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Opening Speech
15th November 2023 – Fordham University, London

Good evening. I extend to all of you a warm welcome to this important meeting organised by the Fordham London Community.

I am honoured to be the one to open this occasion for discussion, reflection, and shared knowledge. And I am also happy to add my contribution once more to the growth of the new generation of business leaders, via exchanges on highly topical issues, both in professional life and in the environment in which we live.

As we are in this modern and welcoming space, I think about the fact that we are out of harm’s way in this part of the world. No less than a year ago we were wondering about developments in the war in Ukraine, just a short way away from Europe. Today, new pain and uncertainties are caused by the shocks of the conflict in Israel and Palestine.

Every war is a threat, obviously not only to international security but in general also to development, because we live in an interconnected world.


Sometimes I need to ask myself how it is still possible that international misunderstandings and tensions transform themselves into armed conflicts – especially because of our awareness of how much has been lived through in the past century and in the light of the huge effort that States put into maintaining diplomatic relations aimed at keeping the peace and fostering prosperity.

Let us remember that the purpose of diplomacy is to court neighbourliness and construct positive relationships between countries, but also, today, to conquer the hearts and minds of citizens. This is the precondition for advancing fruitful commercial relations which bring about reciprocal benefits and wellbeing.

In my opinion every armed conflict affects proper contemplation of the profound meaning of relationship and, thus, leadership. Yes, because leadership is a relationship and good relations build trust, which is earned over time when a leader acts with honesty, integrity, and consistency.

We all know that relationships are complex as between individuals as between States. For this reason, relationships require skill, energy, and sensitivity. And care, lots of care.

Moreover, we know that leadership takes on differing meanings in accordance with the era. Different schools of thought in the past had fixed reference points dictated mostly by force and authority.

For example the RealPolitik of the late 1800’s, where States were influenced by each one’s power and war was a tool for a political objective (which was epitomised by the ancient saying “Ubi maior, minor cessat” – “the weak capitulate before the strong”).

It is clear that such a model is now far from the present concept of relations built rather on collaboration.


Let us look at this in greater detail.

A leader has to take account of an infinite number of variables. Thus, amongst the essential qualities of today’s decision-makers, in politics and in business, there must be the capacity to assess objective elements and keep one’s nerve even in situations of extreme tension.

In other words, being clear-headed and capable of good judgment, or to choose with perception and to act with effectiveness and responsibility.

The thrust of St Ignatius’ teachings is that he who seeks to become leader must be ready to fortify his mind, temper his character and overcome uncertainties and fears.

But today, a leader must also know how to involve his team and the community implicated. That means encouraging cooperation towards a common goal and promoting a sense of unity.

Thus, it is no longer a question of making a decision but also communicating and sharing.

The quality of relationships actually leads to protection in times of uncertainty and stimulates collective efforts to overcome the problem.


Perceptiveness, devotion, and vision are the principal characteristics we see in today’s leadership.

I add to these sentiments another two: ethics and the future.

Ethics. A factor which cannot be ignored because values play a determining role in relationships. In a world exemplified by complexity and interconnectivity, ethics becomes the glue which can hold persons, communities, and States together. In the financial world, ethics assumes a significance associated with justice, solidarity, truth, and inclusivity. Values ensure progress that truly respects human dignity.

The Future. And here I would like to give a thought to the youth. It is to them that this university wishes to pass on the skills and principles which, we hope, will be applied during the course of their professional and personal lives.

You will be the new business leaders and must shoulder the burdens of important responsibilities. However, I repeat, you must be the first to see the future, with the possibility of changing things for the better. You must be the guardians of constructive relationships, adopting “a new way of speaking” which is more universal, which encourages unity between people rather than mistrust.

Create a culture of peace passed on from one to another.

So, what should we do? Anna Frank, while hidden in Amsterdam, wrote: “Mankind has an impulse towards destruction, towards slaughter, assassination and rage, and unless all mankind, without exception, undergoes a metamorphosis, war will engulf us all…”

So: we want you to be the metamorphosis. In fact, to reconstruct the fabric of human relations and become advocates for peace working towards change. And a choice intimately linked to ethics and the start of a dynamic process, aimed at building peace.

Dear young friends, I impart these thoughts to you, with the wish that they may fall on fertile ground. I now hand over to the other honourable guests who will further enrich the debate.

Thank you and I wish you all a fruitful evening building positive connections!

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