We live in uncertain times. Just reading social media can make your hair stand on end. Human rights are being violated, the rule of law is crumbling, there is greed, despotism, and so on. It is hard not to feel lost, discouraged and unprotected.
But I am an optimist. I believe that human beings are still capable of incredible feats. I look around, and I see peers expanding the limit of what is possible.
This is exactly what happened years ago when I served on a jury panel for a presentation from two sixteen-year-olds in Berlin, Germany. They took the stage and delivered, in perfect English, a fantastic example on how to present an innovative project.
When he stepped off the stage after receiving his award, I asked him to give me a hug. And I still remember what I said to him:
“You have restored my hope that there are incredible and exceptional people like you who are fighting for the future of the next generations.”
But my adventure with the winners of Innovators Under 35 was not over yet. About a month ago, I was sitting in a movie theater and was shocked by one of the commercials projected before the movie, a masterfully expressed call for early diagnosis of Dyslexia. The spot brought a tear to my eye.
The awareness campaign was signed by Samsung and Dytective, a project championed by the Spanish researcher Luz Rello. She too had been recognized as an Innovator Under 35 Spain in 2014, as well as receiving the special mention of Social Innovator of the Year.
Like them, thousands of young entrepreneurs, researchers and inventors are dedicating themselves body and soul to improving our planet. We live in a society where no one has time for anything. We are all obsessed with our smartphones and barely notice our surroundings. Gone are the lunches with friends, walks through the park, handwritten letters, postcards and “I love you”s.
So I believe we need to stop, even if just occasionally, and think. We should look around and give thanks for those people who are fighting for a better future.
MIT Technology Review’s Innovators Under 35 are relentlessly committed to fighting for what they feel is needed. To them, professional ethics are not dead, nor the fight for survival, moral values or humanity. Each and every one of them is an excellent role model, not just for younger generations but older generations as well. They prove that it is possible to change things, that we can positively impact the world.
I am tremendously fortunate to rub shoulders with many of these award winners; people I feel very proud of, people who inspire me to be a better person, to help more and more people, not to take what I have for granted and to fight for what we want.
Perhaps what most impresses me about them is that, irrespective of the awards they receive, these people are extremely committed to their endeavors. Even if their companies fail, their funds disappear, or their research is belittled.
I have to humbly take off my hat and express my heartfelt gratitude. Thank you for your hard work, thank you for your dedication, inspiration, and courage. Thank you.
And finally, no less important is recognizing the entire team behind the European Innovators Under 35 awards: the editors, the researchers, the ambassadors and the judges. For years they have been doing a job which I believe is critical: recognizing and awarding a lifetime of striving.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” — John F. Kennedy
In a society that values making an effort less and less, it is an honor and a privilege to form part of an organization that rewards the courage and dedication of succeeding generations. I hope that in 2017 these awards, as always, showcase the best voices that we will hear in future.