By Keiko Seino
August 9, NEW YORK CITY—The International Young Leaders Assembly’s (IYLA) annual eight-day program co-convened by Global Peace Foundation, Global Young Leaders Academy, and World Assembly of Youth culminated in a Global Summit held at the United Nations headquarters. Full program delegates had the opportunity to complete an executive training hosted by IBM in the morning, joining hundreds of other young leaders representing 46 different countries for afternoon sessions under the theme “Moral and innovative leadership for sustainable peace and development: vision, service, and entrepreneurship.”
Yeqing Victor Li, President of Global Young Leaders Academy, opened up the first plenary session by appreciating the core partners of the program which included the Global Peace Foundation, Global Young Leaders Academy, World Assembly of Youth, IBM, and the Ugandan UN mission. Representatives from each of the partner organizations spoke on the topic of moral and innovative leadership, drawing from their unique backgrounds and life experiences.
“What makes you a moral leader? What drives you? I would definitely recommend to drive with your heart first,” shared Ediola Pashollari, Secretary General of World Assembly of Youth. She also touched on the importance of leading unselfishly, respecting values, and working together as a team.
On a similar note, John Dickson, Chairman of Global Young Leaders Academy, shared that positive change occurs within relationships, and relationships are based on the heart, not on the head. “Gradually the center of your life and consciousness goes from your heart to your head…and that happens by third grade. But the head is where we are all different…the heart is where we are all connected. This [heart] is where we are all one.” He noted that the think tank East-West Center promotes understanding between nations of the world by developing relationships between people. Those human relationships are where positive change begins and where even future wars are averted.
This reoccurring emphasis on relationship-building throughout the panel was reflected in the remarks of David Raper, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility, North America and Social Impact Fund IBM. He pointed out that partnerships are critical in order to make an impact in the world.
One particularly moving life testimony exemplifying moral leadership came from the Honorable Patrick Kasumba, a former child soldier in Uganda. After dropping out of school at the age of eleven, he joined the liberation struggle and was essentially robbed of the innocence of childhood. But when the conflict was over, he went back to school with help from the government, rehabilitated, and became a lawyer. After serving his country in the army, he became a member of Uganda Parliament and decided to become a champion of human rights for vulnerable children. To be a good leader, Mr. Kasumba expressed, “You need to have total sacrifice. You must be hardworking and must have vision. And you must be patriotic.”
Alan Inman, Senior Advisor of Global Peace Foundation, appreciated Mr. Kasumba as a great example of a moral leader rising above many unthinkable life challenges and staying true to his values. He shared, “A moral leader is guided by an ethical framework and acts with integrity.”
Mr. Inman acknowledged that finding meaning, purpose, belonging, and identity is challenging for many young people today. Radical groups such as ISIS are taking advantage of this vulnerability and fueling feelings of isolation and division in young people and attracting them to their cause. Referring to the vision of Global Peace Foundation, Mr. Inman emphasized that the key to helping young people is focusing on our common humanity. “We share a common heritage and a common essence. We are a part of one human family because we share a common origin, the creator God.”
The second plenary, a youth panel, was a diverse group of corporate professionals, nonprofit leaders and social entrepreneurs. Jonathan Cummings, an alumnus of IYLA, moderated the session.
Meg Baldini, Strategy and Corporate Development at Procore, pointed out that hard work is important, but not enough to be a good leader. “You have to work smart, and most importantly, you have to solve problems.” She encouraged participants to think about the higher-level problems an organization is trying to solve within society. She also noted that what is more important than what you are actually working on, is the person you show up to be every day at work. “People are hiring far more for character than experience. Anyone can learn how to do a job. But being a good person and a good leader has to be learned and be inside of you.”
Jerrica Rai Whitlock, Founder and CEO of Rai Group International, Managing Director of Blue Planet Alliance, brought a youthful energy to the room as she urged participants to have a sense of urgency in fulfilling the UN’s SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). Chris McCarthy, Executive Director of Young Professionals in Foreign Policy in New York, shared what he thought it meant to be “young.” More than age or biology, “The power of youth is in the power of our ideas. It’s in the power of our restless energy. It’s in the recognition that we are agents of our future.” He stated that we often assume that to effect change is through power or a control over resources. But effecting change comes through individual empowerment according to Mr. McCarthy. “The true power to change the world for the better comes from you. It comes from your aspirations, your integrity, from your belief that we don’t have to settle for what is, but what can be.”
Andrew Shadid, CEO of Genesis Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, articulated the importance of having a clear vision in being a moral leader. He defined an entrepreneur as someone with a vision and then proceeding to fulfill that vision. “The power of entrepreneurship is that it’s very disruptive, but entrepreneurship led astray can be just as harmful as the existing present reality.” He shared about an interview he conducted with one of the Egyptian leaders during the Arab Spring. The problem in Egypt was that the young people did not have a clear vision for after the revolution. The lesson Mr. Shadid drew from that interview was to have a clear vision and shared values within society to establish sustainable peace and development within a country.