Leadership Summit hosted by Leadership Center of Arlington


On May 16, 2024, leaders from across the Northern Virginia/D.C. area joined us for our annual Leadership Summit.

Together, through a series of presentations and panel discussions, we explored this year's theme: the evolution of leadership. The keynote speaker was Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning Columnist, The Washington Post and Political Analyst, MSNBC.

The summit was also an opportunity to celebrate the culmination of our Lead and Ignite Classes of 2024, as well as the Leadership Alexandria Class of 2024.

An Alumni Reception followed, which provided an opportunity to network with attendees and alumni of the Leadership Center of Arlington programs.

MAY 16, 2024

Summit: 1:00 - 5:00 p.m.

Reception: 5:00 - 6:30 p.m.

at National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
4301 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22203


Eugene Robinson, Keynote Speaker, Leadership Summit 2024

Eugene Robinson

Pulitzer Prize-winning Columnist, The Washington Post
Political Analyst, MSNBC

Eugene Robison

Eugene Robinson uses his twice-weekly column in The Washington Post to pick American society apart and then put it back together again in unexpected and revelatory new ways. To do this job of demolition and reassembly, Robinson relies on a large and varied tool kit: energy, curiosity, elegant writing and the wide-ranging experience of a life that took him from childhood in the segregated South—on what they called the “colored” side of the tracks—to the heights of American journalism. His remarkable storytelling ability has won him wide acclaim, most notably as the winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for his commentary on the 2008 presidential race that resulted in the election of America’s first African- American president.

In his three decades at The Washington Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper’s award-winning Style section. He has written books about race in Brazil and music in Cuba, covered a heavyweight championship fight, witnessed riots in Philadelphia and a murder trial in the deepest Amazon, sat with Presidents and Dictators and the Queen of England, thrusted and parried with hair-proud politicians from sea to shining sea, handicapped three editions of American Idol, acquired fluent Spanish and passable Portuguese and even, thanks to his two sons, come to an uneasy truce with hip-hop culture.

He saw, long before the states were split into red and blue, that politics and culture are always intertwined. He sees how the great trends that are reshaping our society are also reshaping our neighborhoods, our families, ourselves. Immigration, for example, is far more than a tally of how many people moved from somewhere else to America. It’s also the story of a changing inner-city block that rises or sinks as newcomers arrive. It’s the story of how the grammar and syntax of a new hybrid language are forged in basketball or soccer games at the local playground. It’s the story of a woman, all but cloistered in her home country, who walks down a public street for the first time in her life without a veil. Or the story of a man, raised in society where machismo still rules, learning for the first time to regard his wife as a breadwinner, perhaps eventually as an equal.

Using the old-fashioned instincts and habits of a reporter, Robinson goes out and finds these stories. He sees them as the foundation that supports his provocative opinions—and as building blocks that can be used to assemble the larger narrative of today’s America.

Robinson was born and raised in Orangeburg, SC. He remembers the culminating years of the Civil Rights Movement—the “Orangeburg Massacre,” a 1968 incident in which police fired on students protesting a segregated bowling alley and killed three unarmed young men, took place within sight of his house just a few hundred yards away. He was educated at Orangeburg High School, where he was one of a handful of black students on the previously all white campus; and the University of Michigan, where during his senior year he was the first black student to be named co-editor-in-chief of the award-winning student newspaper, The Michigan Daily.

He began his journalism career at The San Francisco Chronicle, where he was one of two reporters assigned to cover the trial of kidnapped newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst, which arguably set the pattern for all the saturation-coverage celebrity trials that have followed. F. Lee Bailey, at the time the most celebrated lawyer in America, was lead counsel for the defense. He lost the case, which taught Robinson a valuable lesson he has never forgotten: Reputation and performance are two different things.

Robinson joined The Washington Post in 1980 as city hall reporter, covering the first term of Washington’s larger-than-life mayor, Marion Barry. For the first time since Orangeburg, race became a dominant issue in Robinson’s life—as city hall reporter, he was the de facto emissary of a powerful white institution, The Washington Post, to an ambitious, race-conscious, black-run government of a majorityblack city. There he learned another important lesson: Man-in-the-middle is never a comfortable role, but sometimes it’s a necessary one.

Robinson became an assistant city editor in 1981, and in 1984 was promoted to city editor, in charge of the paper’s coverage of the District of Columbia. During the 1987-88 academic year, on leave from The Post, Robinson was a Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University. He began studying the Spanish language—he had always promised himself that if he ever had a year off he would learn Spanish, since that would be useful for any journalist in a nation where immigration from Latin America was already gathering steam. Study of the language quickly led to courses on Latin American literature, history and politics.

