The Agora in Cagliari, which took place last week, was not the first statutory event of AEGEE-Europe in Sardinia. The previous two were the Presidents Meeting (PM) in September 1998 and the Planning Meeting (PM) four years later – both predecessors to what is now called European Planning Meeting. Driving force behind both PMs was Enrico Lai, Honorary President of AEGEE-Cagliari.
Golden Times: Enrico, you are probably the only AEGEE member, who was main local organiser of two statutory meetings. How do you feel when you look back on these events and what you achieved there?
Enrico Lai: Let’s say proud. I had some PR experience, but these events were a real challenge to test my coordination tasks. What I achieved? That’s easy to answer, I am now one of the most requested dental congress makers.
GT: You were one of the founding members of AEGEE-Cagliari. Who had the original idea to found AEGEE-Cagliari? And how did you hear about AEGEE for the first time?
Enrico: The idea had Marcello Floris, my eternal friend. As his friend he involved me in the creation of the antenna, convincing the group of founders to have me as the Vice President.
GT: Your antenna signed the Convention d’Adhesion in the same year, in September 1995 at the Presidents Meeting in Barcelona. Were you there?
Enrico: No, the other founder — Paolo — was there, together with Nicola and Vanna, who were one group of students, so they went to Barcelona.
GT: Your antenna organised international events very quickly. How do you remember them?
Enrico: Those were great experiences. In November 1995 we organised a one-day thematic conference about the role of lawyers and the legal system. However, our really first international event was Sa Sartiglia in February 1996, it was about an important Sardinian traditional event… we organised it with AEGEE-Firenze. We had some participants from abroad, one is still one of my best friends, Eszter. With this event we became a real antenna and we gained a lot of useful experience for organizing our first Summer University, which took place in August 1996. In March 1996 we had another event called “Associations and the Internet”.
GT: Let’s talk about the Presidents Meeting 1998. Why did your young antenna decide to organise it?
Enrico: The real truth? I wanted to finish AEGEE at that time — and wanted to do so in the best possible way, therefore I really stressed our other active members to compete for this event. The other applicant was AEGEE-Coimbra. I do not remember how we actually won, but it was worth it… It was an amazing event.
GT: How do you remember organising it, the best and worst moments? How many participants did you have?
Enrico: We had more than 200 participants. The worst moment was an internal discussion in the beginning, but after that it was just perfect. The best memory is maybe the party in the house of the entrepreneur Nicola Grauso, the perfect party.
GT: I remember that you greeted Mikhail Gorbachev at the airport. Was he coming to the PM?
Enrico: He was in Sardinia for an international meeting organized by Mr. Grauso, and he made it possible. Mr. Gorbachev was awarded patronage from AEGEE-Europe in the airport.
GT: I remember that on one day most participants went to the beach instead of sitting in the plenary. How did that happen?
Enrico: No, this was not in 1998, but at the PM in 2002.
GT: Yes, in 2002 you organised another PM. Why?
Enrico: We did that, because the people changed and we were ready to challenge the antenna another time.
GT: How do you remember organising it?
Enrico: It was easier of course, not really difficult. We had again more than 200 participants, but you know the first time is always better…
GT: Nevertheless, also the event in 2002 was amazing. There are many nice stories, for example, one workshop about event management took place on the beach. Why did your antenna not organise an Agora before?
Enrico: Unfortunately we did not have the possibility to lodge more than 300 people. I was really surprised to hear that this year an Agora would take place in Cagliari, because when we were in charge it was impossible to lodge people in a gym for security reasons.
GT: So what do you think about this year’s autumn Agora in Cagliari?
Enrico: The organisers were really brave, and this is what I told them. But it was worth it, the Agora was a fantastic event!
GT: A few words about you: what did you study, what do you work now?
Enrico: I am a dentist, as I was already during my time in AEGEE, and I had two offices. My AEGEE experience helped me a lot to prepare for my role in the Italian Dental Association, where I am National Treasurer, Continuing Education Responsible, Congress Manager and National Liaison Officer.
GT: You were also active on European level, as Agora Vice Chair. How was that?
Enrico: Yes, when I wanted to finish with AEGEE in 1998, someone suggested to me to candidate for the Members Commission, so I was elected at the PM in Cagliari and started my European tasks. I was not only Vice Chair for two terms, but also President of the Members Commission (beating just you Gunnar, sorry!) and member of the AEGEE Task Force On Change.
GT: What does AEGEE mean to you?
Enrico: Everything, my best years and a crucial experience in my life. But, more important is the people that I had the privilege to know and the possibility to share with them my youth!