Pre-Conference Thoughts at WCI

I titled this post poorly. I thought I was going to write about what is going to happen this week, and was inexplicably drawn as much to what already happened. Such is the peril of a wandering mind with free access to the World Wide Web. 
The 2019 WCI kicked off Saturday with the annual Give Kids the World (GKTW) service day. Sure, the opening session of the conferences is still hours away. I remember when the opening session was the start of this conference, but that has been a few years. Slowly, we have seen the agenda ease into the weekend before. In my limited perception, that started with the Zehmer Moot Court competition on Sunday afternoons; it has been going on for 32 years. Later, the GKTW work day began, and later still the Professional Mediation Institute moved its programming from Wednesday to a Sunday/Monday combination. What used to be a Sunday trip to Orlando has evolved to a Friday drive. 
After these various evolutions, there has been further change. With so many present for the GKTW workday, the suggestion was made for a fundraising dinner, or "gala" for GKTW, and that has become a staple of Saturday night. The Moot Court has grown and expanded (24 teams from 9 states this year) and that has necessitated addition of a quarter and semi-final round added to Monday mornings. A few years later, the idea of spiritual well-being was raised, and a group of volunteers created the Prayer Breakfast program on Monday at 7:00. 
New partnerships evolved over the last ten years also. Two independent colleges became integral to the WCI. First the National Association of Workers' Compensation Judiciary (NAWCJ) for judges. This is the only judiciary college in the country that caters to the workers' compensation adjudicator. Later, the Southern Association of Workers' Compensation Administrators (SAWCA), which had begun hosting its regulator round table on Monday afternoons at WCI, began a regulator college. Both of these individual and special curricula begin first thing Monday morning as well. 
Thus, before the "opening bell," on today at 9:00, the WCI will have been up and running in fact for days. And, as I reflect [Sunday] morning, those days are really a great part of this experience from my perspective. I will touch on each briefly.
The GKTW work day is an adventure. First and foremost, it is a tremendous honor to be associated with such an organization. Last year, I detailed the organization and my 2018 experience. Although the workday has been a part of WCI for several years, 2018 was my first visit. In 2018 and 2019, I am told that the effort included 1,100 or more volunteers (pictured below, I am in the red circle). Consider that in context, over 1,000 people descending on this charitable oasis and performing a morning of labor. It is simply awesome that so many could find the moment to spend helping those in need. It is an endorsement of their humanity and our community. 
It is an adventure because, you gather in the Marriott ballroom. The hour is early (thanks to some misinformation, several of us were there at 06:00, about an hour early). We had a chance for collegiality and camaraderie. As folks trickled in, the quite ballroom became animated. There were groans of "where is the coffee," and acquaintances and  friendships were formed and renewed. I saw people I had not seen in person since the last workday. The sense of community and purpose was palpable. 
The Moot Court program is a perennial favorite of mine. I have long participated out of my appreciation for what this endeavor does for the students and for the appreciation of workers' compensation law. It is energizing to see young people so engaged, so enthusiastic, so dedicated, and frankly intense. They are bright, eager, and focused on this little corner of the law. They will present their arguments all Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, with the finals Monday afternoon. If you get the chance, you should stop in for a round. Their presence reminds us all that the next generation is in fact here, and they are absolutely ready to engage and lead. 
The prayer breakfast is a different sort of inspiration. Too much of the conference life is focused solely on the intellectual, the social, and the business. The volunteers that founded the Faith Based Claims Association rightly decided that there is room in our professional lives for spiritual growth and renewal. This group began hosting a prayer breakfast several years ago. It is a chance to renew and share spiritual foundations and connections before the great efforts of the conference, in educating, sharing, and building. And, it strengthens out community. Though envisioned as a pre-conference renewal, the other evolutions above now make its Monday morning timing more of a mid-adventure hiatus and renewal. 
These evolutions illustrate some important points. First, we all know there is education, business, and even some fun at great conferences. But, there is also community. Through these efforts, we both build community and see it at work. Second, within that community, we see relationships and connection. Already this week I have met new people, worked with them in beautifying a community jewel (GKTW), and it has renewed me, invigorated me. Third, we are collectively and individually better when we are giving of ourselves. That can be through any of these and a thousand other outlets, but it is innate to our well being that we contribute. 
I am looking forward to a sea of familiar faces over the next few days. I will strive to reconnect and renew both friendships and acquaintances. But, I will strive to remember the great things among this experience, the opportunity through our individual effort to support and nurture our community, workers' compensation. We are brought together by our professions and their inter-relatedness, but we are strengthened and nurtured by our commitment to each other as people. I hope you too find motivation in that spirit. I hope you will find a way to connect with the great people in this community. I hope to see you this week. I look forward to catching up. Thank you for who you are and what you do to make our community what it is. 
  • Read Also

    About The Author

    • Judge David Langham

      David Langham is the Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims for the Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims at the Division of Administrative Hearings. He has been involved in workers’ compensation for over 25 years as an attorney, an adjudicator, and administrator. He has delivered hundreds of professional lectures, published numerous articles on workers’ compensation in a variety of publications, and is a frequent blogger on Florida Workers’ Compensation Adjudication. David is a founding director of the National Association of Workers’ Compensation Judiciary and the Professional Mediation Institute, and is involved in the Southern Association of Workers’ Compensation Administrators (SAWCA) and the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC). He is a vocal advocate of leveraging technology and modernizing the dispute resolution processes of workers’ compensation.

    Read More

    Request a Demo

    To request a free demo of one of our products, please fill in this form. Our sales team will get back to you shortly.