The World Leaders Forum | Judson University

The World Leaders Forum


On November 5, 2021, the World Leaders Forum was headlined by foreign policy expert and retired General David Petraeus. Notably serving as commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and later director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Petraeus is among the most recognized military leaders of the post-9/11 era. The decorated general shared insights from his 37-year career in the U.S. military. The discussion was moderated by distinguished Judson University alumnus Mark Vargas, who met the general while serving as a civilian in Iraq during his tenure.

2021 Event Recap

Gen. David Petraeus Shares Nonpartisan Leadership Perspective at World Leaders Forum 10th Anniversary

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Retired Gen. David Petraeus shared insights from his decorated 37-year military career and unique nonpartisan point of view during Judson University’s World Leaders Forum Friday night in Schaumburg. Petraeus marked the 10th anniversary of Judson’s speaker series, held annually to inspire the next generation of leaders and give the greater Chicago community access to prominent global leaders.

Petraeus discussed his military career with distinguished Judson University alumnus – and event moderator – Mark Vargas, who recounted how he became connected with the General during his civilian service in Iraq. They covered topics including the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, serving during two presidential administrations, his new roles since retiring from military service, and the people who influenced him early in his career.

“Early in my career, I made unexpected, nontraditional choices that led me to fortunate places. This gave me a vantage point of observing people in leadership positions at a young age,” said Petraeus. “I was unbelievably fortunate to have extraordinary mentors, and I was a good mentee because I took advantage of the opportunities that my mentors offered to me.”

“Since our inaugural event ten years ago, we have surprised and inspired guests of the World Leaders Forum through meaningful conversations with some of the most interesting leaders of our time,” said Judson University President Dr. Gene Crume. “General Petraeus has added to that roster through his candid conversation about service and thinking beyond our deep political divides to find common goals.”

Petraeus was originally scheduled as the 2020 keynote speaker, but the event was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A key feature of the World Leaders Forum since its inception is the intimate setting, allowing attendees to build authentic connections to guests and leaders within the greater community.

2021 Keynote Speaker

David Petraeus


General David H. Petraeus served more than 37 years in the U.S. military, concluding his career with six consecutive commands, five of which were in combat, including command of coalition forces during the surge in Iraq, command of U.S. Central Command, and command of coalition forces in Afghanistan. Following his service in the military, Petraeus served as the director of the CIA during a period of significant achievements in the global war on terror. He currently serves as chairman of the KKR Global Institute, an arm of the global investment firm KKR. He is an honorary professor of the University of Birmingham in England and is a board member of the Institute for the Study of War, the Atlantic Council and more than a dozen veterans service organizations.

Petraeus has received numerous U.S. military, State Department, NATO, and United Nations medals and awards, including four Defense Distinguished Service Medals, the Bronze Star Medal for Valor, the Combat Action Badge, the Ranger tab, and master parachutist wings, and he has been decorated by 13 foreign countries.

Petraeus graduated with distinction from the U.S. Military Academy and subsequently earned a doctorate in an interdisciplinary program of international relations and economics from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.


2021 Interviewer

Mark Vargas Trustee

Mark Vargas

Distinguished Judson University alumnus Mark Vargas ’04 is a trusted adviser and close confidante to some of the most high profile political and business leaders in America. His work as a tech entrepreneur in health care and political opinion writer have been featured in the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald, Huffington Post and Fox News Channel. From 2014-2016, Mr. Vargas was a principal at a government and public affairs consulting firm in Washington, D.C. where he advised both individuals and organizations on issue advocacy and message development; crisis preparedness and management; media relations and government affairs.

About the World Leaders Forum


Igniting a Flame of Leadership

The World Leaders Forum brings recognized world leaders to the Judson University campus each year with the intent to inspire and ignite a flame of leadership for all who attend. The World Leaders Forum is the signature fundraising event for Judson University. Previous World Leaders Forum keynote speakers include former President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev, United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mexican President Felipe Calderón, Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Vermont Governor and presidential candidate Howard Dean, and former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy. The goal of the World Leaders Forum is to offer Judson students and the Chicagoland community an opportunity to be inspired by significant thought leaders.

Past Keynote Speakers

George W. Bush
George W. Bush
43rd President of
the United States
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Former President of
the Soviet Union
Tony Blair
Tony Blair
Former British
Prime Minister
Condoleezza Rice
Condoleezza Rice
Former United States
Secretary of State
Felipe Calderon
Felipe Calderón
56th President
of Mexico
Queen Noor
Queen Noor
Queen Noor Al-Hussein
of Jordan
Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich
Former Speaker
of the House
Howard Dean
Howard Dean
Former Vermont
Caroline Kennedy event
Caroline Kennedy
Former U.S. Ambassador
to Japan


Event Champion

Dana B. Davidson CPA Company, P.C.
Dana Financial

Premier Platinum

WR Meadows



Premier Gold

FONA International


Pat & Fran Houlihan


CIC Strategies
Rabine Foundation
Schaumburg Business Association
AM 560
Village of Schaumburg
CDL 1000
National Management Resources Corp.
Chicago Prime Steakhouse
Quintessential Barrington
Elgin Symphony Orchestra
Dennis and JoAnn Demoss

Star Sponsors

Lundstrom Insurance
Shales McNutt Construction

Student Sponsors

Consumers Credit Union
EFS Foundation
Audrey and Daniel Reed
Eleanore Allanson - Donoho
BDG International
John Felinski
Tim Schofield
Fran Street


A variety of options are available for companies and organizations interested in sponsoring and attending the World Leaders Forum.

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Contact Us

Julie Schmidt
Julie Schmidt
Director of World Leaders Forum

Judson University, Shaping Lives that Shape the World