Hi everyone! For my first official post, I decided to write about my experience at the Stem for Life Conference that I attended and spoke at in April of 2016. I also made a quick slide show of some of my favorite pictures from the trip!
It all began when I was out to dinner one night with my family. My dad has a really confusing and complicated job that I don’t really understand but in a nutshell, he is a trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust and he decided to dedicate his life to helping people with T1D back in 2008. So anyway, we were out to dinner and he said, “Oh I got this email from this lady today and our family has been invited to speak at a conference at the Vatican in Rome. Morgan, she wants you to speak about living with a chronic illness like Type 1 since the whole conference is about chronic illnesses. Supposedly the Pope is going to make an appearance. I don’t know if we should go though, I need to make sure it’s legit.” So we didn’t really think anything of it. A week later, he brought it up again, “Turns out it is legit. Would you guys be interested in speaking on a panel just the five of us? There would be about 300 people in the audience and it would be moderated by Robin Roberts from ‘Good Morning America.”‘ My first instinct was, no absolutely not. I would have to miss a week of school and I am petrified of public speaking. My dad told me to think about it.
After googling Robin Roberts and reading everything she has gone through, she really did seem like an incredible woman. It took some convincing, but eventually I realized that this was truly a once in a lifetime experience that I could not pass up. So my dad emailed the lady back and told her to count us in.
Prior to the conference, Robin Roberts had offered us VIP passes to the set of “Good Morning America.” She also said that if we came to see the show, she would meet with us afterwards to give us an idea of the kinds of questions we would be asked in Italy. So we said “great” and went to “GMA.”
Seeing the set was SO COOL!!! It was crazy to see all of the things that actually go into just putting a show on live TV. It is so much work that you can’t see and appreciate on regular TV! After they finished, Robin came over to us and introduced herself. She asked me various questions and then she told us the kinds of questions that she would be asking in Italy. I felt so much better after talking to her. She made it seem like it was going to be more fun than stressful.
Prior to leaving, I had drafted my answers to all of the questions just to have to make me feel better. I wasn’t planning on reading from them because that would just be weird and unprofessional but I wanted to have them with me as a safety net in case I was caught off guard by anything Robin asked. I put the drafted questions in my carry on bag to review during the flight.
We were scheduled to leave on Tuesday night so I went to school for the morning. I was picked up early and off we went to the airport. We were standing in line to board the plane when my sister, Caroline, tapped me on the shoulder. “Morgan, I think that’s Robin over there!” “No way, she would not be taking our flight,” I replied. Sure enough, Robin Roberts boarded the plane right after we did. Once we were seated she came over and said hi to us again before the plane took off.
Once we landed, we checked into the hotel and had lunch with Olympic swimmer, Gary Hall Jr. We then went out to explore Rome a little bit too, because it was our only day to walk around. We saw the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, and the Parliament building. Rome is such a beautiful city!
On Thursday were both of our interviews. Our first one was with Max Gomez, the chief medical consultant for CBS. It was in a private room because it wasn’t for the general audience, but it was being filmed. That was scary because they had to put microphones on us and stuff. Once we finished our interview with Max, we went to our dressing room to prep for our next interview with Robin. I was SO nervous; I felt like I was going to throw up. Oh, did I mention that all of my notes that I took hours to draft were still in the hotel room because I forgot them? Yes, so that added to my level of stress and not in a good way. I looked at Robin and told her I thought I was going to throw up because I was so nervous. She responded by saying something along the lines of “don’t worry, you’re going to be great. And please lean the other way if you need to throw up.” To make me feel better, Robin decided to take some selfies…I was caught so off guard! She was making the funniest faces and I could not stop laughing! All I remember after that was my name being called because it was my turn to speak. The rest is all a blur…
The good news is, I didn’t throw up! The interview went pretty well except I was so nervous that it sounded like I was crying the whole time even though I 100% was not. But a lot of people from the audience came up to me afterwards and told me what an amazing job I did so that made me feel really good.
On Friday, we went back into Vatican City because my dad was being interviewed by Katie Couric. She was so nice; we spoke to her for a while. She was there with her husband. After listening to my dad’s panel, Joe Biden Jr. came and gave a very moving speech about his family’s experiences with chronic illnesses as that is what the conference was all about. He also introduced the next special guest…Pope Francis!!!!!!!
Pope Francis came out and gave a phenomenal speech in Italian. (We were wearing a headset with a translator translating for us.) He then came around and shook our hands. He even awarded me the pontifical hero award! That was one of the most special moments of my life. So surreal.
Unfortunately we had to go home the following day, but wow. What an incredible and life-changing experience. I met so many amazing people there and that trip is one that I will NEVER forget.
Thank you so much for reading and see above for pictures from the conference including me shaking the Pope’s hand, some of my selfies with Robin, and my family with Katie Couric and Joe Biden!