I stood in the middle of the auditorium. Teams of students waved their flags and called out to me to choose them. It dawned on me that hosting a segment of forum theatre at the Future Leader’s Conference would be harder than I'd anticipated.
Volunteers and SLU Team members approached me, "Choose people from Mathara, Kegalle, Kandy Knights. They haven't had an opportunity to perform". I took in their suggestions, while thinking I also wanted to ensure an equal ethnic and gender representation.
During most of my hours at the conference, I often contemplated how each activity must be "inclusive". A good event ensures Sinhala, Tamil and English translations. It ensures Tamil and Sinhala speakers participate equally. It ensures that young girls participate as much as young boys. And, I always get quite upset if this standard isn't met.
But, here I was walking down the aisle of the auditorium about to choose a person to perform. As I walked, students called out to me on both sides. "No one has chosen our team" many called out.
I could only choose one. So, I chose one to the best of my sensibility.
Two young boys (of different teams) with furry in their eyes approached me. “Why haven’t you chosen our team?” they questioned. “You haven’t given us a chance”.
I was taken aback. Did he really think I was purposely excluding them?
Intention is tricky thing to judge. That much I know. Here I was trying to be as just as possible, but I was being accused of unjust intent.
As I stood in that auditorium looking into the eyes of this young boy, I thought. ‘It must be so difficult to lead and manage so many people’. The chaos that ensued in that auditorium as hundreds of kids screamed and cheered to have a team member perform on stage was intimidating.
No matter how much I intended to ensure every student felt included, when there’s a hundred kids screaming at you, I’d miss a few or maybe many.
But, what I wished for at that moment was that those students could know and see that my intentions were pure. I hoped they’d sympathise with how difficult the task was.
At that moment, I settled with the realization of how difficult it is to ensure inclusivity in a conference, in a nation.
We should always strive for that end goal. But, we should also have compassion and humility towards one another when we fail to reach that ideal. Sometimes the task is daunting, it’s a difficult one. Nevertheless, we must strive to spread that inclusivity as a necessity on this Island.
And, it’s comforting to know that Sri Lanka Unites is doing its best to ensure inclusive intent spreads through the hearts of our future leaders.