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A Different Kind of Love Letter: Embracing Growth and Leadership on Valentine's Day

Rising leaders class of 2024 with Lui Tuck Yew, Ambassador of Singapore to the United States

The red heart on the calendar couldn't have been more ironic. February 14th, traditionally a day for romantic gestures, instead became the stage for a different kind of love letter – my acceptance into the Aspen Strategy Group Rising Leaders Program. It wasn't just acceptance; it was a surge. A validation of the path I'd chosen, the long hours, and the unwavering belief in myself. But more than that, it was a thrilling anticipation. The future stretched before me, brimming with possibility, like the pages of a new book waiting to be read. This wasn't just an honor but a passport to a new level of growth, a chance to connect with inspiring leaders, and the promise of shaping the future alongside them.


It was as if the universe had chosen that day, often celebrated for connections and relationships, to offer me a different kind of bond—a connection to a future shaped by policy, leadership, and global engagement. The thrill wasn't just personal; it was the spark of potential impact, the chance to translate learnings into action and make a real difference.

February 14th transformed from a day of romantic gestures into a symbol of a different kind of love – the love for learning, growth, and the opportunity to contribute to something bigger than myself.

The Aspen Strategy Group Rising Leaders Program stands at the confluence of thought leadership and policy innovation. It’s designed for individuals poised to make a significant impact on national and international security policy. Being selected to join this esteemed group was not only a surge of validation for my past efforts but also a doorway to an exhilarating journey of growth and contribution. It represented an opportunity to be part of a legacy of leaders committed to addressing some of the most complex challenges of our time.


The program kickoff in Washington, D.C., last week was nothing short of transformative. The setting was imbued with the gravity of responsibility and the lightness of hopeful anticipation. Meeting my cohort (the class of 2024)—a kaleidoscope of impressive and diverse talents—was a reminder of the program’s commitment to fostering a multifaceted understanding of global security challenges. Each member brought a unique perspective, shaped by different backgrounds, disciplines, and experiences, enriching our discussions and broadening our collective horizon. Being surrounded by such a collection of passionate, accomplished young professionals fueled an immediate sense of camaraderie. We are, after all, united by a common purpose: to forge solutions for a more secure future.


The highlight of the kickoff was undoubtedly the opportunity to learn from and interact with luminaries such as Lui Tuck Yew, Ambassador of Singapore to the United States; Tom Donilon, Chairman of the BlackRock Investment Institute and former National Security Advisor; and Dan Porterfield, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute. These interactions were not just insightful; they were a bridge connecting theoretical knowledge with the practical realities of policymaking, strategic planning, and leadership. Ambassador Lui Tuck Yew’s perspectives offered a nuanced understanding of diplomatic relations and international collaboration. Tom Donilon’s reflections on his time as National Security Advisor provided a masterclass in navigating complex global security landscapes. Meanwhile, Dan Porterfield’s vision for the Aspen Institute underscored the importance of values-based leadership in fostering a just, free, and equitable society. Their personal and professional insights provided invaluable context, challenging us to think critically about the evolving landscape of national security and foreign policy—the complex issues we'll be grappling with throughout the program.


The most profound takeaway, however, wasn't from the distinguished speakers but from the caliber of our cohort and the connections and relationships we built with each other. During discussions, breakout sessions, and informal exchanges, I discovered a tapestry of backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, intentionality, and sheer enthusiasm. This diversity, I believe, is our greatest strength. By harnessing our collective knowledge and viewpoints, we can approach challenges from multiple angles, fostering more comprehensive and effective solutions.


This program, in essence, is a crucible for the next generation of strategic leaders, equipping us with the knowledge, skills, and networks necessary to influence and shape the future of global security. The kickoff event in D.C. was not just an introduction but a commitment to a journey of learning, leadership, and impact. It reinforced my belief in the importance of informed dialogue, collaborative problem-solving, and empathetic leadership in addressing the challenges of our time.


Reflecting on the journey ahead, I am filled with a sense of optimism and purpose. The chance to delve deeper into critical issues, exchange ideas with brilliant minds, and contribute to meaningful dialogue is an unparalleled privilege. The Rising Leaders Program offers a unique platform to engage with critical issues, learn from leading experts, and collaborate with peers who share a commitment to making a positive impact on the world. It is an opportunity to grow, challenge oneself, and contribute to developing innovative and equitable solutions to the most pressing issues of our time. It is not just a program; it's a call to action, a commitment to rise to the challenges of our time.


I look forward to the continued dialogues, the learning opportunities, and the chance to be part of a community that aspires to shape a more secure, peaceful, and prosperous world for all. Like the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” The Aspen Strategy Group Rising Leaders Program isn't just about shaping the future of national security and foreign policy; it's about forging the bonds that will allow us to navigate those challenges together. And together, I am confident we will.




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