In the last sparkling days of summer, the Academy of Achievement gathered in San Francisco, California for the 51st International Achievement Summit. From September 12 to 14, 2014, more than 100 young delegates met in San Francisco with nearly 100 of the most accomplished men and women of our times -- leaders in politics and public service, the arts and letters, science and business. Twenty-nine new honorees were inducted into the Academy, joining the delegates, returning honorees, and special guests in a series of discussions at the Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco.
The ranks of Academy delegates included some of America's most promising young inventors, scientists, artists and entrepreneurs -- Rhodes Scholars, Marshall Scholars, Soros Fellows, medical students and young physicians of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Harvard-MIT Medical Scientist Training Program -- as well as scholars from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Israel. Many have founded their own companies, nonprofits and NGOs. Their ranks included rising musical stars, an Olympic champion and a recipient of the Medal of Honor.
Members of the Academy attending the 2014 Summit included such outstanding public servants as Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr.; Justice Anthony M. Kennedy of the United States Supreme Court; former Prime Minster of Israel Ehud Barak, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta; former CIA Director David Petraeus; General Philip Breedlove, the commander of NATO; retired Admiral William McRaven; former NATO commander General Joseph Ralston; former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles; former San Francisco Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr. and ACLU Director Anthony Romero. Outstanding members of the legal profession in attendance included David Boies, Ted Olson, Barry Scheck and Brendan Sullivan.
Distinguished scientists attending the Summit included: the Director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins; Chief of Surgery at the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Steven Rosenberg; biomedical engineer Dr. Robert Langer; famed neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson; undersea explorer Dr. Sylvia Earle; chemist Dr. Frances Arnold; and cosmologist Dr. Alan Guth; and 14 recipients of the Nobel Prize.
A host of renowned authors and journalists joined their fellow Academy members at the Summit: South African playwright Athol Fugard, and Pulitzer Prize recipients Rick Atkinson, A. Scott Berg and Neil Sheehan. The world of broadcast journalism was represented by Academy members Wolf Blitzer and Chris Wallace of CNN and Fox News, respectively. Business leaders among the Academy members in attendance included James Breyer, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, iPod mastermind and Nest founder Tony Fadell; MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito; and Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes. Representatives of music, the theater, cinema and the arts included artist Jeff Koons, violinist Joshua Bell, record producer Lukasz ("Dr. Luke") Gottwald, saxophone legend Wayne Shorter, entertaiment icons Julie Andrews, Carol Burnett and Diana Ross, and the creator of Star Wars, filmmaker George Lucas.
The 2014 Summit Chairman was Catherine B. Reynolds, Chairman and CEO of The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation. The Summit was made possible by a generous grant from The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation. The Co-Hosts of the 2014 Summit were Ray and Barbara Dalio and Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba of the United Arab Emirates.
Academy members and delegates who were already in the Bay Area met for a pre-Summit dinner on Thursday, September 11, under the imposing dome of San Francisco's City Hall. The soaring rotunda of the neo-classical landmark was exquisitely lit and decorated for the occasion, and the attendees enjoyed warm personal remarks from former Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr. and Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Mayor Brown recalled the efforts he had made to fully restore the building after it was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, while Justice Kennedy recalled his early career practicing law in the courtrooms the City Hall housed when he was a young attorney.
The formal program of the 2014 Summit got underway on Friday, September 12, with a dinner in the ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel. After welcoming the Academy members, honorees and delegates to San Francisco, Summit Chairman Catherine B. Reynolds introduced a distinguished member of the Academy's Class of 2012, the Honorable Leon Panetta. An eight-term congressman from California, Panetta served as Chief of Staff to President Clinton and as CIA Director and Secretary of Defense under President Obama. Drawing on his unique breadth of experience, Panetta spoke of the difference between two styles of governance: one that exercises continuous leadership and another that governs from crisis to crisis. In concluding his remarks, Secretary Panetta introduced a surprise guest, the Governor of California, Edmund G. Brown. Brown spoke with easy humor and spontaneity, minimizing his own role in restoring the State's finances while praising his state's history as a model of diversity and a cradle of innovation. While recognizing the challenges California faces today, including its ongoing drought, he affirmed his faith in the State's ability to absorb immigration and adapt to a changing environment. Following his address, he received the Gold Medal of the Academy of Achievement as the first inductee of the Academy's Class of 2014.
Following dinner, a longtime member of the Academy, Dr. James Watson, took the stage to introduce one of its newest. Dr. Watson, who received the Nobel Prize in 1962 for his discovery of the DNA molecule, introduced Elizabeth Holmes, the young founder of a revolutionary new health technology company, Theranos. Speaking with unmistakable passion, Ms. Holmes described her company's innovative blood testing method as the first component of a long-term effort to reduce the many inefficiencies in our healthcare system, potentially saving both lives and dollars on a massive scale.
