“I said ‘No’ to the President and Got Decorated” with Ecuador’s Former Foreign Affairs Minister H.E. Luis Gallegos


Our world is at a tipping point. We face unprecedented and life-threatening challenges for humanity, from artificial intelligence to quantum computing, climate change, and the looming specter of nuclear war. How do we, as individuals and as a global community, confront this uncertain, perilous future? Luis Gallegos, a former Foreign Affairs Minister of Ecuador and a diplomat with a successful and storied career, talks to us about Statesmanship vs. Leadership, and why we must summon Courage and stand up and say “No,” even to a President. But statesmanship, and saying “No” are just two pieces of the leadership puzzle. To confront this perilous future, we require Super Cognitive Revolution, a revolutionary brain power that gives us bigger and better, higher-order thinking. Imagine a world where we view humanity as one species, one race, the human race, and transcend artificial, man-made divisions. Picture and develop a new “Intelligence” type that incorporates Existential and Spiritual dimensions where we cognitively understand the inter-dependence of humanity. Like Mandela did for South Africa and the world, what the world needs now is a radical new way to think, act, and lead. Armed with Mandela’s Leadership Blueprint, you too can develop your Statesmanship, Courage, and Super Cognitive Ability needed to transform yourselves, change your nations, and galvanize our world. The history of tomorrow hinges on the thoughtful and bold actions we take today. Tune in for more!

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“I said ‘No’ to the President and Got Decorated” with Ecuador’s Former Foreign Affairs Minister H.E. Luis Gallegos

Confront the Future with “A Super Cognitive Revolution”

Our thoughtful, bold leader joins us from the capital city of Quito in Ecuador, a breathtakingly beautiful Latin American country, which has the rugged soaring volcanic Andes Mountains, a nation in political turmoil with a state of emergency and political assassinations, and straddles the equator on the West Coast of South America, below the country of Columbia and above Peru. 

He is an Ecuadorian diplomat and former Foreign Affairs Minister. He has served in public office as Foreign Affairs Minister between July 2020 and March 2021. He was the former representative to the United Nations for his country in New York City and Geneva. He has served as a diplomat in multiple countries around the world. He has served in several positions at the United Nations and has also been widely decorated in his country of Ecuador and internationally.

In Ecuador, he received a National Order of Merit and the nation’s highest decoration. Abroad, he has been decorated in Bulgaria, France, Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Spain, and Peru. He is a Harvard ALI fellow. He leads global initiatives on Disability, Aging, and Changing World Demographics. Stay tuned as he shares more with us about saying “No” to a President and being decorated for doing so. His “Mandela Moment,” Statesmanship and Leadership, and the Power of Confronting the Future with bold, thoughtful choices today for a better tomorrow. We warmly welcome my dear friend, Luis Gallegos, and welcome to the show.


LBF 44 | Super Cognitive Revolution


Luis, it’s always a joy to see you. Thank you so much for being part of this movement and conversation.

Thank you very much. It’s an honor and a privilege to be with you.

I thought a great place to begin is Ecuador. It’s a country in South America. I have yet to come and visit. I look forward to doing that someday and meeting up with you and your wonderful family. I’m intrigued by Ecuador. From the little bit I know about it, it’s on the West Coast of South America. It’s below the country of Columbia and North of Peru. You have a population of over eighteen million people.

You have held some important positions in this beautiful country of yours. I wondered, as the former Foreign Affairs Minister, which was a position you held from July 2020 to March 2021, and also, you were a UN ambassador to New York and Geneva. You’ve held various diplomatic posts around the world. I wanted to ask you, coming from your country, Ecuador, what is the uniqueness of Ecuador? What is the message you take from Ecuador when you have these different diplomatic meetings and representations around the world?

Anne, let me begin by saying that I worked as a foreign service officer for Ecuador for many years in two stages. One, I worked for 46 years. I asked to have leave because I wanted to venture into the private sector and do some humanitarian work on my own, especially on the issues of disability and human rights. I left the foreign ministry and worked in the private sector and with the multilaterals. The President of Ecuador asked me to come back. I was asked to be the Ambassador in Geneva and New York. When the pandemic hit, I was asked to be a Foreign Minister in a complicated circumstance in the world, which we probably will be talking about. I worked with the Foreign Service for many years.

My family has been involved in public service forever in the history of Ecuador. My grandfather was also a Vice President and Ambassador. My father was an Ambassador to the UN. I grew up in a family of public service. The fundamental premise was that you had to give back. You had to represent the interests of your country in a competitive world and in complicated circumstances.

As I look back at my many years of life, I have lived through the bipolarity of confrontation between the East and the West. I’ve seen a number of wars happen. I’ve even participated in the solving of internal and external wars. I’ve been a member of the Committee Against Torture on the UN Convention Against Torture and Treatment. I’ve had the honor of being Vice President of the Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Council. I have been the Ambassador to Geneva three times. I’ve initiated processes of binding international instruments for multinational activities in countries, especially in favor of the victims. I’ve also Chaired the UN Convention on Disability from 2002 to 2005. I am proposing and working with the working group in New York to promote a UN Convention on Aging.