On his return to the paper he was named The Post’s South America correspondent, based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a post he held from 1988-1992 (which let him cover the trial in Amazon and also research his first book, the one about Brazil, Coal to Cream: A Black Man’s Journey Beyond Color to and Affirmation of Race, published in 1999). For the subsequent two years, he was London bureau chief (affording him the opportunity to sit in one of the gilded state rooms of Buckingham Palace as Queen Elizabeth II committed the investiture of a new crop of knights and ladies).In February 1994, Robinson returned to Washington to become The Post’s foreign editor. That same year he was elected to the Council of Foreign Relations.

In January 1999, Robinson became an assistant managing editor of The Post in charge of the Style section—where he learned that hip-hop and American Idol are as relevant to people’s lives, in their way, as the “serious” news that gets reported on the front page. His appointment as associate editor and columnist took place January 1, 2005.

In 2010, Robinson was elected to the Pulitzer Prize Board. He is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the NABJ Hall of Fame. His second book, Last Dance in Havana: The Final Days of Fidel and the Start of the New Cuban Revolution—an examination of contemporary Cuba, looking at the society through the vibrant music scene—was published in 2004. His latest book, Disintegration, was released in October 2010. In it, Robinson discusses the disintegration of the black community into four distinct sectors—and the implication for policies such as school reform, urban renewal and affirmative action.

Robinson is a regular contributor to MSNBC. He lives in Arlington, Virginia.


Jamari Green


Jamari Green

Jamari Green started her professional journey in 2016, interning to provide recommendations to reduce recidivism rates and improve reentry outcomes. This experience ignited her passion for community activism. Immediately after graduating college, she started with Deloitte full time in 2017 and supported a plethora of social impact initiatives, in addition to providing professional consulting skills to a host of government clients.

In 2019, Jamari became the Social Impact Leader for the 14,000 professionals in Deloitte’s largest market, Greater Washington. In her role she spearheads efforts in the nation’s capital region to: address pressing societal issues to help change lives, foster engagement with the local community, and direct pivotal investments in support of over 45 nonprofits in the region.

Jamari was born and raised in South Carolina, and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Claflin University with the highest GPA in her major. She is extremely passionate about Corporate Social Responsibility and preparing BIPOC youth for fulfilling careers. Jamari serves on the Advisory Committee for Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound Schools, an organized aimed to make world-class outdoor education accessible to all. She also serves on the Advisory Council for Leadership Arlington to offer strategic advice to the nonprofit and help grow their corporate network. In her spare time, she enjoys story time with her 3-year-old son, boxing, weightlifting, and youth focused volunteerism.

Wendy Leedy

Amazon Web Services

Elijah Griffin, Sr.

Griffin Vision Media

Elijah Walter Griffin Sr.

Elijah Walter Griffin Sr. a native of Alexandria, VA and a HBCU alum from St. Augustine’s University is a father, husband, business owner and philanthropist. He is the CEO of Griffin Vision Media, a full-service media company that has partnered with notable companies such as Walmart, Red Bull, NFL, Bose, and the CIAA to name a few.

In 2022, Elijah was recognized by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce as one of its 40 under 40 for his professional and philanthropic achievements.

In 2017, shortly after losing his mother to cancer, he started a foundation in her honor-The Debra Deneise Smith Foundation which focuses on assisting young men and women of color in the Alexandria area, reach their full potential.

Elijah has dedicated his life to taking care of his family as well as fighting for those who are the most vulnerable and underserved in the Alexandria, Virginia area.


Evolution of Team Culture and Wellness

Laurie Blazek

President and CEO

Top Line Talent

Laurie Blazek

Laurie Blazek is President and CEO of TLT Coaching where she runs finance, marketing and operations. Laurie is the co-creator of the TLT Coaching on-line program and is also an Executive Coach. She currently coaches professionals to develop unique and inspiring personal branding statements and a development plan to turn strengths into action.

Laurie has over 25 years of leadership experience at large multinational banks including J.P. Morgan, Citigroup and Bank of America.. She has held senior positions in a wide variety of financial services sectors, including asset-backed finance, corporate and investment banking.

Laurie is the co-author of Becoming a Strategic Leader: Capitalize on The Power of Your Personality, which was published by the American Psychological Association (APA) in January 2024. Laurie received an MBA in Finance from DePaul University. She is a frequent speaker on a variety of leadership topics and has authored numerous published professional articles.

Dr. George Watts


Top Line Talent

George Watts

George Watts, MS, EdD, is Chairman of TLT Coaching. He is a nationally recognized author and behavioral scientist. His passion is inspiring people to mature their personality strengths and believe in themselves.

