In 2010, my father brought back the Bakersfield Business Conference after a long hiatus. There were dozens, maybe hundreds, of people who had asked for us to take on the years-long effort of rebuilding the event, but one advocate, my grandmother, was particularly persuasive.
The conference was reborn in 2010 when my father resolved to keep a promise to my elderly grandmother who had complained earlier that she wouldn’t live to see another Bakersfield Business Conference. He responded that if she lived, he would make sure she saw another Conference.
(My grandmother, now in her nineties, was delighted when we announced the 2016 Conference. She’s looking forward to a front row seat in October.)
The 2010 Conference also had a special guest that was special not just for our conference attendees in general, but for my grandmother in particular. Our special guests concluding the 2010 program were not political figures as many had guessed, but individuals we believed our audience would classify as real heroes. One of those was Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, a former air force fighter pilot, who had been dubbed the “Hero of Hudson” after bringing 155 passengers to a safe water landing in a powerless jetliner. We were fairly confident that most people in the audience would consider Sully a hero — his calm under pressure saved lives — but we were certain that one audience member thought he was something special, indeed. My grandmother, a huge fan of Sully’s, had already read Captain Sully’s book before she met him in a surprise introduction backstage at the conference.
Sully received a standing ovation from over 10,000 Business Conference attendees, but I think it’s pretty clear that one was more impressed than the rest with the former fighter pilot.
Interestingly enough, in Warner Brother’s Sully film, Captain Sully is played by another former Bakersfield Business Conference speaker, Tom Hanks. You can check out the trailer here.