Concordia’s 2013 Summit of Hope

NEW YORK – At a time of prolonged economic distress marked by high unemployment, particularly for young people under 25 years of age, the recent Concordia Summit addressed that very problem, as its founders and supporters conveyed a clear message of hope and opportunity, while maintaining an over-arching focus on promoting private-public partnershi

NEW YORK – At a time of prolonged economic distress marked by high unemployment, particularly for young people under 25 years of age, the recent Concordia Summit addressed that very problem, as its founders and supporters conveyed a clear message of hope and opportunity, while maintaining an over-arching focus on promoting private-public partnership.{68321}

In the United States, the official youth unemployment rate is hovering at 15.6 percent, but it had been as high as nearly 20 percent back in 2010, and is still more than 2.5 times the rate for those who are 25 and older. Those under age 25, even with college degrees, are still struggling to gain a foothold in today’s job market. At more than 23 percent, the European Union’s overall youth unemployment rate is even worse, while 62 percent of Greece’s population under 25 hit an unfathomable 61.5 percent this past August.
With such dismal unemployment statistics still plaguing 21st Century economies, the theme for this year’s Concordia Summit, “Building a Prosperous Future: Investing in our Youth,” was very timely.
During the Summit’s third annual gathering at New York’s Grand Hyatt this past September 27, Concordia Co-Founders Matthew Swift and Nick Logothetis, who were schoolmates together at the prestigious Salisbury School in Connecticut, expressed their concern about the lack of opportunity for youth not only in the United States, but also all over the world.
“Nick and I have been working together since high school, and we know a thing or two about being young, passionate individuals trying to build something meaningful in the world. That’s why, this year, our focus for this Summit is youth,” Swift said during his welcoming remarks.{68319}

