“Talk about everything until there is nothing left but the obvious truth.” – Tom Atlee
Partial list of people who have presented at previous NEXUS events on issues of politics, philanthropy, civic activism and other themes related to the Healthy Democracy Coalition
Alexander Soros graduated from New York University in 2009 with a BA in history and is pursuing a doctorate in late modern European history at the University of California, Berkeley. He is an honorary fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Central European University in Budapest, an associate fellow at the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and the Humanities at Bard College, and was formerly a postdoctoral fellow at the Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen in Vienna. Soros sits on the boards of Bend the Arc, which supports grassroots efforts to strengthen lower-income neighborhoods across the United States; Global Witness, which exposes and breaks the links between natural resources, conflict, and corruption; and the Gordon Parks Foundation, which preserves the photographer’s work and supports educational and artistic activities that promote his values. His Op-Eds have appeared in the Guardian, the Forward, the Miami Herald, Politico, Reuters, and the Sun-Sentinel. Soros is the founder of the Alexander Soros Foundation, a grant-making organization promoting civil rights, social justice, and education in the United States and abroad. Media coverage regarding the foundation has appeared in Bloomberg News, Forbes, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere.
Betsy Hawkings is the Program Director for the Governance Initiative at the Democracy Fund, a private foundation that fosters the highest ideals of the American republic – government of, by, and for the people. She leads the Democracy Fund’s grant making to organizations building bridges across the ideological divide and seeking out ways for our government to solve problems in the face of increased polarization. Current grantees of the Governance Program include the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Aspen Institute’s Congressional Program, and the Faith & Politics Institute. Betsy brings more than 25 years of experience on Capitol Hill to the Democracy Fund. She worked for two decades for her hometown congressman, Christopher Shays of Connecticut, taking a leading role in helping Rep. Shays build bipartisan coalitions to balance the federal budget in 1995-96 and to establish the 9-11 Commission and implement its recommendations. She also supported the enactment of the Congressional Accountability Act, a provision of the 104th Congress’ “Contract with America,” which applied labor, civil rights, and workplace safety laws to Congress. From 1996-98, Betsy was also Deputy Director of the Congressional Management Foundation, a non-partisan organization that works directly with Members and staff to enhance their operations and interactions with constituents. Betsy oversaw day-to-day operations of the Foundation and developed numerous guides and resources that provide Members with critical information, from how to establish and run Washington and district offices to best practices for setting strategic priorities over the course of a term. Following Shays’ departure from Congress in 2008, Betsy left the Hill briefly to work for Amnesty International, where she was Managing Director of Government Relations and then Deputy Executive Director for Advocacy, Policy, and Research. She returned to Congress to lead the staffs of Congressmen Mike Turner and later Bobby Schilling of Illinois before signing on as Congressman Andy Barr’s chief of staff in 2012. In 2014, she was awarded the Cresswell Congressional Staff Leadership Award from the Stennis Center for Public Service. Betsy is a graduate of Williams College, where she was named a Mead Scholar of American Studies, has attended courses at Harvard’s Kennedy School and is a founder of the Form of 1981 Memorial Fund at her alma mater, Groton School, to support student financial aid. She and her husband, David, live in Washington with their two sons.
Cindy Hensley McCain has dedicated her life to improving the lives of those less fortunate both in the United States and around the world. Cindy serves as co-chair of the Arizona Governor’s Council on human trafficking and on the McCain Institute’s Human Trafficking Advisory Council. She is dedicated to efforts to reduce human trafficking in Arizona, throughout the United States and around the world, as well as working to improve the lives of victims of human trafficking. Through her work with the McCain Institute, several partnerships have been formed with anti-trafficking organizations working on solving various aspects of the problem. Cindy also served on the Board of Directors for Operation Smile, a non-profit organization whose mission is to repair cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities for children around the world. She was a member of the HALO Trust Board, as well as a founding Member of the Eastern Congo Initiative. She is committed to raising awareness of the travesties facing women and children in the Congo. She also sits on the Advisory Boards of Too Small To Fail and Warriors and Quiet Waters. Cindy holds an undergraduate degree in Education and a Master’s in Special Education from USC and is a member of the USC Rossier School of Education Board of Councilors. Cindy is the Chairman of her family’s business, Hensley Beverage Company, which is one of the largest Anheuser-Busch distributors in the nation. Cindy resides in Phoenix with her husband, U.S. Senator John McCain. Together, they have four children.