Ecuador is a staunch believer in human rights. The first Commissioner of Human Rights was an Ecuadorian and most of us have been working in this field many times. Let me also say that the endeavor is to make a world more equitable and inclusive. I work with many organizations on the issues of inclusion of persons with disabilities and persons who are aging.

With the pandemic, I decided to work more intensively in proposing this UN International Binding Treaty to protect and promote the rights of people who are Aging. This group of disability were the most affected by the pandemic. I define the pandemic as the crisis of the century because it affected every country in the world and 193 members of the United Nations but it also had a particularity that we did not confront as humanity in this century. It affected each one of us.`

We know people who have died, who are friends and relatives of ours. All of that symbolism that you could die has had an impact on the world stage, which is still being studied. Implications in the economy, workplace, and health systems, the whole nature of a new type of relationship in the world is there. One of the traits, politically and analytically, is that people have lost trust in their governments, governance, the effectiveness of democracies, and the other types of government.

I see a future of the need for new consensus-building and capabilities to confront these daunting problems. The demographics of the world are inverted. We are more aging than children being born. That will be a huge shift in the population factor of the world. We are confronting a climate disaster as we move forward. We see every day on our television screens and mobile social media the incapacity of reaching agreements by societies and nation-states, both internally and externally, a rise in civil insecurity in many parts of the world.

There are challenges that we have to meet as a world community. The United Nations is trying. At least the Secretary-General, António Guterres, has said many times that we need to create a new agreement and social pact amongst the nations of the world to confront these problems because we need the political will, knowledge, and consciousness of the societies to confront these challenges.

We need the political will, knowledge, and consciousness of the societies in order to confront the global challenges in front of us. Click To Tweet

I’m listening with great admiration in terms of your family background and your referencing that Ecuador has always been a country committed to human rights. Thinking about what smaller countries can bring to the future of leadership and the United Nations, apart from this passion and culture of respect and dignity for inclusiveness and human rights, what do you think is unique about Ecuador that brings an important part to this conversation?

I normally define the issue of the division of 193 members of the United Nations between those who are the founders of the United Nations and won the World War. The integration of the United Nations was done only by 55 countries. Amongst them is Ecuador. After the Second World War, with decolonization, other factors, and the division of nation-states, the number increased to 193. There will probably be more members vs. historically as more nations become independent.

The United Nations has a division amongst those who have agendas, international foreign policy, agendas of global context or importance, and those who can solve the problems, be goodwill officers of trying to look into this because both their countries and themselves as individuals do not have a particular agenda to skew the problem.

I was a facilitator with the Ambassador of Liechtenstein in New York for the reform of the Security Council. That’s a valid example. Ecuador doesn’t have nuclear weapons or interests in warfare. In that case, Liechtenstein and I worked for a year consulting the membership on how we could reform the Security Council. It would be more equilibrium for the new country members that have become independent since the last reform of the Security Council.

There are 5 members of the Security Council, who hold veto power, those who won the war, and 10 elected members from the 5 regional groups. It is two for each group. At the present moment, Ecuador is a member of the Security Council. There is a value-add of individuals who can represent the United Nations in peacekeeping operations and representing development in different parts of the world who do not originate necessarily from countries of the North.

Their knowledge of what happens in the Global South is extremely important because most of the problems we have are in the Global South. We have to look at the equilibrium, development, and enrichment of the life of those populations to have a more inclusive world, more than that, normal and equal work.

I find that you also have to speak with the Voice of Data and Reflection but also with the Voice of Principle when you deal in negotiations in whatever field, both in the relationships in the United Nations, New York, Geneva, or any other place where the United Nations has meetings. The same with the bilateral nations. I was also Ambassador to Australia, Salvador, and the United States. As a career member, I was the Third Secretary in Spain. I began from the bottom.

You’ve had an incredible, diverse global experience. To that point, Luis, what is your definition of leadership? What are your thoughts about the future of leadership?

Leadership is one of the issues we are looking into. I spent time at Harvard at the Advanced Leadership Initiative. I am also a part of the Harvard Law School Disability Project. I’m a senior advisor there since many years ago. Leadership is a component of many, especially in a democracy. You need the capability of Leadership to convince the people who vote for you that your proposals are those that are linked to their interests, principles, and what they aspire for their children, grandchildren, or the future of the nation. In complicated international scenarios, many phenomena occurring outside the borders of your country will impact your people.

The pandemic is an extraordinary example but I can give you many others in which a confrontation in Ukraine and the invasion of Russia in Ukraine will create a food crisis and fertilizer crisis around the world. The implications, because of the dimensions of globalization, and interlinkages, are one of the principal complexities of this.

