Debrief of the 2018 Young Leaders Seminar

October 30, 2018

The French-American Foundation’s annual Young Leaders program hosted a carefully selected group of prominent men and women this October for an invigorating week of discussion, political and social inquiry, and team-building activities in Paris and Toulouse, France.

Forty-two American and French participants from the classes of 2017 and 2018 came together to hear about front-line issues from experts in topics as diverse as politics, artificial intelligence, and aerospace.

In the political realm, the group enjoyed a visit to the Elysée Palace, learned about the innovative workings of the Macron campaign from French Minister Benjamin Griveaux, and had a surprise visit from former Secretary of State and Presidential candidate John Kerry, who spoke openly about the populist tenor of today’s politics and urged the group to play a role in responding to the challenge of climate change.

The intersection of politics and intellectual life are uniquely close in France, and as a prime example of this, the group had a fascinating exchange about the potential—and threat—of artificial intelligence and the nature of work with Cédric Villani (YL ’12), member of the French Parliament and Fields Medalist in mathematics.

Making the most of Toulouse’s location as the headquarters of aerospace pioneer Airbus, Young Leaders boarded an A330 jetliner in mid-assembly, toured the A350 aircraft final assembly line, and learned about Airbus’s future—ranging from satellite production to business opportunities—from Vice President of Engineering Jean-Brice Dumont, Senior Vice President and Group Security Officer Dr. Pascal Andréi, and Airbus Ventures CEO Thomas d’Halluin (YL ’16).

The week ended with some open-air fun and cultural discovery, as Young Leaders toured the historic Medieval city of Carcassonne, indulged in the regional dish “cassoulet,” and worked up a sweat playing rugby in the legendary Toulouse Stadium with award-winning rugby player Emile Ntamack.

American Young Leaders said their goodbyes on Sunday the 21st after a fully-packed week of intellectual conversation and cultural exploration, having made ties with their compatriots in France and developed friendships among an extraordinary cross-cultural network.

More photos from the Young Leaders seminar