The 2020-2021 Lion Year was unlike any other, and it culminated in a truly unconventional convention. In so many ways the 103rd Annual Lions Clubs International Convention was everything Lions have come to expect and more. It was a big event jam-packed with seminars, shows, guest appearances, and inspiring addresses. It brought together the greater Lions community, enabled them to get to know one another, learn about what other clubs are doing, discuss service, and have fun – all from the comfort and safety of their own homes.LCI headquarters was transformed into a virtual stage (Studio HQ) to pull off the first-ever all-virtual International Convention.The 2020 International Convention scheduled to be hosted in Singapore was canceled due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. But when 2021 rolled around, Lions weren’t willing to let go of all that togetherness. They needed it. Service isn’t something Lions do in a vacuum. And an international convention felt like the perfect way to reconnect and refill the tanks with some much-needed bonding after a difficult year.However, it was essential to keep everyone safe. So, this year’s convention was the first-ever to be held exclusively online. And it was a smashing success.On all levels, the first-ever virtual International Convention did not disappoint. Held June 25-29, 2021, not only did the five-day event celebrate the work of Lions around the world, but it proved that Lions can and do connect in meaningful ways, even when they can’t be in the same room.Nearly 20,000 Lions from 152 countries attended the event. And while Lions couldn’t literally rub elbows, give bear hugs, orjoin together for service events, there was no shortage of good cheer in the active chat windows.Led by an engaging team of hosts, Ric Walker and Mia Park, viewers were treated to an array of world-class entertainment, interesting seminars, and regular stretch breaks led by Lion Jesse Colon.Here are some highlights. Parade of Nations lit up the screenWalker and Park greeted Lions from Studio HQ – the converted lobby of LCI Headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois. You would never know they were just feet from Melvin Jones’ original office when the Four Star Brass Band kicked off the traditional Parade of Nations with their rendition of When the Saints Go Marching In.The flag ceremony showcases the incredible diversity of Lions Clubs.The Parade of Nations represents the more than 200 countries and geographic areas where Lions clubs are located. This year was special because the parade was made from videos inside each location, giving viewers a glimpse of the unique aspects of life for Lions all around the world.Lions Executive Officers, Past Presidents, and International Directors (past and present) joined the virtual parade, each in their own unique style. Current International President Douglas Alexander breezed by in a 1917 Model T, which was built the same year that Lions Clubs were founded.Some past presidents shared memorable parade moments from their past, like when Past President Joe Preston and his wife were caught in a downpour with their one-year-old daughter in her stroller. The threesome’s spirits weren’t dampened, he said, even if their clothes were.And just like in a live parade, the audience was able to join in with “applause” virtually. Participants could “clap” by typing 6s and 7s in the chat window. Peace Prize Winners inspired everyone to aim highThe youth will save the world. Especially youth involved with Lions.2020-2021 Grand Prize Winner Yue Zhang.The Annual Peace Poster and Essay Contest is always popular but this year it was more important than ever that Lions stay connected to young people. The Peace Poster contest gives students a platform to share their ideas of peace and how they envision a better world.Grand Prize Winner Yue Zhang said she hoped her poster will influence others to “have a seed [for peace] planted in their heart.”Peace Essay winner Joshua Wood gave a speech and read from his winning entry, “Peace and Service Go Hand in Hand.”“I have made a promise to my Grandfather,” he read. “That I will spread the word about serving others and how it not only promotes peace for others but also provides an inner peace that so many people are striving for.” The passing of the batonNever has Lions Clubs International had a two-term international president before now, and it was bittersweet saying goodbye to Dr. Jung Yul-Choi. He addressed Lions as he prepared to leave office, commending them for serving through some of the most difficult times of our lives.“Yes. The world changed,” he said. “But we changed too. We adapted. We innovated. We continued to safely serve. We did notDouglas X. Alexander was inaugurated as the 2021-2022 International President of Lions Clubs International.simply live through this challenge. We rose to meet it—together. And I believe that what we accomplished this year will not only build on our first century of service. It will define our next.”From his location in South Korea, PIP Choi then congratulated new International President Douglas X. Alexander. “I am truly excited about this moment, and truly humbled by it,” said Alexander. “I promise you that I will embrace this moment, and this incredible opportunity you have given me. My journey here has unfolded over a lifetime…But this is not a journey I have walked alone. And I am so grateful to all of you who have walked this path with me. To those who welcomed me, mentored me, and served with me, thank you.” Leading the WayThe seminars are always one of the most popular aspects of LCIcon. Lions love the opportunity to learn from one another, and this year was no different. From fun stuff like stamp collecting and pin trading to the business of how to grow your club and where to send those press releases, there was plenty of buzz in the seminars this year.Lions and Leos joined together to talk about everything from how to be a good leader, building a community with social media, and starting a virtual club. If you needed it, there was also an excellent tutorial on how, exactly, to make a viral Tik-Tok video. Pizazz, of courseThere was no shortage of glitz and glamour at this virtual event. Throughout the convention, entertainment included a dazzling flag ceremony and a variety of special guests from Eurovision Finalist Elina Nechayeva to Broadway Sensation Michael Cavanaugh.But for many watching, the biggest star was a young woman from Pakistan. Keynote Speaker Malala YousafzaiFor those who are not familiar with her, Malala Yousafzai began her campaign for education at age 11 when she anonymously blogged for the BBC about life under the Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. At age 15, she was shot by the Taliban for advocating publicly for girls’ education. She survived and never gave up her fight for what she believed in. She founded Malala Fund with her father, Ziauddin, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her efforts to ensures all girls receive access to quality education and a safe learning environment. In 2017, Malala was named UN Messenger of Peace, a prestigious title given to distinguished individuals who volunteer their time, talent, and passion to raise awareness of United Nations efforts to improve the lives of billions of people everywhere.The keynote session was moderated by Soulaima Gourani, CEO and co-founder of Happioh, a Silicon Valley-based software company and appointed as a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum. Gourani has dedicated her life to uplifting the voices of underserved communities.The interview was a sobering reminder of the importance of service organizations – why it’s important to live a life centered around helping others.“We are telling the world that yes, we can coexist,” said Malala. “We can coexist in diversity, in these differences that we have. It makes the world even more beautiful. So why divide ourselves?”She went on to say, “There’s always an opportunity to make this world a better place for all, to make this world a place of harmony and tolerance for all, whatever background you are from, whatever language you speak, whatever is your skin color, that you are respected, that you are living in dignity and that you are not prevented from opportunities. So, it is just that simple wish.” Watch some of the highlights from this year’s unconventional convention here.Save the DateWith a successful International Convention behind us and the new Lion year underway, we are already looking forward to next year’s event, June 24-28 in Montréal, Canada. Stay tuned for more information. We can’t wait to see you there!