Leadership demands that you have a principal vision of what you want, what you do, and what you propose and that you have the capacity to understand the needs of your constituents. You are representing them with dignity and intelligence because these are also issues of interest. You also have to have a leadership role in galvanizing consensus and the possibility of dialogue, which the polarization of the political establishment, both worldwide and in many nations, is under attack.

One of the principle issues is the incapacity of agreement and being able to have mutual consensus and the polarization of positions to the point of aggressiveness, which creates a complex mechanism of problem resolution. What you’re trying to do is solve problems, avoid conflicts, or diminish the impact of the crisis and conflicts. Some of these will come to you naturally.

One of the principal issues today is the incapacity of agreement, the incapacity of having mutual consensus and the polarization of positions to the point of aggressiveness. Click To Tweet

In Ecuador, we are preparing for the phenomenon called El Niño. It’s a current heating of the oceans in different parts of the world. It will bring massive torrential rains to the West Coast of Latin America. It’ll be a drought for the rest of the world. It will impact in unpredictable ways vs. the present moment. It will primarily destroy your food supply, capability of farming, and infrastructure. We have had these events during the last decades, in my lifetime, at least 4 or 5 times but the notion is that you have an international phenomenon that will affect billions of people. Acquire a world vision of how you deal with this problem.

That would be around the future of leadership. Instead of being focused on national borders and national issues, these big issues that transcend our national borders require a new global vision.

We have a problem of parochialism or limitation. As the slogan says, “All politics is local.” You have to have the votes of your constituents. Your primary concern is that. Your constituents might not understand that the oil prices they are paying depend on the crisis where the oil is supplied. The migration crisis that is happening is because of measures that have been taken to impede the development of those nations or a regimen of sanctions that has impeded the growth (of nations).

You need to know the counterbalances of the world to understand how to govern nationally. There are a series of mechanisms around the world. One of them is the United Nations. You also have others where the leaders meet, exchange views, and combine purposes and interests. Fundamentally, what you’re looking for is “the welfare of your nation”, the defense of the interests of the sovereignty of your nation, and the capabilities of growth and development. Having more prosperity, more jobs for your population, and excellent healthcare for your people.

A prerequisite of everything is an excellent education. The world is interconnected. You have internet all over the world. Cell phones have become computers of communication and knowledge. In Ecuador, we have more cell phones than people. You look at technology and artificial intelligence as part of the formula of how you will look into the solution to the problems.

Leadership in itself is not something that you are born with. The traits of leadership may be personal in one part but they’re also preparedness. There’s also the level of education, training you require, knowledge, and the experiences you gather during your lifetime of being a person who has had responsibilities of leadership.

I would love you to share with us (because you make such an important point), Luis. In your young life, you mentioned your grandfather and father were in public service. Is there a specific event or moment in time that you recall that left a lasting impression and a defining moment for you? What was that moment? When was it? How did you feel at the time? How did that shape you?

In the history of Latin America, a number of military dictatorships were sponsored in many cases from outside. My father taught me an enormous lesson when I was a teenager because he was involved in combating dictators. He went to jail for that. He also went out into the streets to protest. In some cases, we would accompany him. Fundamentally, it was the nature of an action and principle in the fight for democracy. That is inbred in me, my brothers, and sisters, a knowledge that you have to be a part of the solution and change.


LBF 44 | Super Cognitive Revolution


Can you take us back to a specific incident?

There is a particular incident where we were followed by the security police. You (I) learn how to do these things. You (I) also learned the value of freedom, democracy, and decision-making. You (I) understand the need to have a government that is checked and balanced by other fundamentals of government. I also saw this when I worked behind the Iron Curtain. You had totalitarian governments where people got arrested if they did not agree with the government.

When was that?

I was stationed in Bulgaria as a Chief of Mission from ‘85 to ‘89. The (Berlin) Wall fell and Europe changed. On the first of May of 1989, I was in Moscow. I was invited to the parade in Red Square. If anybody had asked me if, in my lifetime, I would see the Soviet Empire collapse, I would’ve said (absolutely) not. You would see the nuclear weapons and planes. In October of that year, the Revolution/s began. (Editor’s note: The Revolutions of 1989, or The Fall of Communism, began a revolutionary wave of liberal democracy movements, Marxist-Leninist government collapses in the Eastern Bloc and other parts of the world.) The Wall of Berlin and the Iron Curtain fell in what was a paradigm change. Many young people do not understand that we had a confrontation of bipolarity to the sense that this was not only in Europe, the division of the European scenario but also in nations like yours (South Africa) and mine (Ecuador).

The issue of leadership always reminds me that you have to have a principle of leadership. An illustrated, if I can use the term, is an educated, intellectual, knowledge-based leadership that can be used for the benefit of the country and people. What is the actual interest of the country? What is the fundamental interest of an individual? All human beings around the world want a stable life and work dignity that you get from having your capabilities of sustainability. You want a better future for your children and grandchildren. You want the nation at peace without the insecurity of walking the streets with terror in your eyes.

I’m curious. When you went through that childhood experience with your father and he went to prison, how did you feel? How long was he in prison? How did you navigate through that crisis moment?

