photo: TheElders.org

photo: TheElders.org

The Elders is a group of global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007, to offer their influence and wisdom to the process of peace building and to address human suffering. In addition to Mandela, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, Graca Machel, Desmond Tutu, and Aung San Suu Kyi are a few others of the elders. This auspicious group was gathered and launched by Sir Richard Branson and Peter Gabriel. I honor of Mandela's birthday last week, they launched a new initiative, exploring what it means to be an "ethical leader." Guidance the world can CERTAINLY use right about now...

There are so few cultures that still revere the wisdom that comes with age, the life spirit and lessons passed down through generations—it’s almost as if we move too quickly and are so desperate to forge ahead and improve that we end up re-inventing the wheel instead of building upon the knowledge of those who have gone before us. What a loss.

The Elders focus on international rights issues and take on new challenges as they arise. Their collective plate is currently full with initiatives focused on: climate change; trying to find, after such a wrought history of conflict, some semblance of respect in the Middle East; issues based on equality for women and girls and calling for an end to religious and traditional practices that discriminate; the struggle for stabilization in Iran; reconciliation and healing in the Côte d'Ivoire; political reform and peace building in Burma/Myanmar; and the Global Village, which provides an opportunity for all of us to raise our voices about issues that matter to us most.

Big, heady issues. Big heads taking them on. When was the last time you reached out to the generation before yours for guidance? Your parents, aunts and uncles, neighbors, family friends, business mentors, or anyone older needn’t be a world leader to have incredible gifts of wisdom that are yours for the asking.

Ask.

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About The Author

Andrew Mersmann's picture

Andrew is the author of Frommer's global guide to volunteer vacations, "500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference" (Gold Medal Winner from Society of American Travel Writers: Best Guide Book 2010). He spent more than a decade on the editorial team of PASSPORT Magazine. He has volunteered and led teams on service projects around the world, and is honored to be on the boards of directors for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation (AARBF.org) and Mentor Artists Playwrights Project (mentorartists.org). Mersmann has been a featured speaker, interview guest, or moderator on several travel talks, from the New York Times Travel Show, Smithsonian Associates, and the 92nd Street Y-TriBeCa to Oprah and Friends, Animal House, and The Focus Group on satellite radio as well as on NY1 television. Past participant at the Clinton Global Initiative and judge for Condé Nast World Changers Conference, he blogs about volunteering and service travel at www.ChangeByDoing.com. As part of the evox television team, he is dedicated to audience engagement, so if you're not engaged, he needs to be thumped on the head (gently)...or at least told (nicely). Twitter: /ChangeByDoing

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