Debrief of the 2020 Young Leaders Program

October 23, 2020

2020 Young Leaders Seminar, October 14-15, 2020

Last week, the French-American Foundation hosted the virtual edition of the annual Young Leaders program. Despite being unable to meet in person due to Covid-19, the program was no less enriching than in previous years. The 2019 and 2020 classes came together over Zoom to share their expertise, cultivate friendships, and grow together as passionate leaders facing an uncertain world.

Each year since 1981, the Foundation welcomes a new class of Young Leaders who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievements, robust integrity of character, and the nature to lead and work wholeheartedly towards positive change on both sides of the Atlantic. The intensive two-day program provided an opportunity for Young Leaders to make meaningful connections in a time of social distancing, to engage in pertinent dialogue, and to depart equipped with tools and ideas to help fortify current and future French-American ties.

Young Leaders began the summit with Hubert Joly, Harvard Lecturer and former CEO and Chairman of Best Buy, and Hortense le Gentil, executive leadership coach, to discuss leading with purpose and compassion, and the need to support diversity as a norm in the workplace. Questions of equity, diversity, and inclusion remained at the forefront of conversation throughout the program. In his address to US Young Leaders, the new Consul General of France in New York, Jérémie Robert, emphasized that France and the US can achieve progress by learning from each other in this realm.

Moreover, Young Leader-led discussions explored equity; education and governance in the 21st century; civic engagement; business leadership in times of adaptation; challenges and breakthroughs in the medicine, technology, and science triad; and the arts as a form of diplomacy, healing, and bridge-building. Young Leaders also delved into how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted these sectors in and outside of the US. They examined leadership qualities vital for navigating unexpected shifts, supporting those most at risk, and retaining optimism as the crisis evolves.

The program closed on a hopeful note. Young Leaders reflected on the crucial need to immerse in their peers’ unique experiences, to absorb new perspectives, and to engage in transatlantic dialogue to be effective leaders in today’s world. Sincere thanks are extended to members of the Board, Young Leaders and alumni, and the French-American Foundation–France for their support and contribution to the success of the 2020 program. We look forward to celebrating 40 years of the Young Leaders program next fall!

Young Leaders Program