Young leaders get front-row seats in U.S. Asia policy-making

So much for closed door conversations among the “old guard” about the future of U.S. policy.

At least one slice of the next generation of leaders recently had a front-row seat at high-level discussions of potential Asia policy for the next presidential administration, thanks to the Pacific Forum CSIS’s Young Leaders program.

Top thinkers and policy makers met in Honolulu last week to draft a new U.S. Asia policy for submission to the incoming administration. They were joined by nine fresh faces, young people destined to be the policy-makers of tomorrow.

The Asia policy event was chaired by former Assistant Secretary of State, James Kelly, and attended by leaders from U.S. Pacific Command, Institute for Defense Analyses, Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, and the East-West Center.

Briefings on U.S. forces in Asia, security relationships with Japan and ROK, the U.S.-Australia alliance, and issues in Southeast Asia filled the two-day program.

Included in all briefings were nine Young Leaders, two of whom came from the East-West Center. The Young Leaders program was started by Pacific Forum CSIS to give the next generation of policy makers a chance to learn from current leaders.

And just as important, it allows “old leaders” to hear the views of the next generation.

“It allows up-and-coming young professionals and graduate students to participate in policy dialogues and conferences, which are normally limited to seasoned experts,” says Brad Glosserman, Executive Director of Pacific Forum CSIS.

Some of the events attended by last year’s Young Leaders were the Asia-Pacific Security Forum in Taipei, a Preventive Diplomacy Workshop in Brunei, Weapons of Mass Destruction Study Group in Jakarta and a U.S.-China Strategic Dialogue in Honolulu.

The young leaders are given time to speak openly and probe topics in depth. They also work, in teams, to write papers for possible publication at

“I found the Young Leaders program to be a wonderful opportunity to witness ‘real-world’ decision making in action,” said John Friend, an East-West Center fellow and PhD candidate in political science.

“Sitting side-by-side with leading U.S. policymakers has given me a better understanding of the approaches and techniques used to build effective relationships with other countries on issues ranging from regional security to cooperation,” he added.

The Young Leaders had their ideas. What would be your best piece of advice for the next administration when it comes to Asia policy?

To learn more about the Young Leaders Program, contact Ana Villavicencio at or call 808-521-6745