As we enter the holiday season, the PLS team is reflecting on our incredible Scholars who continue to be catalysts for action and positive change around the globe. We recently asked the Presidential Leadership Scholars to share their thoughts on gratitude and what they are most thankful for as they think back on the past year.

Priti Krishtel, Class of 2020

This year, I am grateful for the turning point we are at. The pandemic has shown us that the status quo, particularly in my area of health justice, is failing us. Those of us in the field have known this for decades, but the past year has brought issues of inequity within our health systems to the fore for world leaders, the media, and the public at large.

I am thankful that we have made important progress this year in global vaccine equity, as well as laying the foundation for a medicines and patent system that helps future generations long past this pandemic.

My PLP project through PLS is building a blueprint to envision the architecture of a reimagined U.S. Patent and Trademark Office – an integral part of our medicines system – as an agency that integrates public voices and expands to serve the broader public’s interests. My organization has spent much of this year on our strategy to execute this, Participatory Changemaking. In bringing together people who are ideologically, sectorally, and geographically diverse to shape our future together, this effort truly reflects the spirit of PLS.

Attempting to reconfigure centuries-old ideas and institutions is not for the faint of heart, and practicing gratitude is essential when the scale of the problem is so large and deep. I draw inspiration from the wisdom of Nelson Mandela’s words: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” This year has convinced me that we are closer than we ever have been to getting it done.

Mark Dalsing, Class of 2016

2020 featured a worldwide pandemic, national social unrest and social awareness, political chaos, and at the personal level, my wife went through breast cancer treatments most of the year. I think everyone entered 2021 with hope and optimism. I know I did.

While it was a complicated year to say the least, I am still thankful for all the positives in my life. My wife is cancer free, my children are healthy and successful as they branch out on their own, and I safely and successfully retired after 32 years as a police officer. I also launched a new career in nonprofit affordable housing, so I can continue to support my community. As we celebrate Thanksgiving, I reflect on the many ways I have been blessed in my life and offer a huge prayer of thanks for a beautiful and exciting life filled with love and happiness. Happy Thanksgiving PLS family!

Lauren Leader, Class of 2018

It’s hard to put into words my infinite gratitude for the ever-giving gifts of PLS. One of the most formative and impactful experiences of my life, I gained a new and expanded perspective and a view of the world that feels more complete than it was before. But above all else, I am profoundly grateful for the river of love and friendship that has flowed from so many of those with whom I shared my PLS experience. No matter what is happening in my life, they are there with love and encouragement. It has changed my life to have this incredible extended family there for me whenever I need them.