Hope College senior Mary Kamara-Hagemeyer of Holland is among a select number of students attending the Athens Democracy Forum, an international event whose participants include multiple current and former senior government officials from around the world, NGO (non-governmental organization) and business executives, and leading journalists with the New York Times.
The forum is running Wednesday-Friday, Sept. 29-Oct. 1, in Athens, Greece. Kamara-Hagemeyer is one of 24 students from more than a dozen countries chosen to participate through the Global Liberal Arts Alliance, which is an educational partner in the event with Deree-The American College of Greece. She is one of the 17 students attending in Athens with a mix of in-person and virtual formats, with the others participating exclusively online.
The forum is organized by the Democracy and Culture Foundation in association with the New York Times, and is focusing on the theme “Resilience and Renewal.” As explained on the event’s website, the forum is exploring the lessons learned from the overlapping crises and challenges of the recent past and present, and how to confront the economic and social fallout and formidable tasks ahead. Topics include “Alternative Tools of Democracy,” “From the Ground Up: New Economic Models,” “Wake Up to Climate Change,” “Disinformation’s Black Hole,” “Rethinking Work,” “Art as Activism” and “Fast-Track Democracies.”
Speakers and panelists include, among others, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the president of the Hellenic Republic; Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the prime minister of the Hellenic Republic; Yuval Noah Harari, historian and best-selling author; Stacey Abrams, political leader, voting rights activist and author; Eduard Heger, prime minister of Slovakia; Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, leader of Democratic Belarus; Shoshana Zuboff, author and professor emerita, Harvard Business School; and Péter Szijjártó, minister of foreign affairs and trade of Hungary.
Kamara-Hagemeyer and the other students worked over the summer to prepare for the forum, meeting virtually in small groups to discuss the state of democracy in their countries and, especially, issues affecting youth in their parts of the world. The students created videos and wrote essays on topics that are being discussed during the forum.
Kamara-Hagemeyer, who completed her home-school program in 2018, is majoring in both business and history and minoring in political science. Her activities as a student have included participating in the college’s Washington, D.C., Honors Semester; the Center for Leadership’s CFL Consulting program; Student Congress, including serving currently as the chief of culture and inclusion; the Black Student Union; leading Vox Populi (meaning voice of the people), a bi-partisan student civic engagement group; and the Phelps Scholars Program.
Hope is in the Global Liberal Arts Alliance through its membership in the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA). In addition to Hope and the other 12 members of the GLCA, the alliance includes colleges and universities in Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia and Switzerland.