CHINA — The world faced by the next generation will be far different from the one that its parents and grandparents lived in, and young leaders need to be prepared to do their part to make sure it is a better place.

That’s the message that Yvonne Davis, an international consultant and analyst, brought to a packed crowd this week at the Erskine Academy campus.

“The world is so different, so what you choose to do, even if you decided to be a doctor, an engineer, or work in money or finance, the notion of doing something greater for this world may become your obligation, because the world needs it to survive,” Davis told the assembly of mostly high school students Wednesday.

Her talk was co-sponsored by the school and the Mid-Maine Global Forum, a group that hosts speaking events that focus on world affairs in central Maine.

For more than an hour, Davis spoke about her experience in international affairs and U.S. politics, her personal history and her insights into the role that young people can play in the future.

Davis’ route to her current success wasn’t straightforward, she said. She grew up poor in Cleveland, Ohio, but even at 4 years old knew she someday would fly around the world, meet presidents and “go to all those countries I knew nothing about,” she said.

At school, she was enamored with history, Davis said. Learning about the Renaissance piqued her interest, and by the time she started learning about the Cold War, she decided that social science was “as exciting as a rock concert.”

But her path to a career in international consulting wasn’t clear-cut. Davis started college in 1984 but dropped out after two years because she couldn’t afford it and didn’t go back until 1989. She eventually earned advanced degrees from Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the University of Connecticut, and certificates from Harvard and Cornell.

In the 1990s, she helped found a Fox News affiliate in Hartford, Connecticut, worked on neighborhood issues, then got involved in Republican Party politics. She worked on the presidential campaign of George W. Bush and joined his administration after his election in 2000. Through her position, she started working internationally — first in Africa, working on a free-trade initiative; then branching out to communications, training and other services for international clients through her firm, Davis Communications.

So far, she has visited almost 60 countries and worked in hot spots such as the Balkans, Central Asia, and the Middle East.

Although the world is full of threats, particularly terrorism, the new generation of leaders represented by Erskine students is well-positioned to help change the globe for the better, she said.

“How many of you want to make a lot of money?” Davis asked, A few students raised their hands.

“OK, how many of you want to make money, but you also want to do something great for humanity?” she prompted, getting a few more hands.

“What do the rest of you want to do, nothing?” Davis joked.

The young students at Erskine, like their peers across the world, are in a unique position to make real change, Davis said. They had grown up in a world that was interconnected like never before, and leaned toward pluralism and acceptance, traits that would help them face future challenges. That cultural understanding is reflected in the fact that students in the room are learning at least five other languages, including Russian, German and Japanese, she said.

“You’re a generation now that actually has friends everywhere,” without regard to culture, religion or race, Davis said.

“The pluralist thinking that you have is that everybody is embraced,” Davis said. “And that’s what makes you great, because there is no way that there is going to be survivability in the United States of America, in the Western Hemisphere or abroad unless you begin to embrace other cultures.”

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

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Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire