For anyone who has attended an annual Alltech symposium, it comes as no surprise the events are filled with music, huge video productions and a lineup of speakers that leaves normal conventions in the dust. This year was no exception as the Alltech “REBELation,” as it was billed, took over the Lexington Convention Center and Rupp Arena.
The opening session began with a stage filled with local schoolchildren singing their rendition of the Beatles classic “Revolution,” setting the theme for the entire conference.
Alltech founder and president Dr. Pearce Lyons wasted no time in getting the crowd excited as he usually does with an enthusiastic speech about all the possibilities that await those in attendance and talking about the rebels that have created change in the world.
He also told the 3,000 attendees that came from all parts of the world that Alltech has a goal to build a better world. “Hopefully, that’s your goal, too,” he said.
The opening session began with Gen. Colin Powell, former secretary of state and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who shared many of his military and governmental experiences with the gathering.
First, however, he talked about what the purpose was of a company like Alltech.
“The purpose is very, very clear to me, and that is to feed the world: feed the world that is growing in population, to feed a world that is being challenged by environmental issues, to feed a world where poverty is still endemic even though so many of us are so well-fed and doing well, to feed a world where one of the most essential elements is water and it is starting to become a problem,” he said.
He added that it takes a conference like the symposium where people from all over the world have come together to rebel against conventional wisdom and say, “We can do better.”
Powell received the Alltech Medal of Excellence Award, an honor bestowed annually upon someone of great achievement and character.
Powell set the stage for much of the conference, which dealt with feeding the world and being a good leader. Speakers with many different backgrounds shared information with the audience, including Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market; Dan Glickman, former USDA secretary; and Jim Stengel, the former global marketing officer with Proctor and Gamble, to name a few.
Being held in one of the most famous basketball arenas in the world, it was only fitting University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari would be the main speaker at the closing session.
He spoke about coaching individuals with extreme talent and how it’s about not only coaching their bodies but coaching their minds, as well.
“It all starts with players first. Their dreams become our dreams,” he said. “Last year, we started the season with a goal, and you may think that goal was to win a national title – win all the games. It was to get eight players drafted.”
Calipari added that the state’s mission for him is to win titles, but his mission is greater.
“My mission is to be a vehicle to help others reach their dreams, to be the stone that creates the ripple in their lives that goes on and on,” he said.
In the last six years, 26 of Calipari’s players have gone on to play in the NBA. After his speech at the symposium, he received the 2015 Alltech Humanitarian Award.
In closing, Lyons left his guests with a challenge. He said, “My challenge to you is to see the world as it is. Are you impacting the world, or is the world impacting you? It is all about risk, action and reward.”
But, he added, you’ve got to love the journey. He also quoted the late Sen. Edward Kennedy when he said, “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.” PD
Tim Thornberry is a freelance writer based in Frankfort, Kentucky.