BY NHIEN NGUYEN
When Eric Liu was researching for his book, “Guiding Lights: The People Who Lead Us Toward Our Purpose in Life,” it was his dream to gather some of the “luminary” teachers and mentors he met for a roundtable discussion.
This gathering happened when his book was released in 2004, two events in New York and Seattle. Now, Liu says, the seed has sprouted into something even more powerful: a full-weekend experiential conference on the art of mentoring.
On Jan. 21-22, the Seattle Center will host the first-ever Guiding Lights Weekend, an event for learners and teachers of all kinds, with two full days of fun, participatory workshops, public celebrations, creative panels and other activities.
The conference comes at a time when mentoring activities in Seattle have boomed. Liu says this area has a “strong sense of community.”
“The idea [of the conference] took on a life and momentum of its own — we’ve had a great range of sponsors and partners, and the word of mouth on the event has been great,” says Liu, a member of the Leadership Council of the Washington State Mentoring Partnership.
The Saturday conference includes a day of session from topics such as “Framing Messages that Move People” to “You are a Clown.” Asian American speakers include Judge Mary Yu, Jocelyn Wong of Procter & Gamble, among others.
In the selection of panelists and speakers for the conference, Liu said that the planners looked for diversity — of identity, experience, profession, mentoring and teaching styles, and world views.
Besides the Saturday conference, Liu highlights the Sunday program, “A Celebration of National Mentoring Month,” which is free to the public. Liu says it’s a “big public festival” with a Mentoring Expo representing over 20 regional organizations, panel discussions, performances, and a celebration with Mayor Nickels, Lori Matsukawa of KING-5 and David Okimoto of the United Way.
Liu, whose book was named the Official Book of National Mentoring Month, said, “If you want to become a mentor or find a mentor, this conference is for you.”
For Liu, the concept of mentoring has always been of interest to him, in particular because he was in search of mentors to guide his own life.
“When I became a father, I realized all the ways I must be and become a mentor,” said Liu, also the author of “The Accidental Asian.”
If one does not have a mentor and wants one, Liu says to first and foremost, “Come to the Guiding Lights Weekend!” But also, he recommends people to think about how you want to grow and what you’d like to learn. And then, simply ask someone to be your mentor.
Liu said, “People like to be asked and people want to pass on what they know.”
As for Liu’s mentor, he said, “There is no single person I would point to — like many people, it’s a composite for me — a bit of this person and a bit of that one, some of this experience and some of that — and the composite is always evolving.
“I feel we can learn from and be taught by anyone and any encounter.”
For information, for the conference, visit www.seattlecenter.org/guidinglights.