ICAS Summer Symposium

No. 2002-0810-DHK

The Emerging Generation, Leadership and the Mainstream:
Issues and Prospects

David H. Kim

Summer 2002 ICAS Symposium

August 10, 2002 11:00 - 6:00 PM
Calvary Vision Community Center, 550 Township Line Road, Blue Bell, PA 19422

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422

Tel : (610) 277-9989; (610) 277-0149
Fax: (610) 277-3289
Email: icas@icasinc.org

Biographic Sketch & Links: David H. Kim

The Emerging Generation, Leadership and the Mainstream:
Issues and Prospects

David H. Kim

Leadership is derived from the word lead, which means, "to show the way by going in advance." The word leadership conjures up different images for different people. It may represent a known figure such as Ghandi or Martin Luther King. Or a relatively unknown figure, perhaps a childhood teacher or role model. It may represent someone you know, or donít know. A spiritual figure, musician, athlete, businessperson, and so on. But what does it really mean to me? As a 37-year-old, it represents something very personal. First off, being 37 years old qualifies me as one of the "emerging generation." Someone who has experienced the past 37 years, which include everything from Watergate, to the Gulf War, to Seinfeld, to Tiger Woods, to disco, and everything in between. Plus, for the sake of this talk, it represents the view of an American born of Korean descent, since I was born in New Jersey. So putting all of this together, leadership to me is more of a "personal leadership," which is the way and manner in which I conduct my life. The way I lead myself through the myriad of people, places, events, choices and decisions that this world has to offer. Hopefully if I do a good job, others may choose to follow or gain some benefit from my example. So in a sense, leadership is really the process of becoming the type of person others WANT to follow.

The next major word in the title of my talk is mainstream. What does that really mean? The definition of mainstream is "the prevailing current or direction of a movement or influence." Again this conjures up certain images. But the reality in America may be surprising. For example, in 1860 there were only 3 Census categories- white, black, and "quadroon." This year, there are 30, from Asian Indian to Other Pacific Islander. There are 11 subcategories under "Hispanic ethnicity" alone. In California, Hawaii and New Mexico, whites are no longer a majority. And this is just about the diversity in race. How about the diversity in food, religion, music, political ideology, etc.? And what role has the internet played in all of this? And how about the rapid pace in which the world seems to advance. It was just yesterday when the DVD was a pipe dream. Mainstream, especially in America, is almost an enigma. It has almost a local connotation, rather than a national one. And even that is misleading. So for the sake of this talk, I will define mainstream as the culture of the traditional conservative crowd. This is the mix of people you see at the mall on weekends, around your neighborhood, at amusement parks, movies, concerts, and the like. In other words, the people, places and events in your world and mine.

So the topic really is how do I lead myself in this ever-changing diverse world of ours? What it really comes down to again is, what choices do I make in my life, and how I do so without compromising my integrity. But how do I do the "right" thing? What is the "right" thing? How do I fit in? Do I really have to fit in? What does fitting in really mean? As you can see, each question breeds another question. So for times sake, I can share with you some basic philosophies that I follow which seem to work for me at this time. The first issue, which is cornerstone to leadership in the mainstream, is one of identity. Who am I? For example, some say Iím Korean, some say Iím American, some say Iím Korean-American, or American-Korean. Who am I? In my opinion, in this day and age when labels are blurred together, I feel it is most important to view myself as a human being first. And to be even more specific, and maybe controversial, I think a more accurate view is one of a spiritual being having a human experience. So I guess I am evolving toward looking at myself, and others, not even as human beings but as spiritual beings having a collective and individual human experience. As trite as this may sound, this is probably the most accurate way to view oneself. Because scientists are discovering that what we believe to be solid, is in fact not solid at all. That all of life is derived from energy vibrating at different frequencies. Those objects, which appear solid, are actually bundles of energy vibrating at a low frequency, liquids at a higher frequency, and vapors at an even higher frequency. So in reality, we are all made up of the same stuff, energy.

So you may ask, what does this have to do with my identity? Am I saying that we are all just bundles of energy? Well in a word, yes. But the point is not that we are just a clump of energy, but rather that the foundation of oneself lies not in material possesions, such as big homes, money, cars, and toys. Not in acheivements such as advanced degrees, awards, and honors. Not in things that we can see, touch, and feel. But rather, our essence lies in our soul, our spirit, and our feelings. This is who we really are, and the first step in leadership is to recognize who we really are. So in a sense, personal leadership to me is the ability to recognize this admist the illusion of material and worldy things. After all, when we die, we canít take any of that stuff with us, can we? So true leadership, personal leadership, is the ability to transcend all of this worldly stuff. Not an easy task. But is it better to make money the center of your existence? Or your business? Or your acheivements? All are hollow victories, as the many tales of those who realized this tell us over and over again. Yet often we do not listen.

So here we are, spiritual beings in the mainstream of life. So what do we do? How do we navigate through this complex world? Well, there have been many many teachers through the ages, who have shown us the way. Some notables include Jesus, Buddha, Saint Frances of Assisi, Michelangelo, William Butler Yeats, Albert Einstein, Carl Jung, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Bach, and the list goes on and on. But what do all of these teachers have in common? First, they viewed themselves not as physical beings, but as spiritual beings. Next, they saw leadership as the process of becoming a better person. One that makes higher choices, which may not necessarily be popular among the "mainstream." To live the type of life based on these higher choices, which may not fit the "mainstream" ideal. But who in the end influenced the society around them not out of intention, but rather out of consequence. Because in the process of becoming a better, more positive force in the world, this positive energy transformed the people, places, and events around them. Often in profound ways. So I feel it is my opportunity to attempt to live up to the ideals set forth by these teachers. This is one case where you want history to repeat itself.

ICAS Fellow
ICAS Speakers
& Discussants
Summer 2002