Cory Booker is the junior United States Senator from New Jersey, in office since 2013. Previously he served as mayor of Newark from 2006 to 2013. He attended Stanford University, where he played college football and received a Bachelor of Artsin political science and a Master of Arts in sociology, before earning a Rhodes Scholarship to attend the University of Oxford. Upon returning home, he earned his Juris Doctor from Yale Law School. Booker began his political career as a Newark city councilor from 1998 to 2002. He ran for mayor in 2002, but lost to incumbent Sharpe James; he ran again in 2006 and won against deputy mayor Ronald Rice. During his tenure as mayor, Booker’s priorities were reducing crime and encouraging economic development projects. He gained a national reputation for his personal involvement in public service, particularly through his use of social media tools such as Twitter to connect with constituents. Considered one of the most prominent Democrats in New Jersey, he became a candidate for the United States Senate in the 2013 special election to succeed Frank Lautenberg, who died in office. He won the Senate Democratic primary on August 13, 2013, and then won the general election against Steve Lonegan on October 16, 2013, becoming the first black U.S. Senator from New Jersey. Booker subsequently won the next regular election for the Senate seat against Jeff Bell in 2014.
Dan Rather is an award-winning broadcast journalist. For more than 50 years, as a CBS News anchor and 60 Minutes correspondent Rather was the embodiment of the intrepid broadcast journalism. From the Kennedy assassination-where he was the first to break the news that the president had been killed-to the Indian Ocean tsunami, he has covered every major story of our time, with distinction and a fierce dedication to hard news. For his unparalleled devotion to his craft, he was named the 2012 recipient of the Edward R. Murrow Award for Lifetime Achievement, and has received additional, countless prestigious awards such as the Peabody, Sigma Delta Chi, CPJ Benjamin Memorial and Emmy Awards. Rather’s reporting skills are legendary, and his single-minded pursuit of the story has taken him to datelines as far ranging as Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, China, Russia, and Cuba. On September 11, 2001, Rather stayed on the air for 18 hours straight to bring Americans news of the deadly attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Constantly looking to innovate new avenues for quality journalism, Rather has now launched a production company called “News & Guts.” He is developing a series of projects ranging from an acclaimed interview program on AXS TV to documentaries and digital video content.
Daniel Stid is Director of the Madison Initiative at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. He oversees the foundation’s three-year, $50 million effort to improve deliberation, negotiation, and compromise in Congress. Previously, Daniel was a consultant and strategist to government, nonprofit, and private sector leaders. While a partner in the Bridgespan Group’s San Francisco office, Daniel’s research and writing on the interplay between government and nonprofit agencies appeared in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, the Community Development Investment Review, Strategy and Leadership, the Washington Post, and his Cliff Notes blog. Before that, Daniel worked at the Boston Consulting Group in Boston, Kuala Lumpur, and Washington, D.C., where he helped initiate the firm’s work with the federal government and advised leaders at the Treasury Department and the Department of Education, and also supported private sector clients in a range of industries. He began his career teaching political science at Wabash College and is the author of “The President as Statesman: Woodrow Wilson and the Constitution” (University Press of Kansas, 1998). Daniel was also selected to be an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow and served on the staff of Majority Leader Dick Armey in the U.S. House of Representatives. A graduate of Hope College, he has a master’s degree in politics from Oxford University, which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar, and a doctoral degree in political science from Harvard University.