It was a family and a national crisis because many of the leaders were taken into custody. Some were exiled and others were jailed. It was a short time in months and weeks but the lessons learned is that the reaction of the population was such that the dictatorship had to sit down and negotiate a way out or provide a democratic solution to the Ecuadorian crisis.

What year was that?

That was ‘66 to ‘67. By ‘68, we had a return to the constitutional order. By ‘69, we had a more stable government. The principle of what you learn in these sequences is that Ecuador and Latin America had these incidents throughout their lives. The basis of that is not only the interest of the parties or the infighting between the political groups. It’s also the nature of a systemic exclusion of minorities. You cannot have a stable government unless you include all the stakeholders of the nation. You live with apartheid and others.

You cannot have a stable government unless you include all the stakeholders of the nation. Click To Tweet

The Mandela example is an example for all of us that you can sit down after you’ve been jailed for several years and be able to dialogue with those for the benefit of the people. That’s one of the extraordinary examples of the world in a sense Mandela, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and others are part of a school of thought of consensus building, the nature of principal leadership, the nature of how you deal with the problems of the world based on principle and not only interests your or the interests of your companies.

Talking about Mandela, can you share with us a particular moment in time during your journey and the long walk to freedom of Nelson Mandela or a moment that stands out for you, that touched and shaped you in the way you think, act, and lead? What was your ‘Mandela Moment’? When was it? How did you feel at the time?

I began to understand the issue of apartheid better when I was a teenager. Ecuador was participating in the Davis (World Cup) Championship in tennis. Ecuador refused to play the South African team because of apartheid and subsequently ‘lost’.

They lost because they wouldn’t play. What year was that?

That was probably the ‘60s. We understand the issue of apartheid because Ecuador is a multiracial society. We have an important component of indigenous society. We have an important Afro-Ecuadorian community and a group of different religions in Ecuador. We have populations distributed in distinct regions, geographically speaking, both in the Amazon jungles, the Highlands, and the coastal region. We’re a pluralistic country.

Understanding other cultures better, to understand and navigate another culture, is to be able to sit down and appreciate with empathy the differences in the context of culture. That taught us from a young. When I was young, I grew up with indigenous communities. I went to school and university to understand the differences between the Cosmo vision that you have, and that others have, from the Western mentality or the Eastern mentality. What Mandela did is an extraordinary example of saying, “For the benefit of South Africa, we will sit down with those who jailed us, persecuted and killed us. We will negotiate the future of democracy.”

Was that your ‘moment’ when he came out of prison or when negotiating the Constitution?

I met him and the (first lady} president’s spouse on one of the visits to South Africa. I had enormous respect for an individual who would go beyond his personal interest. He is an extraordinary human who was able to do this and dialogue with others. I met him in other meetings around the world where he would have an important discourse to teach all of us. I thought it was a lesson to the world.

You could sit down and say, “You need to dialogue and negotiate. You need to build consensus, national agreements, and national accords amongst all your constituents to confront the future.If you don’t do that, you will have a problem of inequity, rivalry, incapacity, and agreement. You will also have something that becomes a chaos of interests internally.

LBF 44 | Super Cognitive Revolution
Super Cognitive Revolution: You need to dialogue, negotiate, and build consensus beyond yourself to confront the future. If you don’t do that, you will have a problem of inequity. You will have a problem of rivalry, of incapacity of agreement. You will have something that becomes a chaos of interests.


My wife and I visited South Africa once. I had read extensively about the apartheid (system) in South Africa. We wanted to see Soweto. We asked, prepared, and went to visit the Mandela home, where Winnie Mandela lived. I was struck by an anecdote there because, in the window of this small house, there was a tree that had grown. The person who was explaining this was explaining that they planted the tree because the police would shoot from a hill into the bedroom. They planted the tree. This example I’m giving gives you a sense that this was physical danger. This was life or death.

When you spoke about the tree, was the idea to plant the tree to obstruct the window? So there wasn’t a clear vision for those shooters. Was that the purpose of the tree?

Yes. I found it extraordinarily complex because the tree grows over several years. When you talk about leadership, you also talk about the capability of persistence and doing this. Many times, it’s the sacrifices you make because of leadership.

Is there an example, Luis, that you can give us where you have had to make a sacrifice in a relentless pursuit of purpose? Is there a specific example where you’ve made some tough decisions, and it was a defining moment?

When I was a young diplomat, I was the Council General of Ecuador in Chicago. I was 27 at the time. I (on behalf of Ecuador) had a food donation from the World Food Organization. As a Council General, you signed the papers to authorize the ship to take the tons of wheat that were being given to Ecuador. This is something positive. The person who came into my office came with the documents. We would do this with certain regularity. This was a donation but we would also buy wheat as a government.

