As I prepare to meet Angela Merkel today with you, my fellow BUKAS, I reflect on how this year and you have changed me. This group is a kind that inspires, that makes you want to live in a world where humans and ideas connect unhindered by borders, real or imagined. In a room of BUKAS, the Brazilians quickly infect the room with full-hearted belly-aching laughter, the Indians light up the room with their colors and colorful souls, the Russians, the toastmasters, foster lifelong camaraderie with heartfelt words and a perfectly placed Russian proverb, the Chinese are protectors and listeners who lend a sense of ease and comfort, and the Americans, in their many colors and cultures, ignite debate (often, very loudly) on everything from dating to robots. Yet, we each transcend our countries and culture to offer one another genuine friendship, to offer our professional communities academic scholarship, and to offer the world a glimpse of what true peace might look like. If I’ve done nothing else this year, I’ve eaten homemade (or hotelmade) Chinese dumplings and Indian curry and drank Russian vodka and Brazilian caipirinhas with y'all, the people who give these tastes history, and soul, and memory. I’ve learned a little Samba and Russian folk dancing, was schooled by the Chinese on proper Karaoke etiquette, and sang a truly horrifying version of “Sweet Caroline” with my fellow Americans. As a New Orleanian, I believe that we can eat and drink and sing and dance through almost anything, because when people share the things that shake up their souls, sparks ignite and minds open.