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Seminar by Aspen Institute España at Vigo University’s Foro Fundamental: a space for debate, reflection and learning

What has happened to Europe? Does putting a price on human dignity make us lose our own? Is isolation at the core of totalitarianism? Is this the age of surveillance capitalism?

These were just some of the questions raised at the “Leadership and Values” seminar held by Aspen Institute España, which took place at Vigo University’s Foro Fundamental and was attended by 20 young people between the ages of 18 and 30 with a wide variety of profiles and careers (science, engineering, arts, economics, law and philosophy, among others). The event took place at the initiative of the Banco Sabadell Foundation and was organised by Fundación Mentor and Aspen Institute España.

By reading 13 classical and contemporary texts and with help from two expert moderators (Miguel Herrero de Jáuregui, holder of a PhD in Greek Philosophy from UCM, and Alfonso Goizueta Alfaro, holder of a PhD in International Relations from King’s College London, novelist and finalist of the Premio Planeta award), the students reflected on the values that guide our personal and professional decisions and our contributions to the common good.

Reflecting on these texts has made me stop and think, and to take or retake cognisance of the responsibility that each of us has for the common good. I learned a lot during the seminar. What I will be taking away with me is the respect with which the debate took place, that skill of putting one’s argument across firmly whilst also listening attentively to others that is so hard to achieve” explained Cecilia Milá, head of External Relations at the Banco Sabadell Foundation, who attended the event.

The seminar was based on a method typically associated with Socratic dialogue, in which students can reflect in a space that is free from judgement and in which moderators encourage debate and open interactions. Everyone has a voice and everyone is listened to. Also sacrosanct is the Chatham House rule, according to which the opinions voiced during the seminar may not be publicly attributed to those who expressed them.


“It was an excellent way of casting light on the concerns that young people still have today. They broke taboos and the boundaries of prejudice that are so often used to label their generation. A safe space was created in which the students could feel at ease and discuss topics out of curiosity and eagerness to listen to others, remaining open to the exchange of ideas and even consenting to change their own opinions” explained Cristina Vilà, head of Communications at the Banco Sabadell Foundation.

Daniel Álvarez, a professor at Fundación Mentor, said: “It was amazing to see such a carefully thought-out format, the artistry with which the event took place and the fluidity of the participants’ thoughts. It was an excellent example of just how fruitful a dialogue between different people can be; it was an open and nurturing interaction of shared ideas. This seminar undoubtedly embodies the two greatest virtues of humankind: listening, and deeper thinking.”

For the students, in addition to being a space for debate, it was also an opportunity to be with other people with concerns and interests similar to their own, as well as a space for both academic and personal learning. Watch this video to hear their thoughts:

Aspen Institute España said that the seminar achieved the established goals of giving a voice to young university students and bringing together university students from a number of academic disciplines, promoting leadership and fostering creativity. Participants were able to share their thoughts about critical topics for society with the reading of classical and contemporary texts, challenging other participants’ new, different or unknown ideas.