Don Kendall, for most of his adult professional life, has been a serial entrepreneur with a passion for creating startups as well as turnaround companies operating in new, or rapidly evolving market spaces. Following his tenure at McKinsey & Company, Don co-founded American Restaurants, which today has over $1 billion in sales and employs more than 20,000 people across seven Central and East European markets. An early pioneer in the e-commerce field, Don co-founded or was founding board member of six other companies including hotwire.com, now part of Expedia. More recently, Don has devoted a significant portion of his time on philanthropy and socially-minded enterprise creation in the arena some people refer to as “Education 2.0”. He is a co-founder and board member of the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation, established to address the problem of gun violence by spurring market innovation and incentivizing technological advancements in gun safety to save lives. He is chairman of the Social Venture Partners-CT Board of Directors, an organization which cultivates effective philanthropists, strengthens nonprofits, and invests in collaborative solutions – building powerful relationships to tackle our community’s social challenges. He currently serves on the boards of the National Outdoor Leadership School and the Philanthropy Workshop West as well as SVP-CT’s first grantee, The International Institute of Connecticut. For 10 years, he was also an active member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO). Don is a graduate of Stanford University. He resides in Weston with his wife, daughter, and two sons, and is a member of the town’s volunteer EMT force.
Edwin Meese III holds the Ronald Reagan Chair in Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation. He is also a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He served as the 75th attorney general of the United States from 985 to 988. Before that service, he held the position of counselor to the president from 1 981 to 985. At that time, he was also a member of the president’s cabinet and the National Security Council. Meese headed the transition team following the 980 presidential election. During the campaign, he served as chief of staff and senior issues adviser for the Reagan-Bush Committee. Formerly, Meese served as Governor Reagan’s executive assistant and chief of staff in California from 969 to 974 and as legal affairs secretary from 967 to 968. Before joining the Reagan staff, he served as deputy district attorney of Alameda County, California. From 1977 to 1981, Meese was a professor of law at the University of San Diego, where he also was director of the Center for Criminal Justice Policy and Management. Meese is a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. He has a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley.
Ed Scott founded BEA Systems with two other principals, Bill Coleman and Alfred Chuang, in early 1995. Mr. Scott served both as President of BEA and as Executive Vice President for World Wide Field Operations, supervising BEA’s sales, marketing, and services operations and is now serving as a Counselor to BEA senior management. Since withdrawing from direct management at BEA, Mr. Scott has become involved in a variety of philanthropic initiatives, including the founding and support of several orphanages and child development centers in Central America. Recently, Mr. Scott has become increasingly concerned about the causes and cures of global poverty and in 2001, he founded the Center for Global Development (CGD) in Washington, D.C. The Center is the only organization of its kind fully dedicated to the development and advocacy of informed analysis about the policies of the world’s richest countries toward the world’s poor countries. The Center envisions and works toward a future that allows all world citizens an opportunity to participate in the global economy. Mr. Scott serves on the Board of Directors of the Institute for International Economics (IIE), a long-standing leader in international economic policy analysis. IIE and CGD function as aligned and collaborating research institutions. Mr. Scott is also a co-founder, along with Bill Gates, Jr. and George Soros, of DATA, an advocacy organization dedicated to building public and political awareness about development problems in Africa, most notably the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Bono, the lead singer of the rock band U2 and well-known for his public advocacy, is a principal spokesperson of DATA. Prior to founding BEA, Mr. Scott was executive vice president in charge of worldwide sales and marketing at Pyramid Technology. Mr. Scott also was one of the founders of Sun Microsystems’ federal division, Sun Federal. Before his career in the high-technology industry, Mr. Scott was a U.S. government executive for 17 years. In his last government assignment, he served as an Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Department of Transportation during the Carter Administration. During his government career, Mr. Scott served under seven Attorneys General and three Secretaries of Transportation. He earned a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Political Science from Michigan State University. He also has a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from the University of Oxford, U.K.
Ian Simmons is the Founder and President of the Foundation for Civic Leadership, and is dedicated to initiating projects that enhance democracy. Results of projects that Ian has catalyzed have been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post, as well as on CBS, NBC, ABC, and CNN. Ian serves on the boards of Issue One, Youth Engagement Fund, and Karibu Homes, an affordable housing company in Kenya. In addition, Ian is Co-Founder and Principal of Blue Haven Initiative, a family office dedicated to investing for-profit and non-profit capital to advance solutions to social and environmental challenges.
