December 30, 2016

“Wow, what an experience”; these are the short words that best sum up the three days of our DC-based Leadership Exchange with the Fellows of Leadership Greater Chicago.

Last week’s Leadership Exchange was our third session with Leadership Greater Chicago and our second opportunity to play host to LGC for an exceptional connection-building experience centered on advancing civic dialogue on important issues, replete with several components unique only to the nation’s capital.

In between the lines of our program’s agenda – set along the expansive regional skyline, across discussions on the important issues of our day, and in performance and exhibit spaces of several of our region's major cultural landmarks – the following attempts to abridge the story of three days of over 100 intersecting journeys of our regions' top leaders.

LGW officially kicked off our Leadership Exchange with a welcoming reception hosted at the top of Bank of America, directly overlooking the U.S. Treasury building and the Washington Monument. LGW members and LGC Fellows came together during this networking event throughout the evening, and heard welcomes from both LGW President & CEO Doug Duncan (’15) and LGC President & CEO Maria Wynne.

Day 2

Our program truly began in earnest the following morning at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where over 100 leaders from the Washington and Chicago regions convened for a morning dialogue with top officials from the current administration. We were delighted to hear first from Tina Tchen, Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, about her experience working with administration and on the First Lady’s initiatives, along with her thoughts on leadership and public service.

Our subsequent panel presented our audience an overview of several important initiatives focused on the prevention of urban violence, rebuilding trust in law-enforcement, abating the school-to-prison pipeline, addressing racial-profiling, and strengthening communities through educational support to at-risk minority youth. This panel consisted of:

Ashley Allison

Deputy Director of Public Engagement

Brent Cohen

Office of Justice Program, Department of Justice

Michael Smith

Special Assistant to the President for the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative

Our second panel focused on the administration’s efforts to improve socioeconomic opportunity and mobility, along with huge strides taken to improve educational attainment and school performance, and improve access to affordable housing options especially among minorities experiencing rental discrimination and other challenges. Panelists for this conversation included:

Victoria Brown

Senior Policy Advisor for Housing, Domestic Policy Council

Mario Cardona

Senior Policy Advisor for Education, Domestic Policy Council

Elizabeth Garlow

Community Solutions Team, Office of Management and Budget

Our White House visit ended with a special presentation from Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama. She spoke about a host of issues that included her experience with LGC’s Fellows Program, sensible gun violence prevention, climate change, working-family issues, the Affordable Care Act, criminal justice reform, and reflected on her personal highlights from the administration’s accomplishments.

Next on the agenda was a relaxed luncheon provided graciously for our leaders to connect with each other by Hans Bruland (’01) on the top floor the Hay-Adams Hotel. Our guests were treated with an exemplary view from the hotel of fall foliage surrounding Lafayette Square, the White House, and several iconic monuments.

Following lunch, we headed to the Newseum’s Documentary Theater, where we were welcomed by its President & CEO Jeffrey Herbst and COO and SVP, Sales and Marketing, Scott Williams for a moderated discussion on the role played by the media in the most recent U.S. presidential election. Our panel also discussed how especially political journalism is increasingly under competition from biased or outright fake ‘news’ outlets. Many thanks to our panelists:

Paul Farhi

Reporter, Washington Post

Jeremy Peters

Politics Reporter, New York Times

Derek Thompson

Senior Editor, The Atlantic

Leaders headed next to the Woolly Mammoth Theatre for a reception and discussion on the complexity of providing alternative and community theatre in large cities between Managing Director for Woolly Mammoth Meghan Pressman (’16), and LGC Director of Programs Benjamin Brownson, who is also the Artistic Director for Broken Nose Theatre Company in Chicago. Our final event for the evening was a showing of The Second City’s Black Side of the Moon – a delightfully uncomfortable and poignant production about the frank truth of Black America and its future. Additionally, Black Side of the Moon is the first all-African-American touring cast of the production company.

Day 3

On top of what you will probably agree was already an overwhelming Leadership Exchange, our guests met for the last time at the heavy doors to the most recent Smithsonian Institution enterprise, the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Princess Gamble, the museum’s Assistant Director of Development, welcomed us with a special presentation regarding the journey to deliver the vision of the museum before we headed into the exhibit halls for a powerfully-curated and complex experience of personal stories that span from the Middle Passage to the current day.

LGW wants to thank all who joined together to make this Leadership Exchange a tremendous opportunity for the leaders of our regions to converge. From our hosts to our beloved civic partner in Leadership Greater Chicago, especially to LGC Fellows David Tropp (1995) and Craig Sieben (1999), and from all esteemed panelists and keynote presenters to our team members that made this all possible. Thank you.

After we had all said our goodbyes, we received this comment from Craig Sieben, an LGC Fellow and President of Sieben Energy Associates, who played a valuable role in launching LGC’s annual trip to Washington:

“This collaboration between Leadership Greater Chicago and Leadership Greater Washington is an important example of how regional leaders from America’s great cities are coming together to exchange knowledge and share perspectives formed by unique experiences on the challenges and opportunities facing our communities. Six years ago, LGC launched these annual visits to the nation’s capital to give LGC’s Fellows a direct line on the pulse of civic issues affecting Chicago. Now, with the important support of Leadership Greater Washington as a partner in this effort, we’re looking forward to expanding our ties with LGW members and offering LGC Fellows more opportunities to connect over shared interests.” 

View more photos from the event here