Robert F. Kennedy
Last week our Envision Alumni Ambassadors discussed the essential qualities of leadership and the leaders in their own lives. The blog post was written as part of a larger conversation about youth perceptions on leadership leading into the Envision Presidential Inauguration Leadership Summit next year.
Our next post looks at which great national and global leaders our Envision Alumni Ambassadors admire and why. Then, we discuss their own aspirations to become great leaders.
These are fitting topics for the larger conversation that will take place at next year’s Summit. In addition to the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, the Summit features great leaders. High school students will hear from speakers like U.S. Secretary of State (2001-2005) Colin Powell; award-winning director Spike Lee; and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai. In addition to Malala, middle schoolers will hear from former 2016 presidential candidate and former CEO of Hewlett-Packard Carly Fiorina, and former 2016 presidential candidate and former Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley.
Students will be able to demonstrate their own leadership skills at the Summit by developing solutions to some the world’s most challenging problems, in student-driven presentations in front of their peers. The students who are able to effectively communicate their ideas through their poster presentation will be celebrated publicly.
In that vein, who do Envision Alumni Ambassadors think are great leaders, and what are their aspirations?
The Mark of Great Leadership
Greatness cannot be easily replicated. It is often forged in desperate times, and the ability to inspire many to create great change. Leadership can be recognized by courageous acts in the face of apathy or even danger. Great leaders do things that others think are impossible.
“Robert Kennedy (RFK) was a great leader,” said Matt Ayers, JrNYLC ’12, JrNYLC Alumni ’13, and NYLSC ’14 alumnus. “The night Martin Luther King was assassinated, RFK held a rally in an impoverished African-American neighborhood of Indianapolis. Indianapolis was one of the only cities that didn’t have a riot, in large because RFK broke the news to that audience. He empathized—speaking about the assassination of his brother JFK—that he was on the same page. RFK called for peace that night, in one of the great political speeches of the modern era.”
“Amelia Earhart was a great leader in my mind because she was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic,” said Amelia Fox, NYLF Pathways to STEM ’15 alumna. “I also admire Malala [Yousafzai] because she is brave, speaks about all of her troubles, and tries to lead change in Pakistan. I think she is a really great person.”
Advocate for Change
Sometimes great leaders defy authority. They stand for what they believe in and advocate for change.
“I admire Tim Cook and all of the people at Apple for what they did in their conflict with the FBI,” said Ethan Fuller, NYLF National Security ‘15 alumnus. “They wouldn’t build a back door into the iPhone even though the situation [the San Bernardino terrorist attack last year] was extreme. Just being able to come out and stand up for what they believe in, that embodies the principle of privacy. It’s great, that kind of security is something we need today. A lot of people put personal information on devices, especially devices that Apple makes. Media is instantaneous. Hackers can get hold of something easily and Apple servers are accessible anywhere.”
“Leaders in the Black Lives Matter [movement] are very interesting,” offered Joe Sullivan, NYLF Medicine ‘12 alumnus. “Their style of protesting is unique and has not been done before. They are really protesting for change and are leading the national conversation about race in America. That’s admirable.”
Lead by Actions
There are others who lead by their actions. They are demonstrative in their approach to life.
“I definitely admire Jane Goodall because she has compassion towards animals,” said Hanley Ekeren-Moening, Junior National Young Leaders Conference (JrNYLC) and
National Young Leaders Conference (NYLC) alumna. “Her research and willingness to share that with other people is encouraging. Sally Ride was inspiring as the first woman in space, and I appreciate her willingness to go where no woman has gone before, and break through that stigma that was there.”
“I just saw the Correspondents Dinner and I absolutely admire Barrack Obama’s leading ability,” said Leah Hennick, Intensive Law & Trial ’15 alumna. “He’s always composed. His material at the White House dinner was satirical and sarcastic, and yet it was appropriate, which I think is something today’s political environment can use a little more of.
“For example, I really admire when Barrack Obama doesn’t agree with a different politician that he doesn’t lash out,”Hennick added. “He respectfully sits down with other people and has bipartisan agreements. I think that today with everything so polarized it’s important, and other political leaders should aspire to it.”
Joe Sullivan also thinks our current president is a great leader: “As an orator, I really admire Barrack Obama. The way he conveys ideas and the way he gets his ideas across is the thing that’s really impressive. I admire that about him.”
Envision Alumni Ambassadors Seek Greatness
In part one of this two part series our Alumni Ambassadors discussed leadership qualities. Some of the most common qualities they discussed included inspiring others to take action, accomplishing great things, and affecting change.
Are our Envision Ambassadors inspired to lead, too? If so, how do they see themselves? Here’s what they had to say:
Do you want to become a leader?
“I think everyone should want to become a leader even if it is not at the same scale as others,” said Leah Hennick. “It’s not how well you do something, it’s how much you commit to it. It’s about behaving well, and acting with a sense or respect. And wanting to improve, that’s leadership. It’s about dedication and commitment to the things that are important to you.”
“Of course, I would love to become a leader,” said Joe Sullivan. “I think I already am one in some capacity, but I want to continue and keep empowering others and bringing passion to certain causes. I am involved in Alternative Breaks, where you lead a trip somewhere and you work on a social issue. You work on that issue for a week. We build levees in the Dominican Republic and help to build community development. Next year I hope to be a leader of a project.
“Project Outreach is a week long NYU project, and for five days you go to a service site in each of the five boroughs and do some sort of service,” added Joe Sullivan. It’s for freshman, and I want to help lead that next year. I have been involved in the Ban the Box campaign at NYU. We are advocating to get NYU to not consider students’ prior conviction status before applying to NYU."
Yes I want to be a leader because I want to help other people to achieve their goals and feel more comfortable with themselves,” said Hanley Ekeren-Moening. “I want to give them the tools and help them find their way in achieving what they want in life.”
At a young age, it may be hard to determine if one is a leader or not. The greatest part of one’s journey lies ahead of him or her. Events and experiences are still ahead that will forge the inner leader.
“I sure hope to become a leader, I have been told that I am,” said Matt Ayers. “I don’t think I am yet, maybe in ten years, but I wouldn’t say.”
“Yeah, I hope to,” said Amelia Fox. “This summer I am going to space camp. I think we are doing some sort of simulation, but it is a family space camp so it is more kid generated.”
“I want to be seen as a person who is approachable, and also accepts a leadership role,” said Will Ellsworth, JrNYLC ’13 and JrNYLC Alumni ‘14 alumnus. “I would love to be in Trauma or ER some day. In the past, I have found lots of leadership roles, and I will continue to do. I need to continue to work on my speaking skills. It’s really important to me.
“I need to take the leadership skills from the Envision program and share it with other people. I think that’s the biggest thing. I’ve met all of these people and I want to give other people that opportunity and teach the skills to other people so that they have the opportunity to help other people and they have the resources to do that.”
What do you think about youth leadership?