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Christopher Fix '86, CEO of the Dubai Mercantile Exchange, and Sunny Hostin '90, CNN legal analyst and attorney, presented at TEDxBinghamtonUniversity on March 15.
Photo by Jonathan King
Alumni return to give TEDx talks
March 16, 2015Tweet
Mark Twain once said that the two most important days in life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.
Sunny Hostin ’90 believes that the literary icon was missing a day.
“I love Twain, but I think he got it wrong,” the attorney, journalist and CNN legal analyst told the audience at TEDxBinghamton University. “There are three life-defining days: ‘Day one,’ of course, is the day you were born. ‘Day three’ is when you find your purpose. … But I think there is a ‘day two’ that is probably more important: The day you find out who you will not be – who you will not become.”
Hostin, whose talk was called “A Possibility Model,” was one of two Binghamton University alumni to take the Osterhout Concert Theater stage on March 15. Christopher Fix ’86, CEO of the Dubai Mercantile Exchange, discussed “Oil in the Middle Eastern Markets and What It Means to the Rest of the World.” A third Binghamton University speaker, sophomore Jack Fischer became the first undergraduate speaker at TEDxBinghamton University when he discussed “Porn: The New Tobacco.”
The rest of the lineup for “Walk the Talk,” the fifth annual TEDx event on campus, included Adam Eskin, founder and CEO of Dig Inn Seasonal Market (“The Fast Food Revolution”); hula hoop artist Lisa Lottie (“My Weapon of Choice”); Maria Santelli, executive director of the Center on Conscience and War (“Witnessing the Power of Conscience: Conscientious Objection in a Voluntary Military”); and professor/author Zephyr Teachout (“What is Corrupt?”).
Hostin urged the audience of students, faculty/staff and community members not to let their “day one” define them.
“Too many people are tethered to that first day, that origin,” she said. “They can’t see beyond that circumstance.
“If I had let my ‘day one’ define me, I would’ve been a statistic. I certainly wouldn’t have gone to high school at 12 and I wouldn’t have (attended Binghamton University) at 16. And I certainly wouldn’t be here speaking to all of you today.”
Hostin was born in 1968 to teen-aged parents and grew up in the South Bronx – a place she said most people’s dreams die.
It was on a cold, black-and-white tile floor there when Hostin experienced her “day two.” The 6-year-old watched as her uncle bled from a stabbing.
“I remember thinking: I’m not going to live like this. I’m not going to take drugs. I’m not going to live a life of violence. This is not who I will be.”
That day defined Hostin for so long that she thought for many years it was her “day three.” She became a prosecutor, specializing in child-sex crimes, and then a journalist after marrying and having a child. Hostin landed a position at CNN and even modeled herself after fellow CNN journalist Soledad O’Brien.
“I got to talk about all of these (important) issues on TV,” Hostin said. “I thought:
This is my day three.”
Hostin did not find her “true day three” until she traveled to Sanford, Fla., to meet the family of Trayvon Martin, an African-American teen shot and killed on the street in 2012. Hostin said she was “floored” by the not-guilty verdict against George Zimmerman, a neighborhood-watch volunteer charged in Martin’s death.
“While I was in Sanford, people started to come up to me: ‘This isn’t fair, Sunny. You have to go on the air and tell our story,’” she said. “It all made sense to me. When you find your ‘day three,’ it will be just like that.”
Hostin said she soon “came into my own,” receiving more exposure on CNN, appearing on “The View” and “Dr. Phil” and even meeting Oprah Winfrey.
“All of these things happened when I started being my authentic and true self,” she said.
Hostin is observing more people having their “day two” and “day three” in the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City.
“I’m seeing young people thoughtfully protesting,” she said. “They are finding their paths, finding their voice and speaking up for other people.”
“Speaking up for other people” is something Hostin strives for every day. The first mantra she follows is from Proverbs 31:8: Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. The second mantra comes from former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden: You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone else.
She also still abides by advice delivered by her father: If you follow your passion and use it to do your life’s work, you will never feel like you are working.
“Even with your ‘day three,’ I hope that you let your desire to be of service help you discover your purpose,” she said.
Like Hostin, Fix also provided some advice to audience members. He focused on how people – particularly students – can become “influencers” in the “Dubai to Shanghai corridor.”
Dubai, located in the United Arab Emirates, is experiencing “explosive growth,” Fix said. Dubai not only sits on top of the world’s largest oil reserve, but it is also the busiest transportation hub in the world. This growth has set the stage for the Dubai Mercantile Exchange to become the crude-oil benchmark for expanding populations east of Dubai, such as China, India, Japan and Southeast Asia.
“I’m dedicated to the financialization of this market,” Fix said. “This is an important place because Asia continues to grow as a consumer.”
In fact, by 2035, Asia is expected to consume 40 percent of the crude-oil market, Fix said.
“All of the Fortune 500 companies – IBM, Sysco, the airlines – are trying to get a piece of this market,” he said. “That’s a good place for you to start if you are thinking about a career and what you want to do. You could be the one who helps these companies sell their goods and services.”
Fix emphasized two skills that are needed to succeed in the region. The first: language.
“Language isn’t just translation,” he said. “It’s communication. I speak Chinese and it helps me go into China and not only understand their cultural interests, but what they are trying to say and get at.”
Fix continues to educate himself, studying Chinese three to four hours a week.
“It allows me to elevate my conversation every time I go back to see them,” he said.
The second skill stressed by Fix was international experience and the ability to live abroad.
“Get yourself an internship or exchange program,” he said. “When I look at résumés, I want to see that people have lived overseas and won’t run home if they don’t like the food.
“It’s important to invest in the knowledge you need, especially on the business side and cultural side. When you do that, you become the influencer. It helps you punch above your weight and move your career faster.”
Fix closed his presentation by showing his business card on the large screen above the Osterhout Concert Theater stage. Displaying his name in English, Chinese and Arabic, the card showed the potential of language and international skills in a growing, diversified world.
“There’s a lot of culture that comes back to me and helps me see the world in a different way,” Fix said, looking up at the display. “I hope that some of you might take the same path and look outside the U.S.”