Memorial Day Weekend in the United States is a nice time to hit the beach or go to a barbecue. However, this Memorial Day Weekend, I was faraway in Bratislava, Slovakia, where I took part in the GLOBSEC Young Leaders’ Forum of 2017, along with approximately two dozen young professionals from both sides of the Atlantic, and from as far away as Australia. The vast majority of us, including myself, were the only representatives from their countries of origin.
The Young Leaders’ Forum, a much smaller contingent to the GLOBSEC Bratislava Global Security Forum, consisted of three parts: a working group of about ten of us on a particular issue area, a series of small discussions with decision-makers, and attending the conference at large. Our working group is writing a policy paper on the “information revolution” and democracy; that is, how can the public square in a democracy be viable amid tectonic shifts in technology and information flows? In the forum for young leaders, we had small question-and-answer sessions with people such as Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) and Harvard Kennedy School Professor Stephen Walt. The conference capped off with a discussion with European Council President Donald Tusk, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, and Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka.
Overall, the conference was a great practical complement to my education here at the Jackson Institute, where I focus on transatlantic relations and the future of Europe. Quite literally, many of the young leaders here are the future of Europe, and I was grateful to get to know them, whether over Slovak wine or in a panel discussion on NATO. And amid the biggest rupture in the over 70-year-old transatlantic alliance, it felt valuable to take part in an exercise focused on building bridges, not trying to destroy them.