History will be made today when the four living Chairs of the Federal Reserve - Janet Yellen, Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan, and Paul Volcker - will appear on stage together for the first time in conversation at International House in New York.
It would not be a stretch to say that the world will be listening. Media outlets across the globe have registered to cover this event, for the actions of the Fed affect almost every important aspect of the world economy from interest rates and inflation to employment and retirement. Undoubtedly, these four individuals are among the most influential on the planet.
But the target for the conversation on Thursday is not investors, bankers, or business executives, and the goal is not to determine when or whether interest rates will rise or fall and by what proportion. Instead, in the audience will be millennials, whom the Fed Chairs are eager to reach -- a community of the best and brightest graduate students from around the world who are continuing an almost century-long tradition of living and studying together in I-House's "values based" training center.
The questions that these students will ask have less to do with interest rates and more to do with the Chairs' perspectives on leadership, their reliance - or not - on values and understanding how and when to act to have the best impact on the often opaque and mystifying economic drivers of our global society.
For more than 90 years, our focus at International House has been to challenge residents to be the next generation of global leaders by instilling values of empathy, respect and moral courage through our programs, partnerships and facilities. Our community consists of 700 graduate students, scholars and interns from 100 countries studying at 75 institutions in New York. Our 60,000 alumni include individuals who went on to become Nobel Prize winners, heads of state, award-winning authors and artists, entrepreneurs and CEOs.
We are proud that our Fed Chair conversation will constitute the inaugural Paul A. Volcker Distinguished Speaker Program at International House. Indeed, the event is truly an I-House family affair. For 14 years, Paul Volcker chaired International House's Board of Trustees. He is now one of our emeritus trustees. I-House alumnus, James Gorman, who is Chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley, will introduce the event, and CNN's Fareed Zakaria, an I-House Trustee, will moderate the conversation.
I-House has a long record of convening thought leaders on international affairs impacting young people. Last year, we hosted a major conference on global youth unemployment with mayors from across the world and participants from the World Economic Forum, World Bank, Clinton Global Initiative, LinkedIn and JP Morgan Chase.
We hosted South African President Nelson Mandela, just four months after his 1990 release from prison. And over the years, our residents have welcomed senators, Supreme Court justices, secretaries of state and titans of industry. Our Board has been chaired by former President Gerald Ford and former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and General George Marshall. Our former I-House residents include architect I.M Pei, opera great Leontyne Price, as well as former CEOs of Toyota, Eli Lilly and Citigroup.
Leadership - effective leadership in a complex world - has been the common thread since International House's founding, in the aftermath of World War I. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, our tradition of values-based leadership is needed more than ever.
We value respect - the ability to hold others in the highest esteem. We value empathy - the ability to understand the perspective of another. And we value moral courage - the ability take considered action to do what's right in the face of forces that might lead a person to act some other way.
The powerful mix of our values, our residential diversity and our programming produces a set of lifelong skills in our residents that are differentiated and highly valued in an academic or commercial setting, anywhere in the world.
Who better than our I-House residents can understand the cross-national and cross-cultural currents that are leading some alienated, isolated young people to join nihilistic terrorist groups? Who better than our I-House residents can help their brothers and sisters navigate an increasingly diverse world? Because our residents and alumni live and learn together, they share stories of growing up in other places, and discuss today's news and tomorrow's challenges over meals, at events, and during their leisure time. As a result, they develop a unique and personal understanding of different cultures. And that understanding incubates extraordinary innovations.
And so we look forward to today's intimate conversation with the Fed Chairs with the hope that it will provide new insights and understanding as well as inspiration for the next generation of global leaders.
About International House President Calvin Sims: Calvin Sims is a seasoned cross-sector executive with more than 20 years of experience in journalism, philanthropy, and international affairs. He has served in senior roles at International House, The New York Times, Discovery Times Channel, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Ford Foundation, and leading non-profit organizations. At The New York Times, he served as bureau chief and foreign correspondent in Argentina, Japan, Korea, and Indonesia.