I asked her for the certificate to guarantee that it was for human consumption. She said, “I don’t have that.” I said, “I can’t sign it because I can’t send something that I doubt in my mind may affect the health of those who receive it.” It’ll take three days. It will cost tens of thousands of dollars to keep the boat anchored in the seaport. It’s a lake port because it was in Chicago, in the Great Lakes. I said, “Sorry.”

I got calls from my Embassy in Washington, the Ministry of Agriculture in Ecuador, and the Ministry of Foreign Relations. Over two days, they asked me, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m stopping, until she gives me the health certificate, I won’t sign the papers.” They said, “We order you to sign the papers.” I said, “You can’t because this is my responsibility. If you want, you can sign the papers.” They said, “No, you have to sign.” Eventually I said, “Okay.” Several hours later, the papers came in and the boat left.

He signed the papers.

No, the woman brought me the papers.

She brought you the certificate.

It was the certificate. During those two days, I went back home and told my wife, “We’re probably going to have to pack.” I’ve had many times in which I’ve had discussions with the Presidents of Ecuador or people where I would maintain a position. They would say, “No, we have to do it this way.” I was like, “Sorry, I can’t do that.”

What are the key mechanisms and tools you use to stand steadfast? How do you pivot through the process?

You have to be conscious of the cost of the decision. I learned this concept when I began my career that if you would be ashamed (the Shame Test) of what you did if it got into the papers, your wife sons, and daughters learned of what you did, it would be recommended not to do it. The measure of principle is to say, “There are consequences to your decision.”

I didn’t wear rings when I got married (during the pandemic). I was the first of my brothers and sisters so I inherited my grandfather’s ring. When I got the ring, my father told me, “Use the ring. Always remember that when you sign a paper, there are consequences to your signing it.” When one of these posts you have, you have responsibilities and consequences. You have to say No. You have to learn. It’s a job. It’s an important situation. I’m honored to be an Ambassador or a Minister but there are situations in which you have to define that to sleep tranquilly with a clear conscience, it’s better to say “No.”

In my experience, people have reacted in two ways. One has said, “He doesn’t want to do this.” In many cases, I had one of them, a case with one of the Presidents of Ecuador. I won’t mention his name because he’s still living. He asked me for my opinion on some issues. He called me from out of the country. I came for a complicated meeting. I was the only one in the Cabinet room who was against the decision that the President was consulting. I went back and told Fabiola, “I think we have to pack.”

You did a lot of thinking about packing, Luis (smile).

When the President was leaving, I sent him a message saying, “I wish you the best and many successes. It’s a pleasure working with you.” He did take my advice. He called me and said, “You were the only person in that room who was against my decision. Everybody was saying Yes. After thinking about it, I was angry. You were right. You were the only person who had the guts to say “No.” With that, I’m going to give you a National Decoration. I am signing the decree in which I give you a National Decoration because you were the person who based his argument on principle.”



When you do these types of decision-making and leadership, you have to acknowledge that if you maintain the position, you’re maintaining it with a basis of argumentation, principle, reality, and common interest of the country. If they don’t agree, you can’t go with the tide. I was willing to leave at a high cost for my family but that was the nature of the situation.

This is not a heroic issue. It’s the basis of governance and leadership. I also learned that you needed people who surrounded you, who were better than you, who were more intelligent, capable, and understanding, and you learned from them and not ‘Yes’ people. I don’t like people that (just) say ‘Yes.’ I want to know what they are thinking, if they think it’s an adequate position. In the long-term, you decide.

It’s obtaining and understanding different perspectives. That’s a great example. Shifting to a slightly lighter note and a couple of fun facts about you, I know you have two wonderful children. What has been the most difficult part of balancing a high-profile international career with being a good father? What has been the most difficult part of that? What has been the most joyful part of that for you?

Being a diplomat and having children is one of the greatest challenges a family can have. Thanks to Fabiola and her managing of the family in different circumstances. These children could have been lost in the constant changes of cultures, educational systems, and languages. Adaptation is the capability of being adaptable to another country and culture.

I had a case with my daughter, Maria Cristina. She learned to (mathematically) divide within the Anglo-American system, which is different from the Latin Ecuadorian division system. She was in school here. They asked her to go to the (classroom) board and do the division. She did. It was a different system, where the teacher didn’t understand how she got there. She got a zero. We were called in. We had to explain to the teacher that she was doing what she had learned. The teacher was worried that the rest of the class was confused by what she did. It’s understandable from one point of view but for her, it was a lesson of adaptation. I’m talking about the educational system.

If you jump from a Spanish-Ecuadorian system of education to an Anglo-Saxon American system, a French system, and whatever other system, languages are cultures, forms of thinking, and patterns. I’m an Ecuadorian lawyer. My reasoning pattern comes from the deductive thinking of Mediterranean cultures, the Spanish, French, and Napoleonic cultures. I deduct. Anglo-Saxons and all those who are colonies of the Anglo-Saxon induct. We can agree on some of the things verbally but when you’re right, you will be on it. You have to know this for negotiations, not only for diplomatic negotiation but for contracts of whatever negotiation you want, trade, or whatever you have to know.