Jason Carter is a shareholder at Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore in Atlanta, Georgia. He represents clients in high stakes trial and appellate business litigation. He has a strong commitment to global public service. Mr. Carter served in the Georgia State Senate and was the 2014 Democratic Nominee for Governor of Georgia. He served in the United States Peace Corps as a volunteer in Lochiel, South Africa. Jason Carter is the grandson of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and in 2015, he succeeded his grandfather as the Chair of The Carter Center Board of Trustees. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by President Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University to advance peace and health worldwide. A non-governmental organization, The Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers to increase crop production. Mr. Carter will discuss the mission of The Carter Center, its many successes, and its future plans to continue improving the lives of people around the world.
Jeanné Isler is dedicated to building bridges between groups to find new ways to build just and empowered communities. Originally from the suburbs of Washington, D.C., she has lived and worked in four states and the District of Columbia to challenge systemic inequities. As Vice President and Chief Engagement Officer at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), Jeanné leads the team that designs and implements strategies for engaging progressive social justice nonprofit organizations and more than 80 foundation supporters. This includes signature initiatives such as the NCRP Impact Awards and Philanthropy’s Promise. Her efforts result in a deeply engaged philanthropic sector more open to learning from social justice movement leaders. Her earlier positions have drawn on her expertise in building unlikely alliances which generate new initiatives to promote justice and support marginalized groups. Before joining NCRP she was the Director of US Programs at Search for Common Ground; one of her major initiatives advanced bipartisan conversations among members of the U.S. Congress and other government leaders about the impact of racism on policy. Prior to that, Jeanné worked to build a network of support organizations for military families impacted by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She also led a restorative justice program for New Hanover County Public Schools in North Carolina, and worked as a faith-based community organizer in Ohio and Florida. Her broad-based experience includes designing discussions and workshops to advance constructive interaction and social justice for international audiences. Jeanné has delivered these forums to elected officials, ambassadors, clergy, executives and other leaders. Jeanné serves in several volunteer roles, including the Board of Directors of Faith in Public Life and the Parish Pastoral Council of St. Augustine Catholic Parish in Washington, D.C., where she resides. She was an inaugural member of the Leadership Council of Within our Lifetime, a national movement to end racism seeded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. She also serves on the advisory council for Talent Philanthropy. In her free time, she sings with SongRise, D.C.’s all-women social justice singing group. She received her undergraduate degree from Washington University in St. Louis and her M.A. in Conflict Resolution from Antioch University Midwest.
Jeb Bush, Jr. currently serves as Managing Partner for Jeb Bush & Associates, LLC and President of Bush Realty, LLC. Previously, Bush worked with Fairchild Partners, Inc. a full service commercial real estate firm located in Coral Gables, Florida. Bush earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. In 2008, Bush earned a master’s in International Real Estate Finance from Florida International University. Jeb Bush & Associates, LLC provides management consulting services. The firm leverages its worldwide network of business relationships and draws on its broad perspective on the economy, business, and politics to help companies at all stages of the corporate life cycle achieve their objectives. Jeb Bush & Associates, LLC provides a variety of services, responding dynamically to each client’s most pressing needs—whether helping to recruit a Board of Directors or Advisory Board, raising capital, recruiting other businesses as clients or strategic partners, or formulating the next stage of the business plan. Our clients do not share a common industry or size. Rather, each possesses a unique vision, track record of success, and leadership team. Jeb Bush & Associates, LLC does not perform any lobbying, political fundraising, or political consulting. Bush serves as a Managing Partner of FracStar Logistics LLC, a Texas-based oil and gas services business. He is also Managing Partner of Gold Krown, LLC, a Florida-based Real Estate Investment Fund. Jeb Bush, Jr. is also involved in community outreach and philanthropy. He serves as Chairman of the Friends of St. Jude, a young professional organized to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis and is on the National St. Jude Board and is Co-Founder of Sunpac, a Florida based Hispanic Outreach program that promotes conservative values and principles to the Hispanic Community. Bush is also a board member of BBVA Compass South Florida Advisory Board; a board member of the National Immigration Forum based in Washington D.C; a board member of Habitat for Humanity – Miami; and a host committee member of the WGC – Cadillac Golf Championship at Doral, FL.
