President Fox was in town to speak to the Wharton Hispanic American MBA Association (WHAMBAA). They had a reception with him, then he joined a group of about 30 business leaders for dinner. The group was interesting for me because it was so different from those I usually interact with, mainly they were from traditional industries. Everyone had name tags with just their name and organization, e.g. Lucinda Holt ClickEquations. We all hung around, chatted, drank and enjoyed beautiful little hors doeuvres while we waited. My first faux pas of the evening was asking Brother McGiniss of La Salle University what his role there was. Hes the President Doh! Everyone here is the President.
My second awkward moment was meeting President and Mrs. Fox. I was about 2/3rds of the way in line, so I thought that I knew what to expect, but I wasnt ready when he took by hand and leaned in to kiss me. Both cheeks, European style. Then I wasnt ready again when Mrs. Fox, who is about 5 tall, did the same thing. Oh well, at least I used the correct salutation with each of them and knew which (of the very very many) utensils to use.
There were about 30 people in attendance, at three tables of 10. I lucked out and was seated at the main table with President and Mrs. Fox. I have no idea why. There were men who ran huge water treatment and engineering firms on either side of me, the founder of a huge money management firm in Chicago, Managing Partners from two major law firms, and two others (who didnt make much of an impact on me, I guess!) filled out the table. I enjoyed talking before and after dinner with the engineer. Amazingly, we grew up just a few blocks from each other in a crummy neighborhood in Brooklyn.
Living in a world of technology and venture capital Im used to being a small minority as a woman and that wasnt any different despite the industry diversity. The only other women were Mrs. Fox and Anne Gordon from Dubilier & Co., past Managing Director of The Philadelphia Inquirer (and Eisenhower alum).
Dinner was, candidly, much less interesting than I expected. While the other two tables talked raucously, we listened to the Presidents story about his flight delay (the universal topic, travel stories), which was very funny and he told it very well. Then he asked each of us in turn what we do and used whatever we said or asked to riff for a while. Im not deeply familiar with the politics of Latin America, but the conversation didnt get very deep. I was longing for someone to really engage him, but that clearly wasnt what we were to do, so we didnt. I would have loved to have had a real discussion about the paradigm of large government and NGO projects I think its totally broken and he clearly believes in it. The perspectives from that group would have been fascinating but we were there to bask in the presence, suck up, and be hit up (quietly and tastefully) for donations to Fox Centro.
The whole experience was tremendously educational for me. And now Im just a single small degree of separation from Fidel Castro and the Pope! I wonder if theyre on LinkedIn.
I've started and/or run too many venture capital-backed software companies, plus one ill-fated food startup.