In the education of these children, you had to be aware that they had different thought patterns and reasoning capabilities in argumentation. In the long run, the cost-benefit is that they learn to adapt to cultures, understand others better, and be able to talk to people from different cultures because they are all in the same boat. They were African, Asian, or Latin Americans in a different culture. They were all the same with different particularities. They became public servants, the two of them. My son works in our Embassy in Korea as a Trade Officer. He’s married to a Korean-American. My daughter is married to a biologist from the Netherlands. She lives in Ruwanda (in Africa). She’s writing her PhD in Communication and Resilience.

What is the joyful part of being a father?

This is the reality. I am getting to the point of saying these two of my children are all over the world. We do not have a nuclear family, next to us. We sometimes provoke (create) meetings in different parts. We look at those as possibilities. The last time we met for Christmas was in Ruwanda.

What do you think your children would say about you that has made a lasting impact on them?

At a certain point in my life, around when I was probably 48 or 50, I sat down and wrote. I was not in business. Therefore, I would not leave them a huge fortune or riches. The only thing I could leave them, in reality, was an example of what I would do as a person and be able to teach them that there are causes, like the world cause, and Disability or an endeavor in Human Rights that were worthwhile.

Fundamentally, it’s also the issue of saying, and not only our children, but my wife has been an extraordinarily important part in my life on this. How the two of us, and as a consequence, how they would live their lives in a complex international situation, a demanding, challenging world and society, and represent our country adequately but also our principles. I thank God for the opportunities. I’m a believer. I’m a Catholic. I also think that it has been an important part of my life to look into what we have done and what we will do in the next years on issues of importance.

I learned a lesson, which was fundamentally taught by a Jewish rabbinical. If you save one life, your life is worthwhile. When you talk about the impact you would have, I never thought it would be possible to have an impact on 1.3 billion persons with ‘Disabilities.’ It is the nature of how society would view this issue. With many years of working on this issue side by side with persons with disabilities and the leadership of this extraordinary group, you are either born with a disability or you acquire it during your life by accident, sickness, war (as we have), the 60 different wars that are going on in the world. When you age, you will have a disability.

If you save one life, your life is worthwhile. Click To Tweet

It’s not about this minority of people. It’s about us. If we can change our societies to be more understanding and empathetic with people, we will have a more universal nation and world. We have a demographic problem: one billion people who are Aging. We are going to have two billion people who are aging by the year 2050.

For every person who is aging, you have at least an impact on two other persons, a husband, wife, daughter, caretaker, or medical assistant. At the present moment, we are one billion people who are aging. We had an impact on two billion people. That makes us three billion. By the year 2050, we will be six billion people who are aging having an impact with fewer children being born every day.

The demographics of this is a wicked problem, we must solve. This is why it’s so complex for governments and entities to grasp that they need to make decisions now,  because they think it’s better to leave it to the next guy to do it. The cost of political decisions is going to be high. These are the endeavors they see. They accompany me in many of these ventures.

To your point about being a good example to them, you have shared so many tough, difficult decisions and choices you’ve made in being that example for them. Third quick fun fact. What is one of your favorite book that has made a difference in the way you think about the world?

I read extensively but there are books that make a mark and keep making marks. I have enjoyed, during these last years, Yuval Harari’s books (all of them.) Sometimes, I go back and read. Another one is The Conversation by (Harvard Kennedy School Professor) Robert Livingston on Racism. That is a book that has made me reread it to understand the complexity of the situation. I’ve read important books and biographies. My trait is I read a lot of biographies of ‘Obama’ or ‘(John) McCain’. I read a lot of Western, Latin American, and European books. My field of interest in politics is foreign policy. I read extensively books that deal with this.

In a world that is in constant change, many of the issues that we would read in books some decades back are more in articles in foreign policy, foreign affairs, or these types of magazines where you have noted and referenced articles of decisions. I also have an enormous tendency to go back to read the press. I like to read newspapers. I write op-eds. I like to read the op-ed pages of different newspapers around the world. Now, it is more electronic than paper but I do that. I dedicate a lot of time to reading at least a couple of hours a day.

We don’t have too much time left but there are a couple of quick questions I wanted to hear your perspectives on. Do you think Nelson Mandela’s leadership is relevant in the world? If so, why?

His (Mandela’s) example is something we cannot leave behind. The leadership Mandela demonstrated is something that the level of humility and self-imposed discipline for a better good is something that is always going to be an example for the leadership of the world. I’m not talking about only the ones who are Presidents because they became Presidents. I’m talking about every individual. The nature of that decision is how you conduct yourself in the world as a human being.



Any final thoughts you would like to leave for our generation and the next around ‘The Future of Leadership?’

The world is evolving rapidly with technology, social change, and complex international problems. There are not necessarily wars like climate change, sustainable development, food capabilities of the world, and sustainable food allocations. We are confronting a major world survival dilemma that is beginning. You will require leaders to be capable of knowing the problems, acknowledging the problems, and being able to present solutions to the problems.

