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23 May 2007

Courvoisier The Future 500 – Introduction

“In war,” said Napoleon, “three quarters turns on personal character and relations; the balance of m

By Staff Blogger

Courvoisier, the official supplier of cognac to the French emperor and the only cognac to be awarded France’s highest award for excellence – the Prestige de la France – is looking for 500 men and women with the character Napoleon would have recognised.

The Courvoisier The Future 500 will unite individuals from ten categories – Food, Drink, Art & Design, Travel & Leisure, Media, Sport & Entertainment, Business, Fashion & Retail, Science & Innovation and Public Life. These 500 will demonstrate the motivation and passion for perfection that marks them out as future leaders in their fields. Applicants between the ages of 25 and 40 can submit themselves or be nominated via the list’s website,, but only 50 from each category will be selected. They will be connected through a bespoke online network and then featured in a specially created glossy magazine, to be distributed nationally, which will reach over one million people. Recruitment runs until 16 August. When the full list is published in November, one luminary entrant from each field will be selected as a Courvoisier The Future 500 One-to-Watch.

“Getting into The Future 500 network will be the ultimate accolade for people who thrive on their professional success,” says Jeanette Edwards, Courvoisier’s Marketing Manager. “It will act as a reference for anyone to see that the people on the list are passionate, determined and ambitious in life.” The network will host exclusive bar and event opportunities for the members to socialise and connect, providing them with another springboard to success.

The New Statesman is Courvoisier’s partner for the Public Life category, which will be judged by the NS’s publisher, Spencer Neal, and Reed Paget, an award-winning documentary maker and the managing director of Belu Water. Paget launched the UK’s first “climate neutral” bottled water using biodegradable packaging and is also responsible for developing the “Penguin Approved” consumer product certification. This stamp is for goods and services that have reduced and offset all their emissions measured over their entire life-cycle and aims to promote “climate conscious” consumption.

The definition for the Public Life category will be as broad as possible, encompassing the charitable, not-for-profit and public sectors, think tanks, NGOs, campaigning organisations, unions, and political life. We’re looking for the great minds who will generate the policies, programmes, spaces and thinking to challenge the way we live tomorrow – for people who are determined to make a difference.

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That isn’t always how those in public life are viewed. The writer and feminist Vera Brittain once wrote that “politics are usually the executive expression of human immaturity”, an opinion echoed today in the widespread disapproval that places politicians next to journalists and estate agents among professions thought of with suspicion. Yet the best – and Courvoisier is seeking out only the best – in politics and public life are motivated by the belief that theirs is a higher calling; that power and position are not ends in themselves but means by which the wider good may be served. President John F Kennedy once said: “When at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each one of us – recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state – our success or failure, in whatever office we may hold, will be measured by the answers to four questions. Were we truly men of courage? Were we truly men of judgment? Were we truly men of integrity? Were we truly men of dedication?” Those who gain places on The Courvoisier The Future 500 list in this category will demonstrate not just those qualities but also that of altruism.

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This last quality is perhaps the most important, for if we think of the figures in politics and public life whom we most admire we will find it is a quality that they all possess. To say that someone is a strong leader – a Charles de Gaulle, say – is possibly to pay a compliment; but not necessarily. The German chancellor Bismarck, the NUM leader Arthur Scargill or the former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir would all also be regarded as having been strong leaders. Some would admire them, but approval of any of the three would be far from universal. The likes of Nelson Mandela, Thomas Barnardo and William Beveridge, on the other hand, are a different matter. Whether it be the will to forgive and unite of Mandela, the philanthropy of Barnardo, or the social reform of Beveridge, all three are admired for the way their achievements touched others and aided or improved the lives of millions.

Applicants to The Courvoisier The Future 500 will look to such people for inspiration, not for the fame of their names but for the example of their lives. For nearly every great career in politics and public life had a much humbler beginning. It was through working at a Stepney boys’ club supported by his school, Haileybury, for instance, that Clement Attlee became involved in the social problems of the East End. It was this that led him to join both the Independent Labour Party and the Fabian Society and later to his becoming the Prime Minister who established the Welfare State.

Many successful charities started in very modest ways. Oxfam is known worldwide today, but its roots were in the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, which met for the first time in October 1942 with members including the canon of the university church and the former Regius Professor of Greek. Greenpeace was the name a group of anti-war protestors gave to a ramshackle fishing boat (originally called the Phyllis Cormack) they hired to take action against US nuclear weapons testing off the coast of Alaska in 1971. Shelter was formed five years earlier, in 1966, when five local church housing trusts came together to tackle the situation in the slums and to help the homeless.

But Courvoisier is not looking just for those whose work may become or already is nationally known. There are many who serve the public good in ways that may only be recognised in their local communities, often devoting considerable time for little or no financial reward. The school governor who helps raise money for new facilities or is on hand to give the pupils support and guidance, for instance; the local councillor who fights to save a local library from closure; the community worker who encourages teenagers to take part in sports or arts activities; the GP who goes beyond his or her practice to advise asylum-seekers who have fallen outside the welfare net.

These are the type of applicants Courvoisier would like to see nominated for The Future 500 list in the Public Life category. As well as appearing in the magazine Courvoisier will publish and benefiting from the online network, those who are successful in this category will be invited to New Statesman events, including the summer party and some of the award ceremonies we host, and will receive a year’s subscription to the magazine.

“When we think of politicians and those that sail on the high seas of public life our thoughts are often coloured by stories of petty deceits, excess and scandals,” says the NS’s publisher, Spencer Neal.
“But, as anyone that has charted society’s progress these last hundred years can avow, each generation throws up people that inspire. In the face of cynicism, apathy or even hostility, these people have a confidence in themselves and, most importantly, in their communities that sets them apart.
The people we are looking for are those that are just setting out on such a course. Whether they are championing better race relations, transforming neighbourhoods or showing the rest of us that politics is something more than ‘an expression of immaturity’”