June 9, 2017
By Erika Wohl
Goldman Bridge Fellow, AJC
For four days, I had the privilege of being a part of AJC’s Global Forum and ACCESS Track, a program for the organization’s young professionals weaved into Global Forum. ACCESS is everything you would suspect by the name: exclusive access to AJC’s global, wide-reaching network of foreign policy leaders and community and faith influencers. It is a critical leadership development program that prepares the next AJC generation.
One experience during the program was of special meaning to me. It was a video message delivered in one of the plenaries by Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, who is only 30 years old—the youngest foreign minister in the world. It struck me then that AJC, or anyone else, for that matter, would never refer to the foreign minister as an “emerging leader” or a “young professional.” Upon further reflection, it became evident that leadership across the western world was becoming notably young: Emmanuel Macron, France’s newly elected president, is 39, and Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, is 45.
It hit me—we are not the next generation of leaders; at this point, we really are the current generation of leaders. It reminded me of what ACCESS Track Co-Chair Oren Jacobson said at the opening of the conference: “We are not just leaders of tomorrow; we are leaders today. We have the power to act now.” I only had to look around the room to see the entrepreneurs, journalists, consultants, and activists around me to recognize that I was witnessing the power of change.
There’s no doubt that people aged 20-40 are initiating notable changes in the economic and political fabric of this country. Many Jewish organizations, including AJC, are engaging these younger leaders and working to grapple, together with them, to address the changing worldviews and perspectives of this generation.
I feel incredibly empowered by AJC’s ACCESS program, an initiative that will only increase in value over time as we help shape this country and beyond. ACCESS is not AJC’s Young Leadership or Next Generation program, it is AJC’s “Power to Innovate” initiative and contemporary leadership program, and that’s the way we at ACCESS should start thinking of ourselves. We aspire to bring the vision and the energy to be today’s leaders.