There’s a level of statesmanship that is needed. Many of the things that you will have to decide are not popular and not based on client-based issues that you will get their vote again if you don’t do this or that. The level of statesmanship is a good example of how to introduce. Mandela demonstrated that because he sacrificed many things as a statesman for the better good of his people and as a lesson to the world. The level of statesmanship is the basis of leadership.



How do you define statesmanship?

It is the capacity to know that your decision will have a visionary or prolonged effect and that you must decide this for the better of your understanding of the situation rather than to accommodate yourself to what the polls and the national discussion of the political parties or even what the people want to hear. You cannot guide your life by trying to be popular. That is something that you must look into and say, “This is what I think is correct. I’m willing to do that in spite of the fact that I might not be popular.”

Statemanship is the capacity of knowing that your decision will have a visionary or prolonged effect and making decisions for the better. Click To Tweet

Luis, you’re such a wonderful living example of somebody who’s been a remarkable statesman. I have no doubt that you’re a wonderful example to your children. I look forward to hearing more about that. Thank you so much for showing up and being part of this Global Mandela Leadership Movement for Change. We all care about transforming our leadership crisis, reminding our generation, and empowering the next. I’m looking forward to seeing you again in person. We have some scars we’ve shared together but we have many positive possibilities to look forward to. Thank you for the gift of you and the work that you do.

Thank you, Anne, for this opportunity. I am very appreciative of your invitation. Thank you. God bless and take care.

Bless you, too.

As we reflect upon the compelling insights from my good friend, Luis Gallegos, the former Foreign Affairs Minister of Ecuador and the UN representative for his country, I’m recording these leadership insights a few days before my gastric cancer surgery. It is a BIG week. I’m pondering big questions about Life, Leadership, Humanity, and the World’s Future. I’m wondering how, I and we, could and should confront the future. Like Luis, I believe we all have a duty and an obligation to stand up at times, and say “No,” even to a President.

The biggest question and issue is will I and “We,” as humanity, adapt, survive, and thrive, especially given the increasing and significant threats and challenges of artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, climate, and nuclear war prospects. How do we get there? To confront the future, we need to understand where we are and where we have come from.


LBF 44 | Super Cognitive Revolution


Luis reminds me of Yuval Harari’s work and his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, which sketches how humanity has evolved and developed thus far. Despite the book’s mixed scholarly reviews, its multiple awards and bestselling lists help us present a widely popular framework. Harari uses the intersection of the Natural Sciences, (the Natural World) with Social Sciences, (our Human Interactive World), and how these two worlds intersect.

Our Natural World (the Natural Sciences) is telling us we are on High Red Alert (the Climate Crisis). Our Social Sciences (our Social Interactive World) is telling us that humans are tearing apart instead of capitalizing on our unique ability to collaborate and develop cognitive thinking capability to energize, mobilize, and harmonize right across the species.



To confront the future, the world (humanity) of today needs another major (fifth) revolution, a Super Cognitive Revolution. What do I mean by that? It is much bigger and better, higher-order thinking. Let me give you an example. A self-transforming mind that is able to uniquely “think” about humanity as one species rather than manmade tribal divisions. Another example would be a new intelligence type like Existential-Spiritual intelligence, namely the invisible bond that binds the human spirit; (the inter-connectedness of the entire human race), which Mandela used to forgive his prison wardens after 27 years in prison and invite them to his presidential inauguration. 

Why? Because a disaster for one impacts everyone. Conversely, a victory for one is a victory for all. 

What the world needs now is a radical new way to think, act, and lead. You, armed with Mandela’s Leadership Blueprint tools in your toolbox, can develop a Super Cognitive ability to transform yourself, change your nation, and galvanize the world. 

The future history of tomorrow will be judged by mine, and your thoughtful, bold actions of today. Until next time and post my surgery, bless you, and thank you. Take thoughtful, bold action. 

Important Links


About Luis Gallegos

LBF 44 | Super Cognitive RevolutionAmbassador Luis Gallegos was born in Quito, Ecuador on December 13, 1946. He obtained a Law Degree and also a Juris Doctor Degree at the Central University of Ecuador in 1975. In 1983, as a Humphrey Fellow Scholar, he earned a Master of Arts Degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy-Harvard University. He is married to Fabiola Jaramillo and has two children: Maria Cristina and Jorge Luis. His career as a government diplomat began in 1966 when he joined the Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He has been Director of the Planning Department, Sovereignty Department, Technical Cooperation and External Debt Department, Public Information and Press, Eastern Europe, Modernization and International Projects, National Coordinator of Summits, Undersecretary for Political Affairs and Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs in several occasions.

