Our Inaugural Forum: Power in Togetherness

Written by Jennifer McGuire, Logistics & Events Manager for the Meyer Business on the Frontlines Program

 

A rhapsody of conversations, ideas, and togetherness. My perspective.

As I peered down from the third-floor balcony at the assembled guests, I was overcome with joy and excitement for what they were about to experience. Dinner in the Main Building on Sunday evening was the first soupcon of what was to be three bountiful days of idea-sharing and relationship-building.

Rotunda at BOTFL Forum

And as the hallowed walls vibrated to the mellifluous tones of opera singer, Blessing Agu (a graduate student in the Sacred Music Program), the serendipitous nature of the moment wasn’t lost on me. After all, it was Mother’s Day in the Golden Dome of Our Lady’s University, with Ave Maria resonating throughout the building. I couldn't imagine a more fitting tribute to the mothers present, Our Lady on the Dome, and our work in service to a mission far more significant than any of us.

The Forum, with its focus on what business could and should do to support communities emerging from the ravages of violence, poverty, and trauma, was years in the making—a labor of love and an audacious undertaking to bring partners from across the US and the world to our home, Notre Dame. Having cherished the beautiful diversity of the cultures and societies we served, it was our turn to showcase our Notre Dame culture. And while I'm undoubtedly biased, the results couldn’t have been more favorable, with partners raving about the opportunity to meet and learn about each other’s innovations. 

The kickoff event in the Main Building began with a cocktail reception where greetings and introductions were exchanged and, as mentioned, a beautiful and powerful song to start the dinner. 

From there, Professor Kelly Rubey welcomed guests and invoked the Annunciation when Mary said yes to God. It made me think of when I said yes to joining the BOTFL team and the resultant fulfillment I've enjoyed as I serve the greater need and mission. More importantly, I was sharing that moment with extraordinary partners who similarly said yes to their callings—serving their communities, teetering between devastation and hope, yet filled with so much promise. At that moment, with a heart full of joy and overawed by the intrinsic beauty of humanity, I asked myself, how can I do more? How can I create an experience to show our gratitude and dedication to our shared mission?

During our planning, I determined to keep the dinner humble yet inspiring. For table centerpieces, we utilized cultural artifacts our students had collected from the countries they served this past spring. And underneath those artifacts, we placed long mirrors, allowing guests to gaze 200 feet overhead into the concavity of the dome to admire the 19th-century “Religion Surrounded by the Arts” murals without leaving their seats! 

After Kelly’s speech, Professor Joe Sweeney offered an invocation and encouraged guests to enjoy their meals, which they did with aplomb. After dinner, we had Irish dancers showcase Irish culture and once again, vibrate the walls of the Main Building. Afterwards, our founder, Dr. Viva Bartkus, shared a beautiful story of a Colombian woman name Heliadora and how “we are all in the business of hope – hope for peace, for a better life, for opportunities for our children, for nature, and hope to be able to use our God-given talents to their fullest.”

Finally, the Dean of Mendoza College of Business, Dr. Martijn Cremers, presented the genesis story of Mendoza, Mendoza today, and how the Meyer Business on the Frontlines Program serves the common good by using business “for peace, dignity, and prosperity, but also the strength of Notre Dame and her commitment to being a powerful force for good in the world.”

BOTFL Forum

As the guests departed the Main Building, I watched them walk away and hoped they'd been inspired. Dinner was the first event of many over the following two days, and I was confident that we had set an inspiring tone for what was to follow. I prayed that our guests walked back to the Morris Inn feeling cherished and stewarded in the Notre Dame way.

The subsequent events included genesis stories, panels, keynote speakers, and breaking bread together, all sprinkled with photos, further cultural artifacts, and the beginning of new friendships. The Forum ended with a good ol’ fashioned minor-league baseball game at the home of the South Bend Cubs. Why? Because there was no better way to end an event of this significance than with peanuts and cracker jacks!