The 27th annual Milken Institute Global Conference is underway in Los Angeles, drawing the some of the world’s most ardent thought leaders, visionaries and problem solvers. It’s no surprise then, that forever student and The Alexander Group’s Managing Director Jane Howze, is in the mix observing and absorbing the information gleaned from the three-day event.

“This is my eighth year attending and I am honored to have them as a client,” Jane said.

The 2024 theme is “Shaping a Shared Future,” and Milken organizers have gathered more than 4,000 attendees, including 1,000 speakers made up of C-suite executives from Fortune 500 companies, global leaders, experts, and innovators who are rethinking health, finance, technology, philanthropy, sports and media to discuss and explore the topic.

Day one of the annual Milken Institute Global Conference focused on the critical issues of geopolitical hotspots and the ongoing climate crisis to the complexities of artificial intelligence, examining both its potential and impact on global workers, firms, and markets.

With so many sessions and not enough time, Jane focused her energies on specific speakers and topics. Below are their thoughts, her thoughts and up-close pictures only Jane could provide from prime seating at the panel discussions.

Degree or Not Degree: The Higher Education Dilemma

Experts in a vast field of opinions explored the complex interplay between higher education, skills-based hiring, and the sometimes-elusive value of a college degree in today’s workforce. The discussion touched on the relevance of traditional degrees in a job market that increasingly emphasizes practical skills and competencies, the emerging trend toward alternative skill-building pathways and how individuals can navigate the range of choices to align their educational experiences with their career goals, plus the all-encompassing How are US college students and alumni tackling student debt?

Session Highlights:

-The average tenure in a job 25 years ago was 27 years. Today it is four years.

-54% of college students take at least one online course.

– University of Florida President and former Nebraska senator Ben Sasse on college’s biggest cost.

“The biggest cost of college is the opportunity cost.”

Jane’s Takeaways:

“I was particularly impressed with Ben Sasse. He was asked if tenure was important for faculty. He said yes, but being a faculty member today is more than teaching. It is coaching, grading, writing, presenting, etc. and we should specify what we are giving tenure to. All the panelists agreed that for a college education to be worth the cost— both time and money —it must offer skills that would help the graduate be a viable member of the working (profit or nonprofit) community.”

From Pitch to Profit: How Authentic Harnesses the Power of David Beckham’s Global Brand

A decade after retiring from professional football, David Beckham has remained a household name through a variety of high-profile endorsement deals and transformative partnership with Authentic Brands Group. He discussed his brand through strategic endorsements, innovative business models, compelling digital and media partnerships and more.

Session Highlights:

-Beckham talked about starting his business career 10 years before he retired. He will be introducing a clothing line next year. It was a fascinating discussion on branding and his recent documentary on Netflix is part of that branding since his production company made it.     

Jane’s Takeaways:

David Beckham was charming and interesting. Goes back to why my business is so important. It is all about the people you choose to work with, and he felt comfortable with and trusting of the CEO of Authentic Brands

Leadership and the State of American Politics

Disagreement and conflict resolution are foundational elements of the United States’ system of governance; divergent views on federalism, checks and balances, the separation of powers, and other such norms have been present since the founding of the country. While there is partisan division on many critical issues facing the US, broad consensus in some areas continues to lead to the enactment of bipartisan policies.

Bill Cassidy, US Senator, Louisiana, James Lankford, US Senator, Oklahoma, Joe Manchin, US Senator, West Virginia and Krysten Sinema, US Senator, Arizona examined how political leadership plays a role in breaking through the divisive noise and what can be accomplished as we lead up to 2025 and beyond.

Session Highlights:

-Two Democrats and two Republicans

-The group discussed how they have worked together to create bipartisan legislation. They agreed their biggest failure was not pushing immigration through earlier, where it would have had a better chance. There has not been immigration legislation since President Ronald Reagan.

2024 US Election Insights

The 2024 US elections are shaping up to be a rematch between President Biden and President Trump; however, the front-and-center issues today are distinct from the pandemic-dominated 2020 elections. From border security and immigration to the defense of democracy and US policy choices for navigating geo-political turbulence, the issues driving the 2024 elections are causing significant shifts in partisan allegiances and driving political fragmentation in new ways.

Kellyanne Conway, #1 NYT Best Selling Author; President of KAConsulting LLC; Former Senior Counselor to the President, Van Jones, Social Entrepreneur; Bestselling Author; CNN Host; and Founder, Dream Machine Innovation Lab, Chris Liddell, Author, “Year Zero: The Five-Year Presidency”; Former White House Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff, Jim Messina, CEO, The Messina Group; former Obama 2012 Campaign Manager, White House Deputy Chief of Staff and Paul Ryan, 54th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives; Vice Chairman, Teneo; Partner, Solamere Capital discussed the critical issues that will reverberate across the partisan divide, impacting voters in battleground states crucial to determining the Senate and House majorities—and delivering the electoral votes for the presidency.

Session Highlights:

-Kellyanne Conway said the election is about people’s relation with their government and border security is much more important now. It’s the number one or two issue in all six swing states that will determine the election.

According to her polling, Republicans are more focused on crime, securing borders and making a better living, where Democrats are focused on abortion.

Conway also said the Democrats made a big mistake by not letting Robert F. Kennedy stay in the race as a Democrat and if she were running the Democrats, she would have removed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris off the ticket 18 months ago.

-Jones likened the election to 1968. 

Jane’s Takeaways:

Paul Ryan commented he didn’t like Joe Biden’s policies, but he didn’t like Trump’s ethics —-quite a big change from his appearance at the Milken conference years ago when he was running for president and was much more positive about President Trump.

A Conversation with Elon Musk

It was what the title described. Read on for Musk’s thoughts and Jane’s musings.

Session Highlights:

-You want to believe the future will be better than the past.

-First Amendment Discussion:

“You can’t have democratic elections without people being informed.”

-Socialism Discussion

“The government is the DMV at scale. Would you want that?”

(Jane reports this take received a lot of laughter)

-Regulation Discussion

“If there are more regulations passed, eventually everything will be illegal. Tell kids why it is important. Engage kids.”

-Immigration Discussion
“Immigrants are talented, hard working and honest. Legal immigration is a bizarre process.  It’s insane. You can pop across the border easily.  What’s going on? Need to expedite legal immigration. Need to tighten who gets in.” 

-AI Discussion

“How will AI affect our daily lives?  Eventually all intelligence will be digital. We need to develop AI that will be beneficial to humanity. Ms. Truth Seeking AI. Truth telling AI. We need to maximize curious AI. AI has not been helpful in space exploration.”

Jane’s Takeaways:

I know a lot of people don’t like Elon Musk for political reasons, but I found him to be incredibly smart, funny, charming and a basic libertarian. The session consisted of Mike Milken, reading back quotes he had made in the past. With every quote, even those 10 years old, he would say “yeah I agree with that” and everyone would laugh, and Mike Milken would laughingly say “Well, it’s good that you agree with yourself. “

He spoke about how important the First Amendment is, and says you can’t have democratic elections without being informed.

Musk shared historically, prosperity and lack of war reduces the birth rate. The richer a civilization, the lower the birth rate. At that point in his talk a woman posed a question (we are all given QR codes to post questions during talks) that said, “Come pick me up on the way to Mars and I’ll give you a baby”.

What keeps him up at night? Musk worries about the fall of civilizations and listens to podcasts mostly at night about this subject. He ended his session by saying “Maybe I need to stop listening to podcasts on dying civilizations at night.”