The evening's speakers were followed by a brief but spellbinding musical program. Esperanza Spalding -- a 2014 Academy delegate and today's bestselling contemporary jazz artist -- enchanted the audience with her expressive singing in both English and Portuguese, accompanying herself brilliantly on the upright bass. She was joined for a pair of ingenious duets by saxophone legend Wayne Shorter, a member of the Academy's Class of 2014.
Saturday morning, the entire assembly gathered again for a series of striking presentations by Academy members. The prolific medical inventor Dr. Robert Langer gave a lively account of his early struggles to win recognition for his discoveries. Attorney Barry Scheck discussed his work as founder of the Innocence project, his long campaign to inject DNA evidence into the legal system, and the resulting exoneration of innocent men and women wrongly convicted of violent crimes.
In one of the most inspiring presentations of the Summit, Admiral William McRaven addressed a profoundly simple question, "How do you change the world, when so much lies beyond your control?" Recalling incidents from his own life and service, he demonstrated that we all have opportunities to perform numberless small acts of encouragement, courage and compassion that can have repercussions far beyond our own lives.
The award-wining playwright Athol Fugard spoke of his youth in South Africa and his early adventures as a merchant seaman. Rather than dwelling on the persecution he suffered as an advocate of racial equality in his country, he returned to the most basic and satisfying emotions that have informed his life, including the love of other human beings and of nature, deeply moving the audience with the simple humanity of his poetic words.
The Academy heard next from two of America's foremost attorneys. Speaking together, David Boies and Ted Olson recalled how they met as adversaries in the historic case of Bush v. Gore that effectively decided the 2000 presidential election, and later joined forces to oppose California's Proposition 8 and vindicate the right of same-sex couples to marry. The fantastically successful American artist Jeff Koons gave a presentation of his stunningly original work. Overturning any expectations of an obscure or mystifying rationale for his creations, Koons gave a straightforward and articulate account of the imaginative process that underlies his work, and the exacting craft that goes into its production.
The morning's program concluded with one of the Academy's best-known members, Star Wars creator George Lucas. With disarming humility, Lucas recounted the obstacles he overcame as a young filmmaker, and closed with an eloquent account of the ethical philosophy that informs his tales. He contrasted the values of selfishness and compassion, noting that the former leads only to discontent and disappointment, while a life of engagement with others yields the truest happiness.
After lunch the Academy heard from a new member of the Academy, chemist Dr. Frances Arnold, a pioneer of the research technique of directed evolution that is transforming fields as disparate as medicine, agriculture and alternative energy. General David Petraeus shared the knowledge of strategic leadership he gained in a career that included service as Director of the CIA, and as the U.S. military's leading authority on counterinsurgency warfare.
The next speakers were two of the visionaries of today's world of Internet commerce and social media: Reid Hoffman and Joi Ito. Hoffman was one of the founding directors of the PayPal online commerce service, and is the founder and Chairman of LinkedIn, as well as an early investor in Facebook, GroupOn and Airbnb. Joi Ito, a social media entrepreneur in his own right, is now Director of the MIT Media Lab. With humor and dazzling insight, the two friends engaged in a freewheeling discussion of today's media landscape, with personal observations of the industry's leaders and a tantalizing peek at its future.
Another highlight of the afternoon was the appearance of America's beloved First Lady of Comedy, Carol Burnett. With characteristic humor and unexpected depth of feeling, Burnett described her triumph over childhood poverty to achieve success in the theater and television, and the undisguised sexism she encountered when she first proposed hosting her own weekly television program. She closed her presentation by reading the words of her daughter, the late actress and writer Carrie Hamilton. Another new member of the Academy, master chef Thomas Keller, retraced the story of his life in the restaurant business, and the values he learned in building a culinary empire, beginning with his flagship restaurant, the French Laundry. The next speaker was the mastermind behind today's most ubiquitous accessory, the iPhone, and its predecessor, the iPod. Tony Fadell, still recovering from a sporting injury, described his career as an inventor, Apple computer executive and as Founder and CEO of the innovative home appliance company Nest.
Two other longtime members of the Academy appeared that afternoon, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, and pioneering pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson. The commander of NATO, General Philip Breedlove, touched on themes addressed earlier by General Petraeus and Admiral McRaven. As commander of Allied forces in Europe, General Breedlove spoke to the most pressing potential conflict to emerge in Europe since the end of the Cold War, and bluntly identified Russian territorial ambitions as a driving force behind the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.
