This is what real leadership looks like

Fixating on the failures of our elected power holders can distract us from America’s true leaders

Vanessa Valenti
May 10, 2017 · 3 min read

Sunday’s election of Emmanuel Macron, France’s youngest leader since Napoleon, is another painful reminder of America’s sad state of leadership. Angela Merkel is now widely regarded as the leader of the free world. And we’re increasingly looking to Canada’s Justin Trudeau for prolific speeches on democracy, rather than our own leaders. Who can blame us?

Here’s the problem: Succumbing to the failures of our elected power holders can distract us from America’s real leaders. Because for every congressman creating legislation to make having a vagina a pre-existing condition, there is a fearless woman marching in the street for gender justice. For every anti-science policy that’s proposed, there is a bold leader pushing for policy reform.

It’s time to pull ourselves out of our leadership shame spiral, and turn our heads to the countless human beings leading us in the right direction. They are the leaders who deserve our attention.

Each year, we at FRESH Speakers survey the landscape of the social and public sectors for both up-and-coming and accomplished leaders. Here are ten of the most extraordinary on the front lines of social change today. We’re proud to bring them onto FRESH as our 2017 class of speakers.

Zubaida Bai engineers simple and affordable products that are saving pregnant women’s lives in the developing world.

Elle Hearns is an organizer for Black Lives Matter, and leading the way for black trans women to have safe spaces to build ways to better their lives.

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist who advocates for the ocean and the importance of science policy — most recently while on the national committee for the March for Science in D.C.

Sally Kohn is one of the top progressive communicators in America today, pushing for the hard conversations that the country needs, right now.

Alaa Murabit is a UN high commissioner and who created a movement for women’s rights and participation in peacekeeping in the wake of the Libyan Revolution.

Miriam Zoila Pérez is a queer Cuban-American writer and activist whose work is best known for pushing into new territory, and visibilizing the previously invisible.

Caroline Paul is a firefighter-turned-best-selling author and TED speaker, inspiring the next generation of girls to be brave and tackle seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya uses design to both shine a light on breakthroughs happening in science, and champion the women who have led the way.

C.M. Samala is the co-creator of a venture firm working to increase inclusivity in innovation, to solve some of the world’s most complex problems.

Linda Sarsour is a Palestinian-American-Muslim community organizer and co-chair of the Women’s March, the largest single-day protest in U.S. history.

These brilliant leaders are just ten diverse voices out of thousands resisting and creating in the U.S., and across the globe.

So tell us, during such turbulent times, who do you see #leadingtheway?

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