Face-off with Magic Johnson at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference? No problem

Okay, I didn’t exactly go toe-to-toe with Earvin (Magic) Johnson on the court, but I did face-off against him at the 2013 Milken Institute Global Conference. Let me explain…

It’s spring in Los Angeles and that can only mean one thing–it’s time for the much anticipated Global Conference. That’s how the Wall Street Journal described the event today–with 3500 people attending 140 sessions spread over 4 days. There are more than 600 speakers ranging from Al Gore to Tony Blair; Rupert Murdoch to Carlos Slim and Magic Johnson to Joe Torre. And the range of topics is just as broad–public policy topics like immigration reform and tax reform; healthcare issues and AIDS improvements to the future of Africa.

This was the tenth year for The Principal at the conference, although it was my first. The range of topics, the quality of the speakers and the encouragement for spirited discussion all serve to make this an eye-opening and educational event. Talk about getting out of your comfort zone!

My panel was on the topic of Global Risk, examining the changing complexities around the world. Joining me were Wesley Clark, retired General and former Supreme Allied Commander, NATO; Jane Harman, former Congresswoman; Mathew Burrows from the National Intelligence Center; and Joel Kurtzman from the Milken Institute. The headline coming out of our session could be “the world is a scary place.” It’s true that the world is changing swiftly and sometimes unpredictably. Remember the Arab Spring? Today in places like Syria, it is the Arab nightmare. Egypt, once a ray of hope, is now a combustible mix of anger, violence and dashed optimism. A financial tourniquet has halted the hemorrhaging in Greece, but Britain has a mind to leave the European Union. At the same time, Russia continues its retreat from the West, and an array of rocks in the ocean is inflaming historic enmities between China and Japan.  Then there is Africa.  As it gains speed economically after years of stagnation, new rebel and terrorist movements arise. What’s a business leader, investor, or concerned global investor to make of all this? Our panel discussed whether the world’s trouble spots will fester or get fixed, and what that means to the rest of us.

To hear “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say, take a look at the Global Risk panel video for highlights, and go deeper into our presence at the Global Conference.

Oh yeah, back to Magic Johnson. The conference runs on multiple tracks. Our panel on Global Risk happened to be at the same time as Magic recounted 20 years of his winning battle against AIDS. From reading reports on Twitter, it appears Magic slam dunked it.  I’m just happy to report that our topic also nearly filled a ballroom. Hopefully, like Magic’s story, we helped inspire solutions to managing the ever-growing risks on a global scale.