American Swiss Foundation

Leader Spotlight

Sanderson.ThomasThomas Sanderson (Young Leader 2013)

Co-Director and Senior Fellow, Center for Strategic and International Studies

What do you like most about Switzerland?
The landscape is stunning. There are few places that can match Switzerland's beautiful terrain.

What do you like most about the USA?
The sense that anything is possible, and that people look to us as a sanctuary. But I wish American values were not so frequently in conflict with American goals. I always want my country to do "the right thing", but the reality is we most often pursue our interests just like any other nation. I do like it when we are the decisive factor in many foreign policy engagements.

What defines your leadership style?
Informed decisions through reading and seeking advice from a few key people. I also go on my gut feeling. If it doesn't feel right, it almost never is.

Who inspires you?
Those who struggle with immense pressure and make courageous decisions. To see people speak out for what is right when the odds are overwhelming (or when violence against them is certain), is humbling.

What is your greatest achievement?
Helping to shape and guide 125 interns and three research assistants over the past 12 years at CSIS. On the personal side, establishing an amazing group of friends and experiencing over 60 countries.

Do you have any weaknesses? 
Over-committing--among others!!

Where do you live?
Virginia, though my spiritual home remains in New Hampshire where I grew up and most of my family remains.

What is your favorite place in the world?
Northern New England. It is obviously home for me, but the beauty and character are really something else. I could not live without four seasons. Outside of the US: It's a toss-up between Banff, Canada and Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany.

What is the best book you ever read?
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, when I was younger; more recently, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, by Jon Meacham.

What is your goal in life? 
To build cultural bridges and foster transparency. Ignorance and corruption are at the heart of so many problems. Working on these two issues will enable progress in many others. Making a difference is a goal that I imagine we all have, and there are countless ways in which I want to pursue this.



About Tom Sanderson

Thomas Sanderson is Co-Director and Senior Fellow of the Center for Strategic and International Studies Transnational Threats Project where he works on terrorism, crime, geopolitics, and intelligence. He has conducted fieldwork in 60 countries and has authored or co-authored 13 major reports as well as opinion pieces and articles in The Economist, New York Times, Washington Post, West Point CTC Sentinel, and Harvard Asia-Pacific Review. Tom engages a variety of sources including journalists, foreign intelligence officials, business leaders, extremists and insurgents, non-governmental organizations, clergy, and academics. Tom currently co-leads a multiphase study of militancy across South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. He serves as a course instructor and consultant for the U.S. government and the private sector, provides expert commentary for the media and courts of law, and has held fellowships in Shanghai and Berlin. Tom holds a Bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College in Massachusetts and a Master’s degree from the Fletcher School at Tufts University. Tom’s interests include international travel, hiking and spending time with his friends and family.

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