Laura and John Arnold established the Laura and John Arnold Foundation in 2008. They believe philanthropy should be transformational and should seek through innovation to solve persistent problems in society. As co-founders, Laura and John actively engage in the organization’s overall direction and daily execution. Laura is an attorney and a former oil company executive. John is an investor. They have three children and reside in Houston, Texas.
John Podesta served as Counselor President Barack Obama from January 2014 to February 2015. His duties included overseeing climate change and energy policy. In 2008, he served as co-chair of President Obama’s transition team. He is the former Chair of the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Center for American Progress and the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Prior to founding the Center in 2003, he served as White House chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. He also recently served on the President’s Global Development Council and the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Additionally, Podesta has held numerous positions on Capitol Hill, including counselor to Democratic Leader Sen. Thomas A. Daschle (1995-1996). A Chicago native, Podesta is a graduate of Knox College and the Georgetown University Law Center, where he is currently a visiting professor of law.
John Tyler has been general counsel and corporate secretary for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation since 1999 and chief ethics officer since 2004. In these roles, Tyler combines his ability to understand and develop theory with his capacity to execute on and translate that theory into practice while complying with the law across the Foundation’s program areas (entrepreneurship, education and Kansas City engagement), administration (human resources, finance, grants administration, facilities, etc.) and investments. Tyler frequently contributes to the Foundation’s policy work as a speaker and author on diverse topics such as reforming U.S. policy regarding high-skilled immigration, social entrepreneurship and hybrid forms, and improving university technology transfer. He also serves the Foundation as a liaison to national philanthropy and advocates for philanthropy more generally as a scholar, author and speaker. Among topics on which he speaks and writes in this area are the roles and responsibilities of philanthropy in society, challenging notions that foundation and charity assets are “public money,” transparency and accountability, governance, public private partnerships and compliance. Many of Tyler’s nearly two dozen academic articles and book chapters, which have been cited more than 150 times so far, are available at http://ssrn.com/author=723109. Among the national boards on which Tyler serves or has served are the Philanthropy Roundtable, the Philanthropic Collaborative, NYU law school’s National Center on Philanthropy and the Law, Independent Sector’s public policy committee, Columbia law school’s charities regulator project and the Council on Foundations’ evolution of philanthropy initiative. His Kansas City-based board service and leadership positions include the school boards for the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph, Genesis School, Archbishop O’Hara High School, the Center for Management Assistance, Science Pioneers, and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City. He has had active roles in starting three schools: the Kauffman School, Cristo Rey Kansas City and St. Michael the Archangel High School (in process). Before joining Kauffman, Tyler was a partner with one of Kansas City’s oldest and largest law firms, Lathrop and Gage, where his practice focused on commercial litigation, personal injury litigation for railroads, and employment law. His undergraduate and law degrees are both from the University of Notre Dame.
Kenneth Cole, a fashion designer and social activist, has used his business platforms to raise awareness about important issues for over 30 years. After launching an innovative ad campaign to promote awareness of AIDS in 1985, he joined amfAR’s Board of Directors in 1987, became vice chairman in 2002, and was named chairman in 2004. In 2008, Mr. Cole launched AWEARNESS, The Kenneth Cole Foundation. The foundation has supported numerous efforts, including the recent funding of the Kenneth Cole Haiti Health Center, as well as several fellowship programs to empower university undergraduates to become effective agents of change.
