ASAE Inspires in Salt Lake City

Twin astronauts talk about how their careers lifted off — and ASAE takes a stand on discrimination.


Few careers have gone to such heights as those of twin brothers Mark and Scott Kelly, both of whom have orbited 200 miles above the earth as NASA astronauts. But neither brother showed any early promise as a high achiever, they told the audience at the opening keynote at ASAE’s 2016 Annual Meeting & Exposition, held at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Aug. 13–16.

Participants created their own sessions using Open Space techniques.
Participants created their own sessions using Open Space techniques.

They didn’t stand out academically while students in their hometown of Orange, New Jersey, and both performed so unimpressively during their training as U.S. Navy pilots that their respective commanding officers asked them if they might want to consider another career path. But “how good you are at the beginning of anything you do is not a good indicator of how good you can become,” said Capt. Scott Kelly, former commander of the International Space Station, who in 2015 set a record for the most total accumulated days spent in space by an American astronaut.

His twin brother, Capt. Mark Kelly, who is married to former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, had this advice for attendees: “Focus on what you can control, and ignore what you can’t.” Added Scott: “Make small, deliberate, and constant corrections, even when things are going well.”

The latter could apply to ASAE’s agenda, which included a variety of new learning formats, including 20 discussions developed by attendees using Open Space methods. Attendees participated in rapid-fire “Ignite” sessions, where presentations included lessons drawn from everything from cooking to The Hunger Games to parkour. Nearly 5,000 people attended the meeting, bookended with receptions held outdoors, offering views of the surrounding pastel-hued mountains.

‘Zero Tolerance’

At a press conference during ASAE 2016, President and CEO John Graham, CAE, announced that the ASAE Board of Directors had voted to add a clause to future event contracts that would make discriminatory laws passed by city or state governments an incident of force majeure. It doesn’t signal that ASAE intends to take moral positions on social policies, Graham said. “But we have zero tolerance for discriminatory practices.” ASAE’s non-discrimination clause:

It shall be considered an incident of force majeure, and thus relieve Event Sponsor of any obligation to Property under this Agreement, including but not limited to waiver of any cancellation or attrition penalties, and Event Sponsor will receive in full a refund of any amounts paid to Property pursuant to this Agreement, if, at any time between the effective date of this Agreement and the beginning dates of Event Sponsor’s event, Event Sponsor provides written notice to Property of cancellation of this Agreement based upon any state or local government arm, including a legislature, board, or agency in the jurisdiction of the Property, having enacted legislation or regulation that has the effect of: 1) repealing existing legal protections or prohibiting the passage of legal protections for Subject Individuals; 2) allowing discrimination against Subject Individuals in employment, housing, or public accommodations or services; or 3) prohibiting Subject Individuals from accessing facilities (including, but not limited to, restrooms), where “Subject Individuals” are those identified in the legislation or regulation based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity, family responsibility, political affiliation, or disability.

Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor and director of digital content.