Perhaps the worst-kept secret of the Presidential Leadership Scholars is the strong bond that participants build with each other throughout the six-month program. We’ve seen that the foundation of these relationships is what springboards Scholars to create real, lasting impact in their communities long after the program as PLS alumni.  

As the 2024 program year closed out in Philadelphia earlier this month, it was clear that this group of leaders was well positioned and excited to continue their bold work and their new friendships. The final module of the program featured inspirational sessions, final presentations of their personal leadership projects (intended to solve a problem or pressing issue in their community, organization, country, or the world), and many celebrations. 

Scholars were joined by a few familiar speakers during module six. The team brought back PLS faculty favorites Nicole Bibbins Sedaca and Michael O’Leary as well as PLS alum Todd Connor to speak with the group a final time on topics like the importance of continued reflection, alumni network offerings, and identity in leadership.  

Sedaca shared an important message with the Scholars to “listen well, not just for the content, but to understand the experience of the person you are speaking with.” 

They also met Lindsay Davis, Deputy Director of Leadership and Programming at the George W. Bush Institute, who manages PLS alumni programming and who shared everything the network has to offer. Since PLS launched in 2015, more than 500 Scholars have participated in the program, building a strong, robust, and active alumni community across the United States.   

Finally, this year’s Moody Foundation Conversation featured a discussion with Valerie Jarrett, CEO of the Obama Foundation, moderated by David J. Kramer, Executive Director of the Bush Institute. Jarrett shared the many lessons learned and highlights of her leadership journey, from her start in Chicago politics to her time as President Barack Obama’s closest advisor in the White House to her current work preparing to open the Obama Presidential Center. She also called on the Scholars to continue their work in strengthening our democracy and working across divides in their communities and noted that our nation needs this kind of leadership more than ever.    

“Our country is having a hard time with pluralism and many of the other core democratic values right now,” she said. “We have, in a sense, lost confidence in our institutions. We cannot afford to shun those institutions because they are the pillars of our democracy.” 

The Class of 2024 then enjoyed a free afternoon to tour the City of Brotherly Love and punctuated the program with a celebration at the National Constitution Center.  

The Scholars’ journey began in January with work to hone their leadership abilities through interactions and sessions with inspiring changemakers, key administration officials, leading academics, and business leaders. Since then, they have gained the insights and skills necessary to work across differences and develop a diverse network that spans traditional geographic, professional, political, and economic boundaries.  

But most importantly, Scholars formed meaningful relationships and learned from each other’s divergent views and backgrounds. And our communities and nation are stronger because of their leadership.  

Applications to join the 2025 Presidential Leadership Scholars are open through July 14. Learn more about the program and application process here.  

View photos from Module Six here.