Kriss Deiglemeir is the Chief Executive Officer of Tides. Under Kriss’ leadership, Tides grant making grew over 100% in three years to over $200 million in 110 countries. Kriss has more than 20 years of senior executive experience that spans the business, social enterprise, nonprofit, academic, and philanthropic sectors. She excels in traversing diverse worlds and finding common ground on which to collaborate and bring about change. Recognized as a pioneer in the field of social innovation, Kriss has presented nationally and internationally on social innovation, social entrepreneurship, design thinking, and public-private partnerships. Kriss has guest-lectured at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, Hitotsubashi University, Kyoto University, and Kyushu University. She has also written and published leading thought pieces on social impact, including “Rediscovering Social Innovation” published in Stanford Social Innovation Review as well as a chapter in The Real Problem Solvers (Stanford University Press 2012). Before joining Tides, Kriss was the founding Executive Director for the Center for Social Innovation (CSI) at Stanford University. She established CSI, which quickly gained a global reputation as a pre-eminent leader in the emerging social innovation field. While at Stanford, she taught a course on social innovation through corporate social responsibility and served as an advisor to the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies while living in Myanmar. Prior to Stanford, Kriss was the Chief Operating Officer for Juma Ventures, one of the early innovators in social enterprise business. Kriss has served on a number of boards and advisory groups. She received her BA from the University of Washington and her MBA from UC Berkeley. She resides in the Bay Area with her husband, two children and dog, Lucy. Kriss has visited over forty countries and has many more on her “wish to visit” list.
Michael P. Davidson serves as the CEO of Gen Next, an exclusive organization of successful individuals dedicated to learning about and becoming engaged with the most pressing challenges facing future generations. Michael joined Gen Next as the first full-time hire in 2005 to focus on the growth and development of the then start-up organization. Since then Gen Next expanded from ten Members in Orange County and Los Angeles to close to 200 Members across the country and with operations in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Arizona, and expanding into other major metropolitan markets. Gen Next regularly hosts programs with dignitaries, thought leaders, political leaders, and high profile business executives. Michael has also been part of Delegations of Gen Next Members to France, Brazil, Russia, and China where Members dialogued on global issues with high level government and business leaders in each country. As CEO of Gen Next, Michael is also responsible for working with the National Board of Directors and Gen Equity Committee to develop and execute strategic political plans for Gen Equity PACs of Gen Next at the federal (US House, US Senate, Presidential) and statewide (gubernatorial, legislative, initiatives) levels. In 2010, Gen Equity PACs fundraised more than $1M for Gen Equity PACs causes in the election cycle. In election cycles prior, Gen Next Members have cumulatively fundraised more than $3.5M since Gen Next’s inception. Today, the investment is paying off, Members of Gen Next and Gen Equity PACs are actively working through the political process to confront the most daunting public policy challenges and support and elevate public officials who are forward thinking and lead with courage. He is also the President of the Gen Next Foundation (GNF), which Members of Gen Next launched in 2010. GNF utilizes venture philanthropy and social entrepreneurship strategies to identify and create high impact solutions to latent and present challenges in the areas of economic opportunity, education, and global security. GNF has been active in projects and partnerships related to GNF issues, including a current major collaboration between Google Ideas and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue on AgainstViolentExtremism.org (AVE).
Nkechi Taifa is the advocacy director for criminal justice at the Open Society Foundations. Her areas of expertise include federal sentencing reform, executive clemency, law enforcement accountability, and re-entry. Taifa also convenes the Justice Roundtable, a Washington-based advocacy coalition that advances criminal justice reforms. Taifa is the founding director of the Equal Justice Program at Howard University Law School and was adjunct professor at both Howard Law and American University Washington College of Law. She was legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, serving as principal spokesperson for its Washington Office on criminal justice and civil rights issues. Taifa also served as public policy counsel for the Women’s Legal Defense Fund and as staff attorney for the National Prison Project. As a private practitioner, she represented indigent adults and juveniles, and practiced employment discrimination law. Taifa has served on the boards of numerous public interest organizations, and as an appointed commissioner and chair of the District of Columbia Commission on Human Rights. She has written and spoken extensively on issues of justice reform, receiving numerous awards for her social justice accomplishments. Taifa received her JD from George Washington University Law School and graduated magna cum laude from Howard University.
Patrick McCarthy is the president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private philanthropy dedicated to helping build better futures for disadvantaged children in