Christine Lagarde (b. 1956) is Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). She was appointed in July 2011 and is the first woman to hold the position. A national of France, Madame Lagarde joined the French government in June 2005 as Minister for Foreign Trade. After brief service as Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, she became in June 2007 the first woman to hold the post of Finance and Economy Minister of a G-7 country. From July to December 2008, she also chaired the ECOFIN Council, which brings together Economics and Finance Ministers of the European Union. As a member of the G-20, Madame Lagarde was involved in the Group’s management of the financial crisis. As Chairman of the G-20 when France took over its presidency for the year 2011, she launched a wide-ranging work agenda on the reform of the international monetary system. Madame Lagarde also has had an extensive career as an anti-trust and labor lawyer, serving as a partner with the international law firm of Baker & McKenzie, where the partnership elected her as Chairman in October 1999. She held the top post at the firm until June 2005, when she was named to her initial ministerial post in France.
Mario J. Molina (b. 1943) is one of the leading scientists in the world, dedicated to atmospheric chemistry. He co-authored with Frank Sherwood Rowland the 1974 Nature article predicting the depletion of the ozone layer as a direct consequence of the emissions of certain industrial gases, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The “CFC-ozone depletion theory” led to their earning the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry jointly with Paul J. Crutzen. Professor Molina’s research and publications on the subject also influenced the United Nations Montreal Protocol, a landmark international agreement designed to protect the ozone layer. He is a former MIT Institute Professor and at present, he presides over the Mario Molina Center for Strategic Studies on Energy and Environment in Mexico, which conducts research and promotes public policies. The Center focuses on strategic studies of energy and the environment, particularly in the field of climate change and air quality.
Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD is the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In that role he oversees the work of the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world, spanning the spectrum from basic to clinical research. Dr. Collins is a physician-geneticist noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the international Human Genome Project, which culminated in April 2003 with the completion of a finished sequence of the human DNA instruction book. He served as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the NIH from 1993-2008. Before coming to the NIH, Dr. Collins was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the University of Michigan. He is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2007, and received the National Medal of Science in 2009.
Valerie Jarrett currently serves as Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama. She oversees the White House Offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, and chairs the White House Council on Women and Girls. Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Ms. Jarrett was the Chief Executive Officer of The Habitat Company. She has held positions in both the public and private sector, including Chairman of the University of Chicago Medical Center Board of Trustees, Chairman of the Chicago Transit Board, Commissioner of Planning and Development for the City of Chicago, and Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Richard M. Daley. She also practiced law with two private law firms. Ms. Jarrett has served as a director of corporate and not for profit boards, including Chairman of the Board of the Chicago Stock Exchange, Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and Trustee at the Museum of Science and Industry. She received her BA from Stanford University in 1978 and her JD from the University of Michigan Law School in 1981.
Janet Napolitano (b. 1957), now president of the University of California system, served from 2009 to 2013 as the third secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, in which role she directed the nation’s counterterrorism, border security, immigration enforcement, as well as disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. Prior to joining the Obama Administration, she was mid-way through her second term as governor of Arizona. While governor, Napolitano became the first woman to chair the National Governors Association, through which she was instrumental in creating the Public Safety Task Force and the Homeland Security Advisors Council. She also chaired the Western Governors Association and served as the attorney general of Arizona and the US attorney for the District of Arizona.
David Miliband (b. 1965) is the former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, in which post he served from June 2007 to October 2010. Secretary Miliband was educated at Haverstock Comprehensive School in London. After graduating with first class honors in philosophy, politics, and economics from Corpus Christi College, Oxford University, he completed a master’s degree in political science in 1990 at MIT, where he was a Kennedy Scholar. He is the elder son of the late Marxist theoretician Ralph Miliband and Marion Kozak, and his brother is the Right Honorable Edward Miliband MP, former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.
Steven Chu (b. 1948) served as secretary of the United States Department of Energy from 2009 to 2013, and was co-winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize for Physics for his work in methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light. Dr. Chu was born in St. Louis, Missouri, into a family of scholars who placed an enormous value on education. Both his father and mother studied at MIT, in chemical engineering and economics, respectively, and they nurtured intellectual curiosity in their children. As a young child, Dr. Chu built model airplanes and warships, graduated to Erector Sets, and later, spent his school lunch money on parts for homemade rockets that he constructed with a friend. He matriculated to the University of Rochester, where he developed a love for physics and mathematics, and from which he graduated in 1970. In 1976, after completing his graduate and postdoctoral work at the University of California at Berkeley, Dr. Chu spent nine years at Bell Laboratories. The atmosphere at Bell Labs during that period (1978–1987) was one “permeated by the joy and excitement of doing science,” according to Dr. Chu, and his work there led to the laser cooling and trapping of atoms for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize.
The news these days from Africa isn’t all bad. In fact, in some places, it’s downright hopeful, as Rwandan President Paul Kagame (b. 1957) attests. “Our continent is no longer all about violence and disease and human disasters that scarred many African countries in recent decades,” says Kagame. “We are now becoming a continent of opportunities.” There are those who doubted Rwanda could “constitute a viable state,” says Kagame, but 14 years after bloody genocide and civil war, his country has managed an astonishing revival.
Tom Brokaw (b. 1940) characterizes the transformation of the world by digital technology as a second “Big Bang,” a time of great possibility, but also of danger. This revolution is being advanced not by “a small collection of monkish wonks working in a secret lab” but by a vast and ever larger population ranging from inventive teenagers to military analysts in the Pentagon, says Brokaw, who feel “power at their fingertips and in the bowels of their servers.” They believe that the world is limited only by their imagination. Yet, cautions Brokaw, “life is not a virtual experience. If we develop capacity and leave out compassion, what is the reward? What are the consequences if speed overruns reason?”
For those seeking reassurance that American politicians take climate change and clean energy seriously, look no further: Jeff Bingaman (b. 1943) wraps his arms around this enormous issue, and sets forth an ambitious national agenda to address the challenge. Bingaman sees a new attitude emerging in Washington. Politicians have begun to grasp that reduced dependence on foreign oil is not enough, and that today’s energy challenge requires an overhaul in the way the entire world produces, stores, distributes, and uses energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This urgent, immense challenge is happening “in a world of growing demand for energy as billions of people are rising out of poverty.”