Washington Ideas Forums

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From September 26th to 28th, a group of teachers and students attended the annual Washington Ideas Forum in Washington, D.C., to hear leaders from various fields talk about today’s world issues. Some of the topics of conversation included science, business, politics, technology, health, culture and journalism. Some of the speakers included Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State; Jeffrey Goldberg, Editor-in-Chief of The Atlantic; Melanie Whelan, the CEO of SoulCycle; and Steven Mnuchin, the US Secretary of the Treasury. The Forum inspired the twelve Blair students in attendance.

“My favorite speaker from the Washington Ideas Form was Adam Neumann,” John Zoetjes told The Oracle. “Neumann is the founder and CEO of WeWork, a company [that provides] a shared workspace for businesses, entrepreneurs and freelancers. It was very interesting to hear [Neumann] speak about how he started. Being told that he was a nobody [in college]… only made him thrive more.” Neumann has since grown his company into a multi-billion dollar enterprise. John also said he learned “the importance of doing what you love and making sure you spend your life doing the things that make you thrive.” Neumann shared his ethos that people should “make a life, not a living.”

When Linda Tong was asked who her favorite speaker was, she said “it was really tough …because they were all so amazing.” A highlight for her, though, was Astro Teller, the Captain of Moonshots at Google X. “He talked about how X tries to streamline innovation” and about “X’s current projects, including the Loon project, which provides wifi in remote areas with floating balloons.” Astro attributed the success of X to building a culture where people “were excited to fail.” Astro believes that people won’t come forward with cutting-edge ideas if they aren’t rewarded for taking risks. Linda was fascinated by his unusual and compelling thought process.

Amy Lee loved “listening to Feng Zhang, the co-inventor of CRISPR.” CRISPR can be used to edit genomes. It “was one of my favorite parts of the Forum.” She thought it was inspiring and fascinating that Zhang and his company are able to make “medicine [less expensive] and [make] diagnosing diseases extremely easy and cheap.” This can help make “medical attention [more] approachable and common to everyone.” She continued, “It was also interesting to see how what I learned last year in biology class helped me easily understand what Mr. Zhang was saying.” He also talked about the bioethical concerns people have about the technology. He explained that “designer babies are still out of reach, and that recreating extinct species could be a danger to the ecosystem and therefore Jurassic Park would be a dangerous reality.”

Lexi Bazsa’s favorite speaker was Joelle Emerson, the CEO of Paradigm. Emerson’s consulting firm advises Silicon Valley tech companies on how to increase their diversity, a major shortcoming in the tech world. Lexi said of Emerson, “Not only was she charming and articulate on stage, but she was also very enthusiastic about her company. It was obvious to me that diversity was something that she really believed in and wanted others to get excited about as well.” Lexi also said that “it was also nice to see a strong female CEO taking strides to not only improve the workplace for people in her own company, but of other bigger Fortune 500 companies as well.”

Chriss Liu, who went to the Forum last year, summed up the power of going well: “The best part of the Forum was seeing successful leaders in person. It  really shows you that they are not so different from you as you may think. They are actual human beings.”


(Copyright 2017 June Dinias)

June Dinias

June Dinias ’20 is an editor and writer that has been on the Oracle since her Freshman year. She has explored writing about various topics, focusing on art, food, and culture. She also manages our instagram account. Outside of the Oracle, June is an AP photo student and a yearbook staff member.