Pabel Vivanco, President of the Peruvian Students Association.
I interviewed Pabel on the 29th of April in the evening for a class of mine on the topic of leadership. He came to the dorms to be interviewed and to play card games with some of his friends. Pabel is a Senior International Studies major and a transfer student, in addition to being a very involved international student and United World College graduate/ Davis scholar. I thought this unique perspective could prove enlightening, and I was not disappointed.
The first question I asked Pabel was, “What is a leader to you?” His response was that a leader is not the one we commonly think of as being the first to do something, to start a movement or action. Rather, this person is crazy. The real leader is the second person, who sees something good and makes something out of it. He sees a leader as not the visionary or the abstract thinker, but the person that can put ideas into practice.
“Would you consider yourself a leader?” I asked him next. To this he responded, “I’m the crazy person.” Leaders are overrated, he said, and in an organization everybody plays a role. In an organization everyone is the leader, and every member should be able and necessary to participate and add to the experience of every other person.
At this, I asked him whether he expected things, therefore, from other people, and what those expectations were, if anything. Being committed, he said, was the most important thing for a member. Compromise is essential. This doesn’t mean valuing someone else’s time, or even respecting it, but honoring it. If you say you will be somewhere, you must be there, because not being there would place more value on your own time, and dishonor theirs.
I asked Pabel, how did you come to be in the place you are, both in the situation and position? He said after thinking a bit that where he is now is due to “50% personality, 50% luck, or maybe since I found my faith in God and Jesus, purpose.” He went on, saying that 5 years ago you wouldn’t bet a penny on him. Now, “I’m a senior and I’m passionate about my country.” He does what he does in his organization as “Not something I’m stressed about. I’m just doing it for the satisfaction” of presenting his culture and country and connecting to that which he thinks he lost a while ago, but has found anew. The starting of the Peruvian Student Association has allowed pabel to “Connect with the part of me that I was not connected with. There are some words you don’t say even with other Latin Americans in Spanish,” he said about the distinct cultural connections he has with those of his home country. The accent, the clothing, it is all important to him now that he’s found it.
In the end I asked Pabel if there was any advice he would like to give future or current leaders. He mentioned education, but eventually turned around to action. “If you have a chance to do something, and you and nervous about doing it, do it.” Don’t hold back, he said, making the most of the time you have here and now.
I learned a great deal about the was Pabel sees the world through this interview, and speaking with him more later have me an insight into his life and what brought him here to OU. I think his is a view shared by many United World College students, though it is always a variation on a theme. And I entirely agree with his stance on leadership, and I too believe that leadership is not a title, but a lifestyle, and even to call it leadership does a disservice. It is not enough to organize and beurocratize, though these are often necessary, but to engage with anything you do, in school or organizations or life generally. As he said, we are some of the privileges fraction of a percent who are exposed to culture and are able to change out worldview based on this, so it is important to understand that this is the time to act in everything we do.