This week in Berlin, Germany, President Obama sat down with 18 alumni of our leadership programs from across Europe for a roundtable conversation about the importance of nurturing democracy at a time when it is under threat in the region and around the world.

During the conversation, President Obama heard directly from these changemakers about how they have been advancing democratic practices before and after completing their Foundation programs. They also discussed how the Obama Foundation can further connect them across programs and countries to work together on the frontlines to strengthen democracy.

The conversation was moderated by Ben Rhodes, former Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama. This was an Obama Leadership Network roundtable to connect a small group of diverse program alumni who have an established track record in similar fields.

Get to know some of the Obama Leaders, Fellows, and Scholars who were a part of this conversation below!

Maïmonatou Mar

Maïmonatou Mar, a Black woman with a deep skin tone and short black hair, smiles as she speaks to someone. She is wearing glasses and a white blazer.

2020 Europe Leader
Co-Founder & Facilitator of the French Chapter of RadicalxChange Foundation

“When I went through [the Leaders Europe] program, I found like-minded people and I came back with a sense of urgency. I came back with a sense of self-belief and confidence that cannot be manufactured. That is what is in the DNA of these programs, that is what you offer us, Mr. President.”

Pavel Kounchev

Pavel Kouchev, a man with a light skin tone and short black hair, looks away from the camera. He is wearing a black sweater and plaid shirt. A sign in the background reads, “Obama Leadership Network.”

2018 Scholar
Co-Founder & Chair of Fine Acts Foundation

“We are currently living in test[ing] times. We already have systems that are better than humans in terms of how they communicate and what answers they provide. We need to get educated on how these systems work. We need companies to build systems that are more transparent.”

Bjørn Ihler

Bjorn Ihler, a man with a light skin tone and thin red hair, smiles as he speaks with someone whose back is to the camera. He has a long red beard and is wearing a black suit.

2022 Europe Leader
Co-Founder & Director of the Khalifa Ihler Institute, Co-Founder & CEO of GlitterPill

“Diversity is fundamental to democracy, how democracy needs to encapsulate the voices of people with different experiences in order to flourish and function and grow.”

You can learn more about our leadership programs here.