People I admire: Publicis Groupe chief executive Maurice Lévy on the people who have inspired him over the years

As part of The Drum’s Cannes issue, guest edited by Maurice Lévy, the chief executive of Publicis Groupe gives insight into the people who have, in one way or another, inspired and invigorated him throughout his career.

Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet

Founder of Publicis, father of advertising in France and the first non-American to enter the Advertising Hall of Fame, Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet was larger than life and a genuine visionary who believed in mankind. He was my boss, my mentor. I worked intimately with him for years, spending endless hours speaking about life, work, creativity. I loved working with him and learning from his experience, and the lessons I learned are still with me.

Elie Wiesel

An utter advocate of peace, dignity, questioning and teaching, Elie Wiesel survived the dreadful death camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, going on to become a press correspondent, acclaimed author, 1986 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, a tireless professor and enlightening look-out for the world. With his warm voice, no one could imagine what his life has been. I can spend endless hours with Elie and his wife Marion discussing the state of the world, philosophy or simply life, but always peace. The first time I saw Elie it was on TV in 1967 and I was moved by his words and his face, where I could read so much sadness. Much later, we became friends forever.

Shimon Peres

Minister of defence, twice prime minister and the ninth president of Israel, Shimon Peres has never departed from his idealistic and open-minded freshness in a political career that has spanned more than 66 years. He remains as optimistic now as he was in 1994 when he received the Nobel Peace Prize alongside Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat. He is full of humanity, a loving father of his country and an immense friend and mentor.

Les Trois/The Three (Gerard Saillant, Olivier Lyon-Caen, Yves Agid)

An orthopaedic surgeon and authoritative in sports medicine, a neurologist at the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital and university teacher, and a neurologist, university teacher and expert in neuroscience, these three French doctors are founding members of the France-based Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle Epinière (Brain and Spine Institute), a research centre created in 2005 to produce rapid treatment of lesions damaging the nervous system. I am fortunate to have known them and to have participated in the creation of the ICM Brain Institute with some very good friends.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Like Gandhi decades ago, Aung San Suu Kyi is the embodiment of Thoreau’s civil disobedience. Under house arrest in Burma for almost 15 years, she is an opposition leader and was elected to the lower house of the parliament in 2012. Few people on earth have the capability of silently and successfully fighting the most authoritarian regime. With her style and fragile look she is one of the most admirable resistants of modern times.

Naomi Klein

Canadian author, social and climate activist, global influencer known for her political analyses and criticism of corporate globalisation and of neoliberal capitalism, it is fair to say I don’t share her views, which often lack nuances. But this is may be the price to pay when you want a revolution of the minds. I admire her tenacity and courage even if I think very differently.

Ahmet Muhtar Kent

A genuine beverage man and the iconic chairman of the board and chief executive officer of one of the most iconic American brands: Coca-Cola. Beyond the success there is the man of peace, dialogue, a tireless defender of women’s causes and the youth. He is a great chief executive and a formidable humanist.

Annie Leibovitz

One of the most famous American portrait photographers, while at Rolling Stone she developed the use of bold primary colours and surprising poses before joining Vanity Fair to cover a wide array of subjects, notably portraits of celebrities such as Keith Haring. She later worked on advertising campaigns, Olympics portraits and female portraits. I simply love her art. Period.

Simone Veil

A great French woman who has always worked on improving the human condition by means of her political or social responsibilities. The short version is that I love her as much as I admire her. Health minister, member of the French Constitutional Court and the French Academy, with courage, and having survived the darkest times of the war and the Nazi camps, she tackled the most difficult post-war topics. It feels like her abortion bill lifted a taboo two centuries ago, though it was only 40 years ago.

Joan Mitchell

A leading figure of the second generation of American Abstract Expressionists; French by adoption and an admirer of Matisse and Van Gogh, she painted organic landscapes on unprimed canvas with powerful brushwork.

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