Office of the President

January 22, 2020

Reflecting on Davos open forum panel “Free to Be (LGBTI)”

Ana Mari Cauce

This week, I had the extraordinary opportunity to participate in the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. In addition to taking part in the general proceedings, I sat on a panel, “Free to Be (LGBTI).” The panel, attended by mostly high school students and teachers and moderated by the Italian journalist Tonia Mastrobuoni, was a moving and candid discussion about how we can help build a world that is more inclusive and supportive of LGBTQ+ youth – in schools, at home, in the workplace and in every nation on earth.

I was honored to be among the panelists for this forum, which included Geena Rocera, transgender supermodel and activist; Shamina Singh, founder and president of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth; Wanuri Kahiu, a Kenyan filmmaker and Xavier Bettel, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg. Each of them shared their own stories of coming out and some of their experiences as public figures who openly live their authentic identities. Their stories were by turns hilarious and heartbreaking. What stood out above all was that the right to be our true, authentic selves – and to love who we love – is essential to leading happy, fulfilled lives. As Singh put it, “Whatever you are, you are enough.”

It was wonderful to be part of this historic panel, especially given that LGBTQ+ issues are a relatively recent addition to the program at Davos. Our audience of young people and teachers filled me with hope and excitement for the future. It’s true that there are trials and tribulations that come with being LGBTQ+ in our society (and much more so in countries or regions within countries where anti-LGBTQ+ policies are written into law). Among LGBTQ+ youth, rates of depression, suicidal ideation and suicide are alarmingly high. But we have the power to create environments at school, in the workplace and throughout our communities that are not only inclusive but supportive. There can be love and joy, creativity and accomplishment when people are “free to be” their true selves.