United Nations Association Annual Luncheon
It is a rare privilege to introduce to you a native son who has, since his youth, been an internationalist, a champion of interdependence, a scholar and activist who, in his very being, is committed to the aims and ideals of the United Nations.
Michael’s work knows no boundaries. I have known him long enough to recall his return from the Peace Corps in Kenya in 1981, with a self imposed mission—to bring a talented young student that he had taught in a Kenyan village to the University of Scranton. You can only imagine what a journey that was for James Onyando, a young man born and bred in a rural village in an African country at that time. Not only did Michael take responsibility for raising the funds and managing the university arrangements for James ‘ sojourn here, but he also saw to it that he was comfortable and successful in his new, very foreign surroundings. I have seen James twice in Nairobi recently; he has vivid memories of his transformative experience in Scranton, and more important, he holds a professional research job in a veterinary institute. There is no way that he would be where he is today without Mike Fairbanks.
Flash forward. In the 1990s, Mike founded the OTF group, an economic development strategy consulting group that deals, very often at the presidential level, with developing nations—to assist them in becoming economically successful in the challenging 21st century environment. By the way, OTF stands for “On The Frontier,” which is literally and figuratively where Mike resides. He is a visionary, a champion of entrepreneurship, and a dauntless man of action who is passionate about building capacity, which is, indeed, the most valuable asset a developing nation can have.
Michael is a thinker whose writing and speaking focuses on entrepreneurship and reflects his successes in strategic counseling. When he received an honorary degree at his beloved alma mater, the University of Scranton, in 2006, he and I had the opportunity to discuss our respective activities and goals and discovered or, perhaps more accurately, created common ground. It was through his auspices that I was able to bring my own work of strengthening democracy and the culture of interdependence to Rwanda—and that with the blessing of the Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame.
Michael has that rare gift of seeing in every experience an opportunity—an opportunity to make the world a better place. And so it is my privilege, my pleasure and my pride to present to you Michael Fairbanks, Chairman Emeritus and Founder of the OTF Group, now president of the Seven Fund, a foundation that supports the production of original research, books and films that help to diffuse enterprise solutions to global poverty– bringing hope to and building capacity in the developing world—every day. In short, he is walking the walk of global understanding.
Please join me in welcoming our 2009 United Nations Day keynote speaker, Michael Fairbanks.