30 April 2008

DC Farewell Part 1 – The Good

As I wind down my time here in DC (7 days left) I am reminded of the good, the bad, the ugly and the in between. I’ve spent 5 of the last 6 years here; four in school and one as a real person. No doubt I sort-of became an adult in this fair city – our nation’s Capitol. It’s 24/7 politics, which I love. I’d have to say that really defines the city though in so many ways I’m thankful for that. After all, politics is at the root of how we all live: the rights we have, the qualities we value, the people we help and the people we hurt. I only wish the ripple effect out of DC was 50% greater. I could go on and on about politics, but let me shift to what I do best: Top 10 Lists. So, here it is, my Top Ten Good DC:

10. Cheap public transportation. It’s true that if you’re commuting in from the suburbs cost goes up, by my intra-city commute runs $1.35 each way. Ain’t no problem with that.

9. China Town. It’s like the “big city” of DC, and reminds me so much of the hustle and bustle of Shanghai (only not so much hustle and not so much hustle – in a good way).

8. Raku. Best. Thai Food. Ever. It even beats out Thailand, though I’m not sure if that makes any sense.

7. Tuesday Night Dinner Club. I always know it’s there and the company never ceases to excite me. Tortugitas, you will be missed!

6. American University. Not gonna lie, it’s great to be near your alma mater. Supportive grown-ups, fantastic speakers and $100 to take any class you want.

5. Town. This is probably a relative thing, as the nightlife in DC isn’t exactly eye-popping, but Town has certainly provided some of my most enjoyable evenings in DC.

4. Corcoran Street. This is one of my biggest secrets in DC. I LOVE Corcoran Street in Dupont between 16th and 19th street. Never fails to put a smile on my face. The row houses, the cobblestones, the smiling people...Sometimes I just wander that way when I’m feeling down. Cheers me right up!

3. The National Mall. 20+ Free museums, Americans discovering their own history in person, huge swaths of open space and some incredibly powerful monuments, especially at night.

2. April 15th to May 15th. I challenge you to find a more beautiful city at any time of year (trust me, I’ve already tried). The cherry blossoms are out, the sun is shining, people are happy and the humidity hasn’t started yet.

1. The people. I have the greatest friends and family (read: Robin) on Earth. From happy hours to movie nights to emails with hilarious subject lines, you define my life and make it memorable. You will be missed.

BONUS: Politics Politics Everywhere! Four free daily papers, Senators on the street (aka ugly Hollywood), drab suits paired with boring ties, blackberrys and self-important Hill staffers. YOU WILL BE MISSED!

24 April 2008

And I Had…The Time Of My Li-i-i-fe

40 Days. 32 States. 1 Canadian Province. 7373 Miles. 150 Venture Teams. 5000 Young People. 2 Lost Bags. 10 Days Without Clean Clothes. It was most certainly an adventure to say the least. Malena and I began on February 11th in Anaheim, California at the Taylor home by throwing a family BBQ (naturally) and I finished the adventure March 26th in Washington, DC after zig-zagging north, east, south, east, north, further north, west, south, east, north and south again. We moved from wearing shorts under the sunny skies of California to bundling up in down jackets to fend off the sub-zero temperatures of Minnesota.

No matter where we were one thing remained consistent: young people are doing incredible things to fundamentally reshape their schools, cities, states and country. From a 12-year-old in Seattle who has raised more than $10,000 in just three months to fund girls scholarships in Rwanda to 20-year-olds in New England who have brought arts into the lives of hundreds of children, they gave life to this idea that young people can be Powerful now. Changemakers now.

Still, for whatever reason, there are those who doubt. Who say this is a figment of our imagination, and that their work is the exception and not the rule. New agencies that say this “isn’t a story” and that there is “nothing significant there.” Well I have 8000 pictures, 60 hours of video, 200 interviews, 100 blog entries and a network of millions of young people who might think otherwise. Yes, this isn’t a majority YET but when in history has it taken a majority of people to change the world? From ending religious extremism to guaranteeing the right to vote for ever American, powerful minorities have time and time again reshaped the way we think and live, truly changing our world.

This will absolutely be the greatest global movement to ever take shape, so here is my advice to you: Pay attention. Know your facts. Understand these “crazy kids.” Why? Because if you don’t you’re going to wake up in 20 years and realize that we somehow managed to take control of everything without ever rustling a feather. This is a silent revolution but have no fear: we will be heard, whether it’s in the townships of South Africa, favellas of Brazil or inner cities of America. Change is-a-comin’. Are you coming too?

With that, I think it’s important to cite what was perhaps the greatest success of the road trip; the simple fact that Malena and I did not have one single fight. It was nothing but smiles, laughs, mix cds and the occasional “moment of silence.” All told, I could not have found a better road mate, so thank you girl. You rock.