George has been CEO of a mid-cap publicly traded company and Executive Vice President of two large global service companies. George believes that leadership is the key factor in companies that thrive over generations. Thousands of people have experienced his approach and commitment to teaching powerful principles of professional development.

George received his doctoral degree in counseling psychology from the College of William and Mary and helps lead the Society for Psychologists in Leadership. He is the coauthor of Becoming a Strategic Leader: Capitalize on the Power of Your Personality, which is published by the American Psychological Association (APA) and available in all major book stores. He has also published numerous professional articles on leadership and talent management.

Stephen Leach

Director, Inclusive Content and Engagement

Disney Entertainment/National Geographic


Evolution of Thinking

Catherine Meloy

President and CEO

Goodwill of Greater Washington

Catherine Meloy

Catherine Meloy serves as President and CEO of Goodwill of Greater Washington and the Goodwill Excel Center Adult Charter High Schools. Before joining Goodwill in 2003, Catherine had a successful management career in the broadcast radio industy.

Over the past 21 years, Goodwill has grown to over 1000 associates, 21 retail stores, an eCommerce operation, nine government janitorial and grounds maintenance contracts, and a sustainability and recycling center.

Catherine’s involvement in the greater Washington business community includes sitting on the Boards of Directors of the Greater Washington Board of Trade; Federal City Council; MedStar Georgetown University Hospital Center (Board Chair); and a national board, Source America, that serves and expands the employment of people with disabilities through the Ability One program. She was honored to serve on the Federal Reserve Board of Richmond, VA.

Tony Orlando

GM Speciality Sales

Google Public Sector

Tony Orlando

Tony Orlando is the Managing Director for Google's Public Sector Specialty Sales Market. His team is focused on working with U.S. Public Sector agencies and customers to solve complex mission challenges through the effective placement of Google Cloud’s portfolio of Cyber Security, Workspace, Data Analytics, AI, and Application Modernization solutions.

Tony has over 30 years experience helping customers build data platforms, democratize data, develop data-centric applications and modernize data operations driving mission and business value for the largest agencies and enterprises across the globe. Tony has worked on executive teams with a focus on defining and leading strategy, driving digital transformation and growth initiatives, with a focus on innovation in cloud, data analytics and AI domains. He has held executive leadership positions at a variety of technology companies including Quest Software, Delphix, 3Pillar Global, CA Technologies and NetApp.

Tara Palacios

Director, BizLaunch

Arlington Economic Development

Tara Palacios

Tara Palacios is the Director of BizLaunch, an award-winning division within AED that assists small businesses and entrepreneurs in Arlington County. Tara joined Arlington County in 2001 and founded the BizLaunch program in 2002 to help diverse entrepreneurs successfully launch, grow and expand their businesses in the County. Since its inception, BizLaunch has reached over 80,000 entrepreneurs through sponsored workshops, seminars and one-on-one counseling sessions.

She has received numerous awards for her work and dedication to small businesses from organizations such as the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity. Tara received her undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) and her graduate degree from Johns Hopkins University.

Brian Kropp

President of Growth

World 50


Brian Kropp

Brian Kropp is the President of Growth at World 50. Within this role he oversees the leadership development practice that has crafted the leadership development experiences of more than 160 currently sitting Fortune 500 CEOs. In addition, he oversees the innovation practice at World 50. Within this role, he works to identify what the leading edge innovation practices that world-class organizations are adopting. Prior to his current role, Brian served as a Managing Director at Accenture and was the Chief of HR Research and Group Vice President at Gartner’s HR practice for over 19 years.

The importance of talent is now a top priority for CEOs and senior leaders. Brian is passionate about helping leaders build a more human organization to enable their employees to thrive in an uncertain world.

Brian has been named to HR Executives top 100 HR influencers for the last 2 years and has led more than 200 strategy sessions with executive teams across the Globe. He is a frequent contributor to CNN, the Economist, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Harvard Business Review, and other top publications.

Brian has a Ph.D. in Policy and Analysis and Economics from UNC and degrees from Clemson University. He currently volunteers on the workforce development board for the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. Brian lives in Falls Church, VA with his wife, three children, and way too many dogs.





Donna Hamaker, Realtor

Dupont Circle Solutions


United Bank



Alexandria Chamber of Commerce

Arlington Chamber of Commerce



“ I send a group of my staff members for both the content and the networking. It is a great opportunity for my team. “

Karen Rosales, CEO Arlington Community Federal Credit Union

“ I've never missed a Leadership Summit. It is a reasonable and easy way to get current and actionable ideas about leadership. “

Beth Arthur, Arlington County Sheriff

Don't miss the most important

leadership event of the year!

May 16, 2024 1:00 - 6:30 p.m.