cyberspace.

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