During my pre-Davos sessions with the Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum, I set out with a goal to ask all influencers I met that week to share a personal story about refugees or immigrants. The theory is that immigration is large, complex, austere, and difficult solve; but immigrants and refugees can inspire us. Their fight for survival, their ability to rise above the odds, and the transformations that can take place once they land on fertile soil inspire us about our country, our selves, and our potential as a people.
I was able to put this question to a number of innovators during the week in Davos, but the first was caught on film. I was still honing my question at the time, but Sheryl Sandberg's response is right on. Eventually I would simply ask "Who is an immigrant who inspires you?"
Richard Branson had a quick and succinct answer to the question when I put the question to him while riding a funicular train down the alpine mountainside. He later took time in an interview to tell the personal story of an immigrant who helped shaped his business.
The idea is simple: Negative public dialogue has made it impossible for lawmakers to do what is best for their country and the world when it comes to immigration and refugees. That negativity can be combatted with fact and opinion around a set of pillars: violence, extremism, welfare, jobs, and so forth. But communicating those messages directly will fall on deaf ears due to the religious fervor of the current discussion. In order to create a meaningful positive dialogue, we must employ storytelling, and use open ended questions where the opposition can explore their own experiences.
So to that end, who is an immigrant who inspires you?
And now... Sheryl