The Making of a Young Leader
By Amin Haq
As it were, the adjective “callow” and the noun “youth” are often conjugated to describe the thoughts, motivations and actions of someone who is of a tender age. This happens far too often, is reflexive and unfortunate. I was guilty of such a transgression in judging a young man - an eighteen-year-old young man to be precise.
Faizan Mehdi, by all accounts appears to be your quintessential, California-raised-kid. Mr. Mehdi has also been gifted with those rare qualities that make us human: he has innate humility and empathy towards those less fortunate than him. The ability to realize that you have it far better than billions of other humans merely by the accident of birth in the right-household, and to feel compassion for those who did not fare so well in the gene pool draw, is rare and as I learned, is independent of one’s age and experience.
Like most Pakistani-Americans, Faizan witnessed the devastating impact of the 2010 floods in Pakistan from the comfort and security of his home in Southern California. He saw what we all saw. However, he chose to do what very few of us could do or would do: he gave of himself whole heartedly and convinced scores around him to do the same.
In order to achieve his goal of giving back to society, Faizan formed a youth group under Shine Humanity (www.ShineHumanity.org) which is a Southern California based non-profit involved numerous post-disaster rehabilitation projects in Pakistan and around the globe. Faizan and his young cohorts comprise Shine Humanity’s Youth Group.
Pakistani flood victims, who comprise an estimated 35 to 40 million in number, are still in desperate need of help in rehabilitating them to their former lives. Unfortunately, this fact is increasingly becoming a non-issue for the Government of Pakistan, the citizens of Pakistan and for that matter overseas Pakistanis alike. For Faizan the plight of the forgotten and displaced Pakistanis was not ignorable and he took action by mobilizing a group of dedicated young Southern Californians to organize an “Urban Jam” to raise money for Pakistan.
To the uninitiated, an Urban Jam is hip-hop on steroids. It is akin to a Rap-Track-Bait-Bazi performed by DJs who feed off the energy of the revelers to mix, and on the go, blend tracks of various popular artists. To stage a successful Urban Jam one needs a large, safe venue, a high quality, ear splitting sound system, DJ’s and above all an enthusiastic audience.
The Urban Jam venue was University High School of Irvine, California. The day was Saturday, May 14th. After several weeks of preparations, Shine Humanity’s Youth Group led by Faizan was ready to launch the event. The stage was up; the mega sound system blared music; laser lights were synchronized and beefy security professionals in place. Faizan and his team appeared physically exhausted but their smiles and laughter were contagious. Urban Jam was ready to rock.
The fiesta began promptly at 7:15 PM and did not end until 11:00 PM that evening.
In all over 1,200 teenagers ranging between 14 and 18 years of age flocked to the aid of Pakistan contributing in excess of $18,000. By any measure Urban Jam was a veritable success.
Oscar Wilde had once wryly observed, “A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” I counted myself as one of those cynics as I had witnessed far too many, well crafted, and what appeared to me, self-laudatory events staged for the specific purposes of garnering recognition for a chosen few, Southern Californian Pakistan-Americans. Faizan surprised me and for the better. I noted with amazement and incredulity as he eschewed any form of public recognition for his service to fellow humans. At the event he made no speeches, and garnered no awards for himself. I wondered did he just forget to pat himself on the back publicly or was he the real deal?
After the event, the cynic in me couldn’t help but ask Faizan about his motivations for staging the benefit. His reply was simple: he did what he did because it had to be done and because he realized he could do it. One cannot help but wonder if a person’s motivations could get more sublime that that.
Having a sense of purpose, engaging in activities that deliver on that purpose, motivating others to buy into your purpose and upon achieving your goal to humbly fade away into the background is what attracts us to people who manifest genuine leadership qualities. Faizan Mehdi is the real deal.