WASHINGTON -- Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin H. Kahl underscored today the critical role future leaders will have in addressing increasingly complex security challenges.
Speaking to an audience of students and young professionals at this year's NATO Youth Summit, Kahl said there is no shortage of pressing challenges on the horizon and that preparing the next generation of leaders is key to ensuring a "safer, more equitable and peace-oriented future."
"Young leaders like you are integral to our collective effort to safeguard the rules-based international order, which really undergirds our safety, our prosperity and our way of life," he told attendees. "You are convening at a time [of] tremendous change and grave threats to that order as demonstrated by Russia's brutal war of aggression in Ukraine, and Ukraine's valiant defense of the freedoms that many of us take for granted."
In addition to the acute threat posed by Russia, Kahl said tomorrow's leaders will carry the torch in addressing the pacing challenge posed by the People's Republic of China and the existential threat of climate change, while at the same time confronting the rise of disinformation and the implications of disruptive technologies.
"The world desperately and urgently needs creative solutions to complex problems like this, and your role in devising and implementing these creative solutions begins with your decision to engage and serve," he said.
Kahl, who serves as a political science professor outside of his role in government, said despite the range of complex challenges ahead, he is confident the next generation is well-postured to make a positive impact.
"Each encounter with bright young minds like yours serves as a reminder, you are lightyears ahead of where I stood at your age," he said. "You're armed with far greater capabilities than I was, and you have access to powerful tools to make a real difference on the world around you and I have complete confidence that you will do so."
He said the U.S. and its allies around the globe are counting on the young leaders to "seize the enormous opportunities and potential inherent in the current age."
The youth summit serves as a forum for young people from NATO member countries and other allies to explore and exchange views on the most pressing challenges critical to ensuring global peace and security in the future.
Participants gathered in both Brussels, where NATO is headquartered, and in Washington for the one-day event. This year's summit was entitled "NextGen Freedom & Security."
Attendees were given the opportunity to engage with Kahl on topics ranging from Russia's war in Ukraine and the role of U.S. partnerships in the Indo-Pacific as well as the challenges posed by climate change and the rise of artificial intelligence, among other issues, during a moderated discussion and question and answer session following his address.
He also offered advice and encouragement to those looking to begin a career in service to their country.
"Serve your community, serve your country, serve your world," he said. "We need people who are not only looking out for themselves but are invested in making the world a better place."