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Despite running shorter and offering fewer speakers than past years, the Metro Chambers’ 17th annual Perspectives event offered a range of speakers diverse enough to make the morning entertaining and fascinating for all attendees.
Perspectives is an annual event for individuals to see notable political and cultural leaders speak in the Sacramento Convention Center.
This years speakers were Olympian Dara Torres, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, and former CIA Director Robert Gates.
Previous speakers include Condoleezza Rice, Mikael Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher and Elizabeth Dole.
After videos of sponsors, various introductions to the event, and an audio-less video montage of Dara Torres swimming spliced with an interview, the Olympian, author, and TV commentator took the stage and proceeded to describe her unconventional swimming career. She focused mostly on her post-natal decision to swim in the 2008 Beijing Olympics at the age of 41. She came home from Beijing with three silver medals, one of which was due to finishing only .01 seconds behind the winner.
Image by: Dara Torres
Erin Harris, Director of the American Heart Associations Go Red for Women, said that she found 12 time Olympic medalist and mother the most interesting of the morning.
“As a woman she was very inspiring,” Harris said.
“We all have our own obstacles we have to overcome,” Torres said. “No matter what age you are, there’s always someone helping you.”
Despite sounding trite at times, it was clear that Torres’ intention was earnestness on Friday morning, even momentarily choking up after mentioning the death of her longtime coach.
Following Torres was Twitter co-founder Isaac “Biz” Stone. The 37-year-old entrepreneur promoted creative perseverance by telling stories of starting a lacrosse team at his high school after not being accepted into any of the already organized sports teams, dropping out of college to pursue graphic design after inadvertently getting hired as a designer as a result of secretly placing his own graphic design work in a file of professional pieces at a firm where his actual duties were just moving boxes of books, and developing Twitter despite nearly unanimous skepticism.
Image by: Biz Stone
“Creativity is a renewable resource,” Stone said. “You as a person have infinite creativity. To succeed spectacularly, be ready to fail spectacularly.”
“Biz was very fun,” said Sacramento Metro Chamber interm president and CEO Martha Clark Logren. “There was positive energy in the room.”
While Torres and Stone spoke candidly and seemed to improvise for the sake of storytelling, Robert Gates, 2006-11 Secretary of Defense, former Director of the CIA and the final speaker of the morning spent much of his time staring down into the podium while speaking about the future of the United States and its relationships with China, North Korea, and Russia.
After beginning with a series of puns such as, “It’s just great to be anywhere but Washington D.C.,” Gates spoke to Perspectives attendees as one might expect the leader of the CIA: direct, confident, and forewarning.
Image by: Robert Gates
“In the coming years the United States and Asia will become more inextricably linked...It is important for the United States to have a military presence in Asia,” he said.
Although he admitted that he was pessimistic in his CIA days, Gates’ closing remarks suggested a change in his attitude during the years since, “There are no painless solutions to the challenges we face...But regarding the American future I am an incredible optimist.”
KFBK Operations Manager Alan Eisbenson said that Gates was his favorite speaker of the event.
“I thought he had the most interesting information,” Eisbenson said.