They Lead

Living And Giving The American Dream

Isabel Smail
“To be an American is to understand the unique role that we play in the world as a source of hope and light for others, defending freedom and democracy for the most vulnerable of populations. It’s the greater good that inspires us to unite as one American family and draws from us our empathy, kindness, compassion, and courage — it’s the Spirit of America.” - Marc Andersen

Marc Andersen is the embodiment of the American Dream — his grandfather immigrated to the United States alone at the age of 16 and his father was born in a house with a dirt floor; he put himself through college, graduating with a degree in economics from George Mason University, and succeeded early in his career, gaining experience in several industries including co-founding and selling a software and services company before beginning work with Ernst & Young LLP (EY). Andersen has dedicated his life to making investments in those who work to make a difference to serve those who fight for the U.S. For years, Andersen has been an advocate for members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. Not only does he make certain that our troops are honored for their service, but Andersen also is dedicated to ensuring that those who serve have the tools needed for a successful transition from military service to the civilian workforce. 

In addition, Andersen is focused on investing in Education, Entrepreneurship, and Children’s Health and Wellness. He serves as an Advisor and Board Member to many organizations including; The Global Special Operations Forces Foundation, The Ukraine Freedom Alliance, The Pepperdine University Board, The George Mason University Business School and Gov Con Councils, and the Trustar Youth Foundation. Andersen was appointed by the President of the United States as Commissioner to the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars.

Andersen’s personal, professional and philanthropic achievements can largely be attributed to his character, as he found success in forming connections by approaching everyone with empathy, kindness, and grace, which Andersen attributes to his faith. Despite the current politically-polarized culture in America, Andersen strives to create genuine relationships with people with different views than his own so that he can learn, grow, and become a better person. His empathy, paired with his determination and his devotion to human rights made him the perfect person to help Latifa Sharifi, an Afghan women's rights activist. 

Under the Doha Agreement of 2020, the United States government and the Taliban made a deal, requiring all American military forces to leave Afghanistan. The withdrawal of American troops allowed the Taliban to regain full control of Afghanistan to reinstate and reinforce its religious and political values in Afghan society. 

During their rule, the Taliban have implemented notoriously strict regulations to eliminate women's rights in Afghanistan, making their resurgence of power devastating for progressive Afghan women, such as female rights activist Sharifi, an outspoken advocate for both women's rights and the importance of education, making both her and her family members targets under the fundamentalist Taliban rule. When Kabul was taken over, Sharifi and her children were unable to make it out of the country safely. When word of Sharifi’s challenge eventually reached Andersen, he felt like it was his responsibility to help because he “understands a simple truth – the freedom we hold so dear, the liberty we enjoy, and the exceptional opportunities we have as Americans were not given or granted to us. They were taken” and continue to be fought for. 

Andersen thought it was worth fighting for people, like Sharifi, who are brave enough to battle for the basic human rights that we have the privilege of exercising in America. Through his diverse network of friends, acquaintances, and his connections to the intelligence, military, legal, political, and non-profit communities, Andersen was able to successfully coordinate Sharifi and her children’s rescue from Afghanistan, despite the hefty bounty placed on her by the Taliban. The mission was successful, and Sharifi and her kids were safely settled in the U.S. Andersen felt like helping Sharifi and her children was his obligation as a citizen, but emphasizes that he could not have done it without his team of supporters. Andersen believes God puts people in our lives for a purpose and this effort gave meaning to many of those relationships. 

“No single one of us can do everything, but together we can achieve anything,” Andersen said. “We lift ourselves when we lift up others. As Americans, what we have in common far exceeds our differences, and the world needs us now to be that one American family now more than ever.” 

Andersen’s devotion to our country, as well as his open-mindedness, has allowed him to not only have a great professional career, but also to save the lives of Sharifi and her children. However, there are millions of people across the world who continue to lack the basic human rights we celebrate. It is important that, as Americans, we follow Andersen’s lead and continue to champion the rights that we hold so dear.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Moshe Zusman