From here, it’s all about reflecting on the experience and offering some commentary, so stay tuned. Plus, my Asian adventure begins in just 2 weeks. China, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, here I come. Woo!

22 April 2008

OAS Photo Exhibition = AMAZING

One of the incredible partnerships that emerged from this initiative was with The Young Americas Business Trust, a youth arm of the Organization of American States, which is like the UN of the Americas. They support young people in developing their own businesses and social initiatives and after deciding on youth as their “theme” for the year, they realized they needed to find a way to celebrate that with a “bang.” That’s where Ashoka’s Youth Venture and I came in!

Equipped with blogs, videos and more than 8000 photos, we decided to put that media to work through a photo exhibition, bringing the teams to life in vivid 42” x 30” color! Needless to say, it was a complete success. More than 85 people attended from the business, government and social sector. From Ambassadors to Council Members, practitioners to friends and family, the whole lot came together to celebrate “The Power of Youth-Led Social Change.”

The OAS #2 and I spoke while people mixed, mingled and took in the 32-photo exhibition. Below is the video of my presentation, followed by a link to the online version of the photo exhibition, complete with photo descriptions, location information and print details. I wish you could have been there in person but hey, this is a great way to view them as well. Enjoy! Also, special thanks to Michaela McGill, who planned and arranged the whole shabang! She's pictured above.

Photo Exhibition: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kyletaylor/sets/72157604446100097/


Kyle Taylor

18 April 2008

Through Our Eyes

Because DC was home base, visiting our amazing teams here became somewhat of a challenge. That is, the whole allure of a “road trip” was lost by the fact that I road the metro and pulled up on my feet. Still, that didn’t affect the incredible work of the young people I met.

A highlight of my “time” in DC was definitely visiting “Through Our Eyes.” Based out of a high school in Columbia Heights, these twenty plus students have come together to bring their frustrations about political issues and community problems to life using theater and dance.

They’re not complaining and they’re not nagging. Instead, they’re showing the human side of these problems. Take immigration, for example. Imagine a mother of four working full-time to give her children a better life than she had being taken from her children and deported after living and working here for more than ten years. Often times our understanding of the issue is oversimplified: Person lives here illegally, has children who are citizens, works hard and pays taxes, gets deported.

What happens next? The kids are left without a mother in their time of greatest need – childhood. “Through Our Eyes” helps to take people into this realm of understanding by telling the story “Through Their Eyes,” as children and young people who had nothing to do with creating the situation but who are affected more than anyone else by it. “It’s not about a political statement,” the leader told me, “it’s just about telling the human side of this story.

They also deal with issues like gang violence, teen pregnancy, discrimination and education, all in a way that makes the issues far more accessible than a newspaper article or TV report. In the last three months they’ve grown from five members to more than twenty and plan to include dozens more next year. Even more exciting – their first show is in three weeks and tickets are nearly sold out. What they’re doing is so incredibly important, because it’s often too easy to disconnect the policy itself and the people that policy affects. Well done.


Kyle Taylor

16 April 2008

Look Who’s Back!

Well, I do apologize for the radio silence. It seems that every now and then I have an insatiable urge to completely “disappear” from the ethos. I think, when your whole life is an open book online through blogs, photos and videos every now and then you feel like the only way to really take a break is to have a period of time that’s all to yourself. Needless to say, following the 40-day trip, I needed a break! Fortunately, I’ve gotten my excitement levels back up and now there is so much to say!

I’ve decided to start with something low-key, happy and fun, then move on to the last few days of the road trip, the AMAZING OAS event and other such topics. The past two weeks have brought out DC’s World Famous Cherry Blossoms. They come but once a year and mark what I believe to be two of the most beautiful weeks in one of the most beautiful cities on the planet (except in the extreme summer and extreme winter).

My super cool friend Matt came out to visit and we had a blast. As you might expect, I kept us on a tight schedule all four days that included Raku, Urbana, The National Mall at night (Vietnam Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial, FDR Memorial, WW2 Memorial, etc.), A behind-the-scenes tour of the White House including the Oval Office, The Capitol, Botanical Gardens, Museum of the American Indian, The Hirshorn, Georgetown, The Washinton Monument, U Street, Adams Morgan, Town, A visit to the YMCA gym and of course, Ben’s Chili Bowl. Not too shabby for four days!

We talked about California, ate delicious food, avoided large swaths of people wearing matching “I went to our Nation’s Capitol and all I got was this T-shirt” T-shirts and preached to our own choir about why Hillary is the best candidate for President. In short, it was bliss.

Here’s just a few shots of our different adventures. You can find them all here. As you might imagine, all those trees are Cherry Blossoms.

I just love when friends come to visit. It reminds me of how truly amazing this city is. Just perfect.


Kyle Taylor