As two of only 15 student volunteers at the 2019 Copenhagen Democracy Summit, Wilson Leadership Fellow Alexander Zorko ’22 and recent Hampden-Sydney graduate Raleigh Jernigan ’19 found the perfect opportunity to experience global politics firsthand. Organized by former NATO Secretary General, Danish Prime Minister, and Hampden-Sydney parent Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the annual event seeks to build the intellectual and interpersonal foundations for a robust alliance of the world’s democracies; recent speakers include former Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Vice President Joe Biden, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
Alexander and Raleigh spent their days in Denmark interacting with many of the 500 attendees—prominent civic leaders, former heads of governments, journalists, and democratic-rights activists from more than 75 different countries. Alexander, a native of Germany who hopes to pursue a career with the United Nations or NATO, said the experience aligned with his “interest in local initiatives that play out on a global scale.” And he was able to use five of his six languages—German, Italian, Croatian, Spanish, and English—to welcome summit attendees in their native tongues during registration.
For Raleigh, who started Capital One’s commercial bank leadership program after returning from Copenhagen in July, working behind the scenes at an expeditionary economics program was particularly memorable. “Four businessmen from areas of conflict in the Middle East presented ideas to a panel of investors, including Lars Christensen, previous owner of Saxo Bank,” he explained. “The idea is to help entrepreneurs reestablish communities, leading to long-term prosperity and innovation that isn’t reliant on foreign aid.”