From the gravely serious situation in Ukraine, the afternoon's program turned to the more relaxing subject of popular music, with one of its most creative and successful practitioners, Lukasz Gottwald, a.k.a. "Dr Luke." Creator of irresistible summer hits for the country's most popular artists, including Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, Pink and Rihanna. Dr. Luke was interviewed onstage by 2012 Academy delegate Baruch Shemtov. Saturday afternoon's program ended with Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy addressing the entire assembly on the meaning of the Constitution, and on the capacity of democratic societies to adapt and mature.
The thrilling culmination of the 2014 Summit was the formal Banquet of the Golden Plate, opening with the induction of the Class of 2014 into the Academy of Achievement. One by one, the new honorees took the stage, accompanied by previously honored members of the Academy who presented them with the Golden Plate Award.
For the second time over the course of the 2014 Summit, one of the Academy's young delegates took to the stage to demonstrate her astounding musical talent. Janelle Monáe, accompanied by her eight-piece band and singers, gave an electrifying demonstration of the talent that has made her one of America's most powerful young entertainers. Her songs "Tightrope" and "Dance Apocalyptic" had many in the audience on their feet dancing from the first beat.
The Banquet also included a presentation by a 2000 Academy youth delegate who has returned to subsequent Academy Summits as an honoree and Academy member, the co-founder of Google, Sergey Brin. Mr. Brin was followed on stage by the Mayor of Rome, Italy, Dr. Ignazio Marino, who made the surprise announcement that the Academy's 2016 Summit will take place in the Eternal City.
In the wake of this exciting announcement, the last performer of the evening appeared: an American musical icon, Diana Ross. With the stage dazzlingly dressed for her appearance, Miss Ross sang a selection of her most beloved hits, including, "I'm Coming Out," "You Can't Hurry Love," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," and "Stop in the Name of Love." Thrilled to hear these classic songs performed by their originator, Academy members and delegates rose to their feet to dance an unforgettable evening to its close.
The program resumed on Sunday morning with presentations by two recipients of the Nobel Prize. Dr. Robert Lefkowitz, who unlocked the mechanism by which our cells perceive and respond to the presence of hormones in the bloodstream received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discoveries. Dr. Louis Ignarro's work concerning the role of nitric oxide in the circulatory system led to the creation of Viagra and similar medications. He recalled his extraordinary journey, as the child of immigrant parents who had never attended school, to a rewarding career as a scientist and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Medicine.
The Nobel laureates were followed by two award-winning journalists. Rick Atkinson, previous recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting, subsequently received the Pulitzer Prize for History for An Army at Dawn, his dramatic account of the Allied campaign in North Africa in World War II. He was followed by the final speaker of the San Francisco portion of the program, veteran CNN news anchor Wolf Blitzer.
Following the Summit weekend in San Francisco, Academy members traveled to California's scenic Napa Valley for an inspiring retreat and symposium at the renowned Auberge du Soleil, with its glorious vista of green hills and the valley's fabled vineyards. Over dinner at the Auberge, the Academy was treated to a performance by America's greatest concert violinist, fellow Academy member Joshua Bell, performing the Tzigane of Maurice Ravel.
Even in the hypnotically beautiful Napa countryside, the Academy continued to provide its members with intellectually stimulating discussion, beginning Monday morning with a talk by the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Anthony Romero. Three remarkable physicists engaged in a group discussion of the origin and nature of the universe. Dr. Adam Riess and Dr. Saul Perlmutter were joint recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery that the expansion of the universe is not slowing, as was thought, but accelerating. Dr. Lisa Randall first attended the Academy as a student delegate and returned in 2008 as an honoree. Her hypothesis that the larger part of the universe's gravity is hidden in an unknown dimension poses a formidable challenge to existing theories of the universe. Together, the three engaged in a provocative discussion of the limits of time, space and existence.
The morning's conversation shifted from the infinite and cosmic to the comparatively comprehensible sphere of violent conflict in the Middle East, with two of the most authoritative speakers on the subject, Admiral McRaven, the former Commander of the U.S. Special Operations, and Israel's most decorated soldier, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Drawing on their vast experience and expertise, the pair explored the challenge posed to civilization by the transnational insurgency known as ISIS, which even as they spoke was attempting to establish a so-called Caliphate extending from Syria to Iraq. Although neither gentleman suggested that defeating ISIS would be a quick or easy task, they gave the assembly a clear idea of what measures would be necessary to restore a semblance of peace to the region. The morning's session concluded with words from undersea explorer Dr. Sylvia Earle. Drawing on her own extraordinary experience, she reminded her listeners that mankind's fate is inextricably bound up with the fate of the global ecosystem, particularly the world's oceans.
