A New Class of Leaders to Continue the French-American Relationship

This October, 40 young professionals between the ages of 30 to 40 will meet in San Francisco to discuss matters ranging from sustainable development to A.I. and innovation. Among these “Young Leaders,” brought together by the French-American Foundation, half will be from France and the rest from the United States.

A board of alumni has picked these participants by screening applications to decide which of the already-accomplished candidates are expected to rise even higher in the next decade. Past winners include French Presidents Emmanuel Macron and François Hollande, American President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and many recognizable names in business and arts, such as filmmaker Charles Ferguson, journalist Gwen Ifill, former World Bank President Robert Zoellick and former CEO of Air France-KLM Alexandre de Juniac. This year, the 2017 class of Young Leaders includes Anne-Claire Legendre, Consul General of France in New York, and Adrien Treuille, a leading computer scientist and professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

When selected, participants are brought together for five days in two consecutive years, one hosted in France and the other in the United States. “The idea is for up-and-coming leaders to meet and create a network with people that they would not meet in their job,” said executive director of the French-American Foundation Emeline Foster. Though she only took the director role 4 weeks ago, Foster was brought into the foundation 9 months prior to work specifically on this program. “It’s what everyone brings to the discussion that makes a big difference. These leaders are in very high-level positions in their professions so they might not have the time to meet a surgeon or a journalist otherwise.”

The French-American Foundation was launched in 1976 by the French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and American President Gerald Ford. Two sister foundations in New York and Paris were established to build a non-governmental bridge between France and the United States by bringing their leaders together and working on issues of common concern.

As the French-American relationship evolves however, the foundation must try to adapt. Foster plans on expanding its message for their evolving audience. “At the beginning, the foundation was here to address the American community. Now, there are 202,000 French [adults] in Canada and the U.S. and we also have to reach out to the French community who want to talk about the trans-Atlantic relationship.” The New York organization also awards an annual French-to-English translation prize and fellowships for immigration journalism.

Ties between France and the United States have existed ever since the birth of the latter, when the French monarchy supported the American Revolution and became the country’s first ally. However, in modern politics, the heads of state in these two countries do not seem eager to replicate this historical relationship. Recently, President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, among other things, has been met with disapproval from French President Emmanuel Macron. “Our role is never to judge. We don’t get involved in the French election or the American election,” Foster says when asked about the non-partisan organization’s plans to maintain a positive dialogue between leaders from the two countries. “We want to talk about what the relationship can be between France and the U.S. with these two presidents but we are not here to say what is good or not, or what subjects are important between our countries. We just want the trans-Atlantic relationship to be working well and for that we put leaders together in order for them to discuss.”

Below is the list of the Young Leaders Class of 2017:

United States
– Penny Abeywardena, Commissioner for International Affairs, New York City Mayor’s Office
– Nicolas Bernadi, Partner, La Boulangerie de San Francisco and Founder, Sitari Ventures
– James G. Brooks Jr., Founder and CEO, GlassView
– Frank Demaille, President and CEO, ENGIE North America
– Jason El Koubi, President and CEO, One Acadiana
– Kathryn Finney, Managing Director and Founder, Digitalundivided
– Maya Kalieva Henry, Senior Vice President, PIMCO
– Olivier Kamanda, Director, and Presidential Innovation Fellow
– Anne-Claire Legendre, Consul General of France in New York, Consulate General of France
– Michael Morales, White House Fellow, Senior Advisor to the Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration and Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force 
– Adrien Treuille, Assistant Professor, Carnegie Mellon University

– Stéphanie de Bouärd-Rivoal, General Director, Château Angelus
– Sophie de Closets, President, Editions Fayard 
– Camille Levy, Executive Product Leader, GE Power
– Philippine de T’Serclaes, Global Head of Strategic Partnerships, Schneider Electric
– Alice Zagury, Co-founder and CEO, The Family 
– Aurélien Hamelle, Director of Group Law, TOTAL
– Gaspard Koenig, Philosopher
– Jérémie Lefevre, Surgeon and Medical Professor, Hôpital Saint-Antoine
– Guillaume Liegey, Co-founder and CEO, Liegey Muller Pons
– Thomas Pesquet, Astronaut, European Space Agency
– David Vaillant, Managing Director and Deputy Head EMEA Banking, BNP Paribas 


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