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NATO Youth Summit Explores NextGen Freedom & Security

Diplomacy Through Sports: A Conversation With Leaders On & Off the Field": Moderator: Jill Ellis ’88, L.H.D. ’16, National Soccer Hall of Fame; President, San Diego Wave, National Women’s Soccer League; Nadia Nadim, Forward, Racing Louisville Football Club; William Smith ’14, Founder and Executive Director, LEAD Edu (Photo credit: Gabe Cancio-Bello)By Kathryn H. Floyd & Teresa Longo

The NATO Youth Summit, co-hosted by NATO and William & Mary on June 5 in Brussels and Washington, DC, engaged citizens of NATO countries, Sweden, and Ukraine between the ages of 18-35 in a day of transatlantic listening, networking, and cross-generational learning. The Summit created a unique opportunity for those present in-person and online to explore the threats and opportunities facing NATO and its diverse populations and the various ways—through education, public service, and even simple awareness—they might have an impact.

This “NextGen Freedom & Security” Summit met over 14 hours, starting with a full program in Brussels, a shared experience with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and transitioning to Washington, D.C. for the second half of the day. Across the Atlantic and beyond, NextGen Freedom & Security drew a large, international audience (400 in person and 3000 registered online) who interacted with NATO representatives, academics, politicians, diplomats, policymakers, human rights activists, security analysts, directors of NGOs, representatives from Microsoft and Google, and professional athletes. Topics and discussions ranged from leadership in sports to cybersecurity; diplomatic career paths to the ways private sector jobs support public service; climate change to space technology. The panelists and guest speakers represented multiple generations, enabling participants to challenge the world as it has been and is now, and to envision with their contemporaries what could be different—better.

While the Summit addressed head on the Russia's war in Ukraine, topics related to hardware and battlefield tactics were thoughtfully nested within larger themes: sustainable security depends on strong, democratic foundations; security is possible when citizens understand their rights and obligations in a democratic society, have trust in their institutions, and use tools like data in a way that advances and protects democratic values. And this kind of security and trust cannot be achieved or maintained by artillery, one nation, or even a handful of nations alone. In fact, NATO is more than a collective security arrangement. NATO, and the next generation to lead it, aims to unite nations around common democratic values including active citizen engagement, freedom of speech and information, economic opportunity, and climate sustainability.

No true peace without democracy

Designed to promote and mirror democratic values in a world of misinformation and disinformation, the NextGen Youth Summit emphasized open dialogue and the value of education. The Summit moved the audience toward a deeper understanding of how NATO works and why it matters. A common refrain centered around building broad, thoughtful, well-informed alliances.

Secretary General Stoltenberg, in his conversation with the youth audience, referenced the Roman maxim, Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum “If You Want Peace, Prepare for War." And for him, in today’s polarized world, the strongest preparation for peace and for combatting climate insecurity is the strengthening of democracy through strong alliances, collaboration and inclusion.

In her introductory remarks, William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe linked preparation to education reminding the audience that the “Liberal arts are the skills of freedom.” Later, Provost Peggy Agouris emphasized the role of the university in “…teaching and promoting democracy.” Helping lead the Summit and align NATO’s objectives with university expertise were two pillars of service: the Whole of Government Center of Excellence (WGC) and the Reves Center for International Studies. Respectively, WGC was established as a convening hub on any matters of national security, while Reves is the epicenter best suited to take matters of security and infuse those with cultural considerations, among other strategic points.

The principles of NATO and the vision William & Mary has for education transcend expectations.Diplomatic Approaches to Security: The Honorable Victoria Nuland, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Moderator: Erin Battle ’13, M.Ed. ‘15, Associate Director, Washington Center, William & Mary (Photo credit: Gabe Cancio-Bello) Tomorrow’s leaders of NATO and the United States will not all wear suits, get degrees in International Relations, or follow a single playbook. If we are only listening to those voices, then we are missing the incredible voices of those who make the NATO Alliance worth preserving for all time coming—those from Martina Ptáčková, fighter and trainer in hand to hand combat and kickboxing, Adélaïde Charlier, Climate and Social Justice Activist, and Rahmina Paullete, Climate Activist, Fridays for Future International. To be sure, sage advice with frank dialogue is also necessary so we do not forget the lessons of the past. The Summit heard from many over the age of 35, including: General Petr Pavel, (Ret.), President, The Czech Republic; Belgian Holocaust Survivor Baroness Régine Suchowolski–Sluszny; The Honorable Victoria Nuland, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, U.S. Department of State; and Dr. Colin H. Kahl, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, U.S. Department of Defense, among others.

And this nexus between ages is where the magic of the NATO Youth Summit and its academic partners lies. We tell the story, we provide transformative opportunities for learning about democratic governance, and we educate for impact.

Learn more about the NATO Youth Summit