Among other foreign service posts, he has been Third Secretary at the Embassy of Ecuador in Madrid, Spain; Consul General of Ecuador in Chicago; Deputy Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the OAS in Washington; Counselor at the Embassy of Ecuador in Washington; Minister, Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Ecuador in Bulgaria; Ambassador of Ecuador in El Salvador; Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations in Geneva (three times); Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations in New York (three times); Ambassador of Ecuador to Australia, Ambassador of Ecuador to the United States. He has been Foreign Relations Minister of Ecuador 2020-2021.

He has been Vice-president of the Commission of Human Rights, Geneva 1998; Vice-president of the Assembly of the member States of WIPO, Geneva 1997-99; Representative of GRULAC to the Diplomatic Committee; President of the II Main Commission of the Diplomatic Conference for the Adoption of a New Act of Adjustment of Netherlands, WIPO, Geneva 1999; Vicepresident of the Programmatic Forum of the IDNDR, Geneva 1999; Vice-President of the Meeting of G-77, Morocco, 1999. He has also been Vice president of the 57th Session of the UN General Assembly; Facilitator for the “Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly”, 2002; Facilitator for the “Strengthening of the United Nations”, 2002; Vice-president of the Executive Board of UNICEF, 2003; and Vice-president of the Open-Ended Working Group on Security Council Reform, 2004. He has been President of the Political Committee of the Non-Aligned Movement on three occasions. He was the Chairman of the Ad-Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities 2002-05. He was President of the Conference of Disarmament, 2012.

In 2012 he was Coordinator for GRULAC in Geneva for Human Rights, Vice President and Rapport of the Human Rights Council, Focal Point for Disability. He was Co-Chair of the Working Group Tasked by the CD to solve the Immobility of the CD during more than a decade. He has been honored to be elected to many presidencies and vice presidencies in the United Nations System. He has been, in a personal capacity, an expert member of the UN Committee against Torture and other Cruel and Inhuman Treatments from 2006 to 2011, when he resigned to take up the post of Permanent Representative of Ecuador in Geneva. Ambassador Gallegos has been a professor at the School of International Relations of the Central University of Quito, at the Military Academies of the Army and Air Force and has given numerous conferences in Ecuador and abroad. He holds an adjunct professorship at the Institute for Disability and Public Policy of American University in Washington, D.C. He gives conferences both nationally and internationally. Among the state decorations that he has been honored with are Bulgaria, 1989; France, 1990, Brazil, 1991; El Salvador, 1997; Guatemala, 1999; Spain, 2001; Guatemala, 2002; Brazil, 2002; Peru, 2002.

He received the “National Order of Merit” of Ecuador in 2002 and the “Honorato Vasquez Order” in 2007. In 2011 he was given 3 of the highest Ecuadorian decorations as recognition of his work for his country. The Congress of Ecuador has honored him twice, in 1999 for his work in Human Rights and for his leadership in the promotion and protection of Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Council of the Municipality of Quito honored him three times: in 2011 and 2020 with the Order of Antonio Quevedo and in 2016 with the “Grand Collar of Sebastian de Benalcázar”. He has also received Proclamations from the City Council of New York, Atlanta, Pittsburg and Washington DC.

He has also received recognition from the State legislatures of New York and Georgia. He has received in 2011 awards from all the Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Trade of Ecuador, from the Ecuadorian American Chamber of Commerce and from the Federation of Exporters of Ecuador. For his work in human rights, he is a recipient of the following Awards: “Justice for All Disabilities Rights Award. The “Burton Blatt Leadership Award”, the “Christian Blind Mission Award”, the “Access Living Award”, and the National Spinal Cord Injury Association “Hall of Fame Award”. Special Recognition for Outstanding Service to the Humanitarian Cause of Human Rights and Handicapped Persons by The Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for the international work he has done on behalf of the disabled community.

He is the first foreign Ambassador to receive a Proclamation from the Mayor’s Office. He received the “UNITAR Global Partnership Award 2012. The Harvard Law School, Project on Disability, honored him with the Award for “Creative Contributions to Human Betterment” in 2015. He is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees the Global UN Partnership for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ICT), Honorary Chairman of the Global Universal Design Commission and Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Institute of Public Policy and Disability of American University. He is also a Special Advisor and ex member of the International Board of Special Olympics. He is a Senior Advisor of the Disability Project of the Harvard Law School; Special Advisor to the Nippon Foundation and Associate Consultant of CORPEI (Corporation of Export Promotion and Investments).

He was a Fellow of UNITAR, the United Nations Institute of Training and Research from 2014-2018 and was appointed to the Board of UNITAR by the Secretary General of the UN 4 Antonio Guterres. He was elected President of the Board of Directors of UNITAR 2019. He writes a weekly Op-Ed in the principal newspaper of Ecuador, El Comercio. In the field of Human rights, he has also lead the initiative of negotiating a binding treaty of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations (a working group of the Human Rights Council is meeting on this issue) and has proposed a Treaty of Human Rights and ageing in order to promote and protect the rights of the elderly after the terrible experience of the CIVID19 Pandemic. He was a 2022 Fellow at the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative and continues to cooperate with the Harvard Law School Project on Disability in which he is a Senior Advisor.

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