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McCain Global Leaders Program


Preparing Today’s Leaders to Meet Tomorrow’s Challenges:

The McCain Global Leaders Program supports character-driven leaders from around the world who embody Senator John McCain’s legacy of serving a cause greater than oneself.  Structured as a 12-month fellowship and immersive learning experience, each cohort will include a diverse group of 25 leaders from around the world who are working “in the arena” to advance democracy, human rights, and freedom. The program is designed to advance each Leader’s personal and professional leadership journey and impact by providing training, resources, and access to highly relevant regional and global networks with the goal of preparing today’s leaders to meet tomorrow’s challenges.

A Regional and Global Approach:

To adapt to and meet the needs of an ever-changing and complex global environment, the McCain Institute will determine a thematic focus area and recruit participants who work on relevant issues related to each theme.  Throughout the 12-month program, the Leaders will participate in programming that is both regional and global with the goal of connecting them to a highly relevant and targeted professional peer group in their home region, as well as a broader and diverse network of global peers.

2024 Global Theme: Defending Democracy

In response to the growing threat that democracy, human rights, and freedom are under around the world, the 2024 McCain Global Leaders Cohort will focus on defending democracy. There are few greater challenges to the global community than the threats posed to democracy through the rise of authoritarianism, disinformation, polarization, violent extremism, and conflict. Throughout 2024, Leaders will explore the primary challenges to democracy, as well as analyze and learn about solutions related to ensuring the future stability of democracy around the world.

Following in the footsteps of Senator John McCain’s legacy of being on the front lines of defending and advocating for democracy, freedom, and human rights, Leaders will embark on a journey that will help provide them with the tools needed to be champions of democracy in their home country and region.

Connecting Leaders from Around the World:

Leaders are selected through a competitive, open recruitment process.  There are 25 Leaders per annual cohort broken into 4 regional groupings.  Though there is no age requirement, Leaders are typically between the ages of 25 and 40.  Leaders should possess a strong track record of serving a cause greater than oneself as well as experience working directly on the global theme of defending democracy.  The McCain Institute emphasizes diversity in the form of gender, ethnicity, persons with disabilities, political viewpoint, economic background, and education.

Cohort 2024 Programming Schedule

Leaders will participate in three impactful in-person events, which will be enhanced by online learning. They include expert-led practical skills trainings and an integrated leadership development curriculum inspired by Senator McCain’s legacy and emphasizes peer-mentoring and group problem-solving.

Summer 2024 

The McCain Leadership Curriculum:  Throughout the program, Leaders participate in a curriculum that is administered both online and in person.  The curriculum is designed to incorporate lessons and experiences from Senator McCain’s life, to reinforce and augment in-person engagements and to focus on community building and group problem-solving.  A central tenet of the curriculum is a dynamic peer-mentorship model, through which the Leaders support each other’s journeys directly.  The curriculum will help each leader chart their own journey as a changemaker while also imparting real-world skills that will assist leaders as they take on some of the most difficult challenges facing their home country and region.

Fall 2024 

(Annapolis, M.D. and Washington, D.C.): The first in-person event of the program, the Leadership Experience, brings together all participants for the first time at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and in Washington, D.C.  The 10-day long program exposes leaders to the principles that guided Senator McCain’s leadership approach and connects them with experts in their core thematic areas and with key decision-makers.  Leaders will also work together and with experts to establish their own leadership philosophy and goals. 

Winter 2024/2025

The Changemaker Tour (Host Country in Each Region):  The second in-person event of the program convenes each regional cohort and members of the Global Advisory Council for five-day regional study tours that provide exposure to the global theme of defending democracy in a host country and focuses on developing targeted regional connections and networks, while providing the opportunity to discuss solutions and ideas related to the theme.  Leaders will be encouraged, but not required, to explore regional professional collaborations – the McCain Institute will actively support any resulting collaborations.  There will be one Changemaker Tour for the participants in each respective region. Past Changemaker Tours have occurred in Colombia, Poland, Singapore, and South Africa.

Spring 2025

The Legacy Experience (Vietnam):  The capstone program of the 10-month journey will, for a second time, bring all Leaders together in a country of significance to Senator McCain’s own leadership journey. The Legacy Experience will take place in Vietnam and examine the journey and relationship between Senator McCain and the people of Vietnam.  During this seven-day trip, Leaders, MGL Alumni and members of the Global Advisory Council will convene to reflect on their experience during the program, share how their own leadership philosophies have evolved, explore professional collaborations, outline the next steps of their leadership journey, and learn about the resources that they can access as program alumni.

The 2024 application submission is closed.

The 2025 application window will open in early 2025.

If you have a question, please email [email protected].