“We can all agree that by investing in our youth, we will undoubtedly build a more prosperous future. We are personally very passionate about providing opportunity for youth around the world, and it’s a topic that lends itself very well to collaboration which is, after all, the core of our founding mission,” he said.
“Our goal with Concordia has been to create an environment for real and meaningful exchanges as a first step toward building partnerships. We enlisted the help of Japanese design thinking, Brazilian writers, Argentinean graphic designers, Iranian editors, all to be delivered by a British citizen who’s Greek and me, an American,” he said.
“We have been fortunate enough to witness some major progress in our time, but some political challenges seem intractable, and sometimes, the solutions we pose don’t reach their intended scale. When we consider economic recession, astronomical unemployment rates – especially for youth – climate change and national security, we know that no single institution can tackle these problems alone. It’s through collaboration that we can bridge the gaps,” he added.
Logothetis told the Summit’s 400-plus participants that Concordia is pushing for something other organizations have yet to fully and forcefully address: “No one is looking at the issue of private-public partnerships prolifically. That is what our organization is trying to do – and only that. We wouldn’t take on this task if someone else was already putting together a concerted effort to explore the effort from a global perspective,” he said.
“We believe passionately that one of the true forces of problem-solving and future advancement rests on the efficiency of cooperation between the private and public sectors, so we ask that, just for today, you do not say no to anything or anyone. You don’t have to say yes, but try not to say no. We can all learn as long as we remain open to possibilities. We are here today to discuss youth unemployment; how to leverage private-public partnerships; how to illuminate to lack of access to capital for youth; and assist in the security situation that is a major crux of high unemployment,” he added.
Nick Logothetis’ older brother George, chairman and chief executive officer of the Libra Group (a major international shipping conglomerate, and funding sponsor of Concordia) then helped set the tone for the Summit with uplifting and insightful opening remarks. The need for private and public sector leaders to foster and reaffirm hope for a better tomorrow – particularly among young people, who make up half the world’s population – and entrusting young people with responsibility and self-confidence were his primary emphasis.
“At the core of human motivation is that tomorrow can be better than today. People will fight oppressors, combat unending perils and unite thru unparalleled adversity, all in the hope that tomorrow can be better than today. But how does it feel to believe that tomorrow can not be better than today? There is an entire generation in many parts of the world, including the West, who are living off their memories of yesterday, rather than their hopes for tomorrow,” George Logothetis said.
“If an entire generation of young people is robbed of this priceless and renewable feeling, where does that leave our collective future? After all, 50 percent of the world’s 7-billion population is under the age of 30. In too many places for too many young people, their daily experience is about disempowerment. It’s about over-controlling, which imposes a receding of progress. It’s about withholding good information and not educating. It’s about removing responsibility. All of that prevents people from thinking and doing for themselves,” he said, noting that ideological extremism often takes root in susceptible young minds.
“The poisoned tentacles of seduction from extremist political parties and terrorist groups resonate only in the minds of the young who are burdened by lack of education, direction and hope. The empty, vacuous promises of progress from the mouths of madmen feed off disenchanted, disenfranchised and disempowered youth. Just look at the recent events in Kenya. The seeds of terrorism are far more easily sewn in the minds of the disempowered, controlled and hopeless, than they could be in those who can hope to be educated; hope to be able to provide for their families; and hope for a better tomorrow. To a person who feels he or she has nothing to lose, senseless acts can make sense,” he said, adding that socio-economic progress must now be a priority for those in a position to make a difference.
“No longer do the great majority of people in this world live in an information vacuum. Thru the Internet, the threshold of contentment and happiness has increased. People see more of what they do not have. Expectations have risen faster than social and economic progress. And social and economic progress now needs to catch up. Too many people live in places where opportunities are either not there, or denied them. When 500 million young people live on less than $2 a day, it shames us all. The antidote to hopelessness is socio-economic progress and cementing the belief in people’s lives that tomorrow can be better than today,” he said.
“At then end of the day, my experience has been that rendering responsibility nurtures maturity. You can not grow if you’re not made responsible. The Libra Group has been built on empowerment, and mostly by young people. We always believed in granting people opportunities based on potential and personality, not just experience; on what you can be, not what you have been. We have people trained in shipping from London who are now building hotels in South America; others buying property in the States, and even energy plants in Europe. Making people responsible and accountable pays dividends, and feelings of empowerment are much higher if people are made responsible, than if they are controlled,” Logothetis said.
“Uncertainty begets uncertainty. I’ve seen firsthand the importance of helping people be part of the solution. Our internship program helps students from Greece and the States see what is possible with a dynamic global mindset. It has sparked hope and encouragement in Greece, a country starved for both. We should never regard youth as a disadvantage. We should instead treasure the vitality of youth, and tap into its energy and creativity. It is infectious. All we need to do is burden them with opportunity, and get them to believe in themselves most of all. As the son of a man who came from Europe to America, I’ve witnessed the sense of empowerment America can give. The United States sets the great example for us all. Just look at the results: Here, you are encouraged to achieve your potential,” he said, citing three of America’s greatest success stories.
“Henry Ford. Walt Disney. H.J. Heinz. What do these men have in common? American icons, yes; titans of business, of course. They’ve all had the great and good fortune to live in America, where they could build great companies. But they also had something else in common: They all failed. Each of them went bankrupt before succeeding. Then they got up and started again. So empowerment is as much about belief in one’s self, as it is about opportunity. It is thru self-belief that we can encourage the young to exceed their, and our, expectations. That is the real empowerment. Young people’s confidence can not be developed if they have no opportunity to be made responsible,” he said, turning the focus back onto the role private-public partnerships can play in that regard.
“By combining the agility of the private sector with the outreach and voice of the public sector, we can all help. Those of you running global companies can find ways to create more opportunities. Those of you who lobby policymakers can remind them of the trouble to come if a subject is not adequately confronted. Those of you with children can encourage them to believe in themselves, and to understand there is no immediacy in excellence,” he added.
Logothetis then tied all his points together by discussing the meaning of philanthropy, citing the origins of the word in Ancient Greek literature.
“I’m not simply talking about putting your hand in your pocket and pulling out your checkbook. I’m talking about philanthropy in the most profound meaning of the word. The word was first coined by the Ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus, who used it to describe Prometheus when he gave two gifts to mankind: fire and hope. And that’s still important and relevant to us today, for fire symbolizes culture, science and technology, all tools used by mankind; all tools that give hope to mankind; all tools we will be discussing today. And all can be combined with the simple belief that we can make things better tomorrow than today. So the real meaning of philanthropy is gifting people with the tools they need to create a great civilization, and also to gift them with the confidence they need to try and build one,” he said.
“As I look around this room, I see people with a common bond. And that bond is, someone gave you a chance. Someone believed in you. And it made all the difference. So we all have a responsibility to give back what we were given. I wish you all fire and hope,” he added, generating a thundering round of applause.
In addition to the Libra Group, Concordia Summit sponsors include the John G. Rangos Sr. Charitable Foundation, Hewlett-Packard, Mastercard, and NYSE EURONEXT.
In 2011 and 2012, Concordia was attended by (among others) luminaries like former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona); former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State and former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte; Fran Fragos-Townsend, Homeland Security and counterterrorism advisor to President Bush; former First Lady Laura Bush; former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe; former Governor of New Jersey and 9/11 Commission Chair Thomas Kean; former Chancellor of NYC’s Education Department Joel Klein; fashion icon Donna Karan; and Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, all of whom were featured speakers during either or both those events.
The 2013 Summit, which took place the same week as the annual United Nations General Assembly, was preceded by a closing bell ceremony at the New York Stock Exchange on September 26 with Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, and a special reception afterwards with Republic of Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili.
This year’s featured participants also included (among others) Dow Chemical Chairman * CEO Andrew Liveris; members of the Obama Administration (e.g., Ari Matusiak, special assistant to President Obama; and Andrew O’Brien and Zeenat Rahman, both key staffers under Secretary of State John Kerry); Lt. General Harry D. Raduege (U.S. Air Force, retired); His Royal Highness Prince Abdul-Aziz Bin Talal of Saudi Arabia; current Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy; former President of Spain Jose Maria Aznar; Notis Mitarachi, Greece’s vice minister of development and competitiveness; Ambassador Paula J. Dobriansky, senior fellow at Harvard’s JFK Belfer Center; Jane Harman, director and president of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington; Mary Margaret Frank, academic director of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business; John Bilbrey, president and chief executive officer of the Hershey Company; Walt Macnee, vice chairman of Mastercard Worldwide; Dr. Judith Ronin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation; Jacquelline Fuller, director of Google Giving; professional basketball legend Dikembe Mutombo; Cindy Hensley McCain, wife of Senator McCain; Time Magazine’s Joe Klein; and Abby Huntsman, co-host MSNBC’s “The Cycle.”
Feedback on the event was generally very positive. Jason Howard, a post-doctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (and winner of the Rangos Awards Competition at Hopkins this past April), said he was very impressed with both the gathering’s breakout and plenary sessions, which took place throughout the course of the day. Dr. Howard added that he fully agreed that young people need to be given more responsibility in order to grow, noting that at the University of Virginia, where he was an undergraduate, students play a full and decisive role in administering university affairs.
Mr. Rangos, himself a proponent of private-public partnerships, was also present for Summit proceedings. “My family and I are very glad to be here, and we’re proud to support the Concordia Summit,” he told TNH. “They are bringing together some very intelligent people to discuss ways we can help improve human life and activity all over the world, and they have succeeded admirably in creating a serious dialogue about something crucial (i.e., private-public partnership).”

Evan C. Lambrou was Managing Editor of The National Herald from 2004 to 2009.