The afternoon program resumed with a presentation by Francine LeFrak. Having already enjoyed a successful career as an award-winning producer in theater, documentary films and television, Ms. LeFrak is now helping HIV-positive survivors of the genocide in Rwanda to create their own business, a jewelry line demonstrating indigenous craftsmanship. The sponsoring organization she has founded, Same Sky, provides a model which can be reproduced in other regions that have suffered from natural disasters, man-made catastrophes or chronic poverty.
Following Ms. LeFrak's presentation, two recipients of the Nobel Prize, shared their discoveries. Israeli-born Dr. Arieh Warshel, a member of the Academy's Class of 2014, discussed his work, applying contemporary computer technology to the modeling of complex chemical reactions. Dr. David Wineland, also a 2014 honoree discussed his application of quantum mechanics to information processing, a breakthrough that could lead to a new generation of super-powerful computers. The final speakers of the afternoon offered unique insights into current events. The Director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins spoke authoritatively on the Ebola epidemic sweeping West Africa. Veteran television journalist Chris Wallace, now the host of Fox News Sunday, has interviewed virtually every major political leader of our time, and addresses national and international issues every week on his morning discussion program. His overview of current events concluded with a lively queston-and-answer session with his fellow Academy members.
Following the afternoon session, the Academy paid a visit to the Colgin Cellars, where they enjoyed a reception hosted by the winery's owners, Academy members Ann Colgin and Joe Wender. The winery is located on Pritchard Hill, where Academy members enjoyed the breathtaking view of Lake Hennessey and the surrounding country.
For the last gathering of the 2014 Summit, Academy members enjoyed a farewell dinner at the Auberge, where they were once again serenaded by Academy delegates as well as by a longtime member of the Academy. Violinist Mariella Haubs charmed the audience with her rendition of the Presto in G Minor by J.S. Bach. The Duo Parnas -- Academy delegates Cicely and Madalyn Parnas on cello and violin respectively -- performed Johann Halvorsen's Passacaglia on a Theme by Handel. Following these classical performances, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, took up his guitar and concluded the last evening of the Achievement Summit with a song addressing the urgency of the many issues discussed over the course of the Summit, "If Not Now, Tell Me When."
From the first evening to the last, the Academy presented its guests with an extraordinary array of speakers and musical artists, representing the best of human accomplishment in every field of thought and endeavor. Once again the best minds of the rising generation met the most accomplished men and women of the present, to exchange insights and inspiration they will carry with them for all the years to come.
Justice Anthony Kennedy speaks to the Academy at City Hall in San Francisco.
The Academy gathers for dinner in the rotunda of San Francisco's City Hall.
Former San Francisco Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr. welcomes the Academy.
Governor Jerry Brown joins Summit Chair Catherine Reynolds and Leon Panetta at the Achievement Summit.
Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes meets Nobel laureate James Watson.
Jazz phenomenon Esperanza Spalding
mesmerizes the crowd at the Summit.
Saxophone legend Wayne Shorter joins
Esperanza Spalding for a pair of duets.
Attorneys Brendan Sullivan, David Boies, Ted Olson and Barry Scheck.
South African playwright Athol Fugard recalls adventurous days of his youth.
Artist Jeff Koons discusses his work.
Chemist Frances Arnold recounts the unusual career path that led her to a revolutionary scientific breakthrough.
A lively conversation with social media
visionaries Joi Ito and Reid Hoffman.
Academy delegates Alex Chaitoff, Rahul Rekhi, Christina Chang, David Reshef, Madalyn Parnas, Jessica Steinberg and Alex Carney meet with LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman.
Admiral William McRaven, USN
General Philip Breedlove, USAF
General David Petraeus, USA
Julie Andrews honors Carol Burnett at the 2014 Banquet of the Golden Plate.
Justice Kennedy presents the award
to technology investor James Breyer.
George Lucas presents the Golden
Plate to iPod mastermind Tony Fadell.
Delegate Janelle Monae rocks out at
the International Achievement Summit.
Google founder and 2000 delegate
Sergey Brin returns to the Academy.
Sergey Brin (2nd from R) with UAE youth delegates Reem Almarzouqi, Shamma Al Mazrui, Iman Ben Chaibah, Hafsah Al Habsi and Khalifa AlJaziri.
Diana Ross electrifies the Banquet.
Joshua Bell at the Auberge in Napa.
Physicist Lisa Randall discusses the cosmos with Nobel Prize recipients Saul Perlmutter and Adam Riess.
Ehud Barak and Admiral McRaven discuss the wars in Syria and Iraq.
Ayako Fukui and Barnaby Marsh of the Templeton Foundation meet Academy CEO Wayne Reynolds in Napa Valley.
Dr. Francis Collins closes the 2014
Summit with an inspiring singalong.