2023 Young Leaders Alumni Gathering

October 11, 2023

On October 5th and 6th, the French-American Foundation—United States welcomed Young Leaders of all classes for a special alumni conference and reunion in New York City. This was the Foundation’s first in-person Young Leaders gathering since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, convening our extraordinary alumni network for an intense two-day conference followed by celebrations throughout the Big Apple. Thank you to Board member Ina Popova and to Debevoise & Plimpton LLP for generously hosting our group for sessions at their offices in Hudson Yards.

On Thursday, October 5th, we had the privilege of welcoming Marc Lacey (Young Leader ‘01), Managing Editor of The New York Times, who opened the conference with a discussion on leadership moderated by Cindy Carcamo (Young Leader ‘13), Food Writer for Los Angeles Times. The keynote session gave audience members the opportunity to learn more about Marc and Cindy’s incredible careers in journalism. During a lively and robust conversation and Q&A session, the two touched on topics such as the evolution of journalism amid polarizing times, news fatigue, artificial intelligence, and the role that local news networks play in the larger journalistic landscape. They also highlighted the importance of loving what you do and finding a sense of adventure in each day. The conversation established a thoughtful and engaging tone for the conference. The Foundation is so proud to count Marc and Cindy among our Young Leaders and appreciated the opportunity to spotlight their passions, talents, and leadership.

To close out the first day, conversations continued at Villa Albertine, home of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States, during a beautiful opening cocktail reception for Young Leaders, Board members, and Foundation friends. Following a special welcome from Judith Roze, Acting Cultural Counselor, and Director of Villa Albertine, FAF President, Caroline Naralasetty, welcomed guests and introduced featured speaker Chloe Demrovsky (Young Leader ‘19), President and CEO of Disaster Recovery Institute International and FAF-US Board member. Chloe spoke about her experience as a Young Leader and the enduring, meaningful connections that exist in the FAF community.

On Friday, October 6th, the second day of the conference began with a keynote presentation from Former Executive Director of UNICEF and FAF-US Board member Carol Bellamy (Young Leader ‘81) moderated by Megan Carroll (Young Leader ‘18), Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. During a rigorous discussion, Carol and Megan examined international institutions and their role during times of global conflict. Among other topical and subjects of interest, they touched on the role of the United Nations in modern-day international affairs, the challenges international institutions face in the 21st century, SDGs, and the importance of educational access. Both Carol and Megan shared their experiences working abroad for international institutions and the lessons they learned along the way. Carol also spoke about the world’s need for global citizens, emphatically stating that global citizenship is not exemplified by how many stamps you’ve collected on a passport — rather, it is determined by your efforts to make a better world for everyone. She called on the group to think about their “vocation and allocation” — to figure out what is most important to them and to dedicate time to making the world a better place.

The second session of the day featured CNN Political Commentator Jamal Simmons (Young Leader ‘09), who spoke about his experience serving as the communications director for Vice President Kamala Harris. He reflected on the impact that COVID-19 had on him while working at the White House and how he balanced his career and his family life. Jamal shared ways in which he has grown as a leader and underlined the importance of acknowledging one’s own areas for growth. He also shared his perspective on leadership and authenticity, explaining that being upfront, even when it was not the easiest thing to do, helped him on his career path. During his Q&A session, Young Leaders discussed topics such as multi-generational leadership, work-life balance, and navigating one’s career journey.

Jamie Metzl (Young Leader ‘01), Founder and Chair of OneShared.World, then led a keynote presentation on leadership, technology, and transformation. Jamie spoke about the advantages of today’s technological advancements – such as accelerated exchanges of ideas and solutions – while also emphasizing the ethical imperative to deploy revolutionary technologies wisely. He emphasized the power of networks, such as the French-American Foundation YL alumni community, and the fact that we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and worked to solve pressing global issues. He also discussed his most recent book, Hacking Darwin, which has received widespread praise as a groundbreaking exploration of genetic engineering and its impact on the future of our species. Jamie ended his presentation by urging audience members to dedicate time each day to aggressive and radical learning outside of one’s usual perspectives.

Young Leaders then had the opportunity to engage in meaningful discussion with one another during breakout sessions. These sessions were moderated by Young Leaders and focused on the following topics:

  • Leadership and Climate: Fatima Hadj (FAF-FR Young Leader ‘14), Climate Investment Strategist at HSBC & Maher Damak (Young Leader ‘22), CEO and Co-Founder of Infinite Cooling
  • Leadership in Transition and Navigating Career Changes: Kabir Sehgal (Young Leader ‘19), Founder of Tiger Turn Productions & Jocelyn Moore (Young Leader ‘16), Corporate Board Director, Executive, and Strategist
  • Leadership, Diplomacy and Governance: Katherine Brown (Young Leader ‘18), President and CEO of Global Ties U.S. & Adam Hodge (Young Leader ‘19), Founder of Sandy Point Strategies
  • Leadership and Healthcare Equity & Innovation: Tom Lee (Young Leader ‘08), CEO and Founder of Galileo Health & Shannon Walker (Young Leader ‘23), Cardiologist at the University of California San Francisco.

To conclude an incredible two days of meaningful exchanges, Young Leaders convened for a closing cocktail celebration, generously hosted by Kyle Dropp (Young Leader ‘18), Co-Founder & Chief Research Officer of Morning Consult.

Thank you to our Young Leader participants and generous hosts for making this unique experience possible!