Q&A With ‘What’s Next ATL’ Panel Moderator Amber Saunders

What's Next ATL leadership panel, Amber Saunders

A focal point of this year’s State of the Region breakfast is our first-ever “What’s Next ATL” live panel discussion. Four regional leaders will sit down for a frank discussion of what their organizations are doing to meet the challenges of COVID-19 and racial inequity. 

The panel includes new leaders of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, and the Latin American Association, along with the longtime blank of the United Way of Greater Atlanta. 

The moderator is Amber Saunders, a rising legal star from the firm Naoulo & Saunders, who brings a fresh perspective and plenty of energy to the table. Here’s a preview of what’s to come on the “Finding Our Courage” panel discussion. 

COVID-19 has dominated all our lives this year. What do you feel are some of the ways the pandemic has most affected the Atlanta region? 

I think the biggest impact COVID has had is psychological. Yes, kids have had to stay home and do remote learning. Yes, people have worked from home. Yes, it has impacted our economy. 
But the impact that all of those external factors has on each of us as individuals is often ignored.  

People have felt more isolated. They perhaps realized that the loved ones who they thought they know maybe they didn’t know, once they were in the house with them day in and day out. People have realized the value of teachers and what they deal with every day. People have felt scared and uncertain, and they’ve been on edge. These internal factors can have a lasting impact on us all, even after this pandemic is over.  

What do you hope State of the Region attendees learn from the regional leaders you will be talking to on the What’s Next ATL panel?

I hope that they will feel hopeful about the future.  The regional leaders are individuals that attendees can turn to for inspiration, for understanding, and for encouragement during these tough times. 

They are doing the good and necessary work to keep our region going. They have a broader knowledge of what is going on in the region and can help every attendee know what they can do as individuals to make an impact in the region. 

With that said, I hope all attendees walk away knowing that all is not lost. 

Racial inequality is an issue that our region has struggled with for decades. Why is this a critical time for our region to tackle this subject? 

The time is critical because we are at a boiling point.  We have made significant progress in a short amount of time. When you think about it, the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.  That is ONLY 56 years ago. 

Individuals  and institutions that actively participated in the advancement of segregation and inequality are still live and well, many still holding on to the beliefs of years past.  For us to get where we are now, was a miracle in that amount of time. 

But there is so much more to do and if we don’t do it now, we will destroy ourselves from the inside out. 

Look ahead two decades. In what ways would you like to see the Atlanta region change?

I would like to see more inclusion at every level of government and in the private sector.  People from every background need a seat at the table to be heard on the issues that matter to us as individuals and to us as a region.  That is the only way that we can really create policy and create change that uplifts us all.   

What’s Next ATL Panel Discussion: Finding Our Courage

Moderator: Amber Saunders, Naoulo & Saunders, PC


  • Frank Fernandez, President & CEO, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
  • Katie Kirkpatrick, President & CEO, Metro Atlanta Chamber
  • Milton J. Little, Jr., President & CEO, United Way of Greater Atlanta
  • Santiago Marquez, CEO, Latin American Association 

What’s Next ATL, produced by the Atlanta Regional Commission, is a community resource that explores how metro Atlanta is growing and changing, and how the region is addressing its most pressing challenges.