2017 Young Leaders Seminar
Forty-three participants from France and the United States gathered in San Francisco on October 18-21, 2017 to take part in the French-American Foundation’s annual Young Leaders program.
This year, Young Leaders from the classes of 2016 and 2017—a carefully-selected group of influential men and women from diverse sectors such as business, technology, government, and arts & culture—came together to discuss a wide variety of subjects and hear from prominent thinkers in the Bay Area.
Taking advantage of San Francisco’s dominant position at the center of venture capital and tech, participants heard from top Silicon Valley investors Ken Sawyer, Jeremy Liew, and Camille Samuels about the venture capital landscape.
The group also visited Twitter’s headquarters and heard from the platform’s Senior Public Policy Manager about Twitter’s relationship with the city of San Francisco and its role in politics. In addition, the group learned about the new ways in which technology is being used to solve social problems from founders of tech startups, including Swiftly, Ava, Brigade, and BlaBlaCar.
While technology has a role in confronting problems, it can also create issues of its own related to gentrification, inequality, and high housing costs. To understand the highs and lows of the influx of tech in San Francisco, the group toured the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood with Del Seymour, a lifelong resident and former drug addict who now works in conjunction with social agencies to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood.
The issues that the Tenderloin faces are priorities for local politicians. To get a sense of how San Francisco is confronting these problems, Jason Elliott, the Chief of Staff to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, led a conversation with the group on homelessness, the housing market, and San Francisco’s relationship with the federal government.
Next door to the city of San Francisco, Palo Alto beckoned as a center of innovation.
A visit to Intel’s headquarters in Palo Alto led to a rewarding discussion about artificial intelligence. The group was lucky to learn from Hanlin Tang, Intel’s algorithms engineer, and Blaise Agüera Y Arcas, a principal scientist and machine learning expert at Google, about how so-called “deep learning” works and how intelligent machines could change the way we live. Next door in Mountain View, the genetic testing company 23andMe hosted the group to explore the cutting-edge issues of privacy and security in DNA analysis.
Other highlights of the Young Leaders seminar included a session on the latest risks in cyber security, an interactive game design activity, and a question-and-answer session about planetary exploration with Airbus Ventures partner Dr. Lewis Pinault and French Astronaut Thomas Pesquet, himself a Young Leader from the class of 2017.
Participants left the seminar not only having learned about the latest ideas in technology, politics, and innovation, but also having developed relationships with other promising leaders that will serve them in their future careers.
“The Young Leaders program was a fabulous—even once in a lifetime—cross-cultural experience. Over two years, I spent two weeks making new friends, staying in great accommodations, and talking about cutting edge issues with interesting, talented, and accomplished people, all in the name of strengthening the bonds between France and the United States. I only wish I could do it all again.”
-Alexander Slater, Young Leader
Created in 1981 to foster closer working relationships between French and American leaders in the post-war period, the Young Leaders program counts over 400 alumni including former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former World Bank President Robert Zoellick, and business leader John Thain (CIT Group).
French Young Leaders include President Emmauel Macron, former President of French Republic Francois Hollande, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, former Minister of Finance Pierre Moscovici, former Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, and business leader Henri de Castries (AXA).