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Alltech Symposium answers the question What If

Alltech kicked off their 30th annual International Symposium on Sunday May 18th in Lexington, KY where attendees came from around the world to hear the answer to "What If."

The 2014 Alltech 30th Annual Symposium kicks off with positive messages.
Diana De Rosa Photo
Dr. Pearse Lyons talking at the Alltech Symposium
Diana De Rosa Photo

The event takes place through Wednesday, May 20th and features three days of educational opportunities geared towards anyone in the agricultural world. Monday focused on educating those who came about the issues that our farmers face if they are to continue to feed the ever increasing population. The first day focused on speakers who inspired, challenged and educated those who came as to what should and can be done to change the world.

One of the main issues focused on was the fact that each year there are 80 million more people in the world that farmers need to feed. If we don’t look ahead there will ultimately not be enough food to feed this ever increasing population. This issue needs to be addressed now not after it becomes a problem.

The beauty of Alltech is that the company looks to natural ways of doing things whenever possible. The company creates feed for an extended variety of animals that would be seen at farms across the world. These do include horses but even more so poultry, dairy, beef, swine and fish.

Alltech is a global animal health and nutrition company, headquartered in Lexington, KY. The company develops agricultural products for use in both livestock and crop farming, as well as products for the food industry. The three things they focus on are animal nutrition and health; crop science; and, food and beverage.

Without a doubt it's an inspiration to have a company focused on educating the world about what can be done to improve the health and well-being of both ourselves and our animals.

More and more processing is happening to the food chain and that is NOT a good thing. Alltech recognizes that the only way we can change this is by taking a leadership role to educate the world on how to solve this ongoing problem.

Members from around the world are welcomed to the Symposium

The symposium began on Sunday night with a welcoming session, which in addition to a dinner featured some of the best local opera singers. It was a unique and unexpected twist but for those who know Alltech’s founder and President, Dr. Pearse Lyons, he is best known for doing the unexpected.

Dr. Lyons is a man who thinks outside the box and follows his own path on how to run the company he started back in 1980 when he invested $10,000 into a business which has now grown to be worth $1 billion. This is the same man who made the decision in 2007 to invest an initial $10 million to become the title sponsor of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games held in Lexington.

Dr. Lyons then traveled to France to seal yet another sponsorship for the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games to be held in Normandy August 24-September 7. This is a man who spends most of his time 30,000 feet in the air flying to the various headquarters where his company's products are manufactured and/or sold.

He’s an amazing man whose annual symposium has left many inspired and innovated and it was clear as the doors opened to this annual event that we would all be mesmerized by what we’d take away from this year’s event.

The education and realization of what the world faces begins

Monday morning began with a Plenary session where Dr. Lyons and a host of other featured speakers shared their knowledge and words of encouragement. The message they sent was that each and every one of us needs to be the catalyst to help create a change in this world if we want to be sure that the food chain will remain intact for not only us but for those who will be born long after we become just a memory.

Dr. Lyons stepped on the staged following a chorus of children singing “I have a dream,” and it was that theme that was reinforced throughout the symposium.

“What is your dream?” Dr. Lyons said as he kicked off the What If symposium. “A goal is simply a dream with a deadline. So what is your goal, what is your dream and what is your deadline?”

“What would your tombstone say,” he continued. “Would you want yours to say you risked nothing and you achieved nothing?”

“Steve Jobs transformed our lives totally, unbelievably and utterly,” he continued. “This symposium is about what ifs, not my what ifs but your what ifs. It’s about transformation, innovation and passion.”

His words of wisdom continued. “The purpose of life is a life of purpose,” he added, before moving on to one of the most inspiring parts of the day.

Presentation of the Humanitarian Award

What next took place had the room of people mesmerized for the next half hour. This was the moment when Dr. Lyons presented Olympian Lopez Lomong with the 2014 Alltech Humanitarian Award. Lomong was the flag bearer at the 2008 Olympic Games.

Our hearts went out to this man as he relayed his life’s story to us.

“My Olympic dream started when I was 6 years old in a church surrounded by my family,” began Lopez in his acceptance speech. Suddenly the church was stormed by soldiers and Lopez was among the many children that were taken from their parents and piled into a truck amidst the eerie cries of the other children who were also in the South Sudan church in Africa.

When they arrived at their destination 3-4 hours later they were blindfolded and moved into a prison camp. “My childhood completely disappeared. I had to learn to survive.”

Lopez explained that being one of the youngest of the group the older kids took care of him, but life became a challenge and survival was rare. In time the kids started dying one-by-one as they ate the food mixed with sand that they were fed. Lopez learned early on to pick out only the edible food if he wanted to survive but he had to watch child after child being taken away when they lost their battles with life.

One night after a couple of the kids discovered a hole in one of the fences two of them took Lopez with them and the three of them crawled around the fencing and out through that hole in hopes of running home. They then ran for their lives.

“We ran and ran through the wilderness for three days and three nights,” explained Lopez. Unfortunately they got turned around and found themselves at the Kenya border patrol where they were arrested by the guards. They ended up in another camp and that took away the next 10 years of their lives. Lopez referred to those years as boys taking care of boys.

To survive they did not talk about the past but rather about the future. In 2000, at 15 years old he saw Michael Johnson win a Gold Medal and he then and there said to himself that one day he wanted to be an Olympian.

In 2001, he wrote his life story which at 16 years of age ultimately gave him the opportunity to come to the United States where he was adopted by a family in upstate, NY. He was then given the opportunity to do something he’d always wanted to do and that was to go to school.

This part of his speech was an eye opener because as much as we take for granted all we have here in the U.S. it was when Lopez talked about having to walk miles for water and never having seen a shower, that we realized how lucky we are. He also reflected on what it was like to have his own bed for the first time in his life. When he lived in Africa, a shower was the nearest river. He’d never seen electricity. The lists of what he’d never had access to was endless.

From then on he decided to live by these guidelines:

-Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, failure is just a challenge to succeed the next time.

-You are not given opportunities; you make them, so make your dreams a reality.

-You have the ability and responsibility to make a difference.

“I am no longer a refuge I am an ambassador. I want to give back to America that continues to help my people. Here in the United States you are born with things like clean water, something they don’t have in my country,” he continued making it clear that he will do what he can to make a difference.

The theme then for him was that we as a nation have to give these kids the ability to fulfill a dream, just like he had. It was clear by the end of his story why Alltech had chosen this amazing young man as the recipient of the Alltech Humanitarian Award

While there is more coming about this eye-opening event, this is a perfect place to end this first in a series of stories about this Alltech's 30th annual Symposium.

For more information visit their web site at Alltech.com/Symposium. For twitter feeds go to #AGFuture.