One Young Pittsburgh

By Grant Oliphant
President and CEO
The Pittsburgh Foundation

Twelve hundred young people from all over the globe descended on Pittsburgh last week to participate in the One Young World Conference. OYW is a big deal, attracting an all-star lineup of presenters—from Bill Clinton to Jamie Oliver to Kofi Annan—and a wonderfully, wildly diverse group of forward-thinking twenty-somethings. My special assistant, Leigh Halverson, who attended the conference last year, talked my wife Aradhna, who is President of Leadership Pittsburgh, and me into co-hosting a breakout session for fifty of the participants and then a smaller dinner in our home to introduce them to the community. (How Leigh, who masterminded the logistics for all the breakout sessions and home dinners around Pittsburgh, successfully pulled it off is another story, but the bottom line is, she did us—Pittsburgh and The Pittsburgh Foundation—proud.)

My favorite moment in the whole event came when a young woman from India who was attending our breakout session reflected on how much she appreciated learning from all us “old people.”  The room roared with laughter, even us “oldsters,” who also included Heinz Endowments President Bobby Vagt, Riverlife President Lisa Schroeder, Center of Life Executive Director Tim Smith, and UPMC’s Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer Candi Castleberry Singleton.

The young woman hastened to clarify her real intention but she needn’t have worried—her gratitude for the bridges we had built across age and geography was genuine and unmistakable. It was a moment of real connection that touched all of us so-called “experts.” We walked away from our interactions with the OYWers feeling we had gained as much from our time with them as we had given.  

Congratulations to everyone involved in making this conference a success, particularly Steve Sokol at the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, but especially Pittsburgh itself. Your willingness to open your hearts, minds and even your homes to a group of young people from around the world was a gift to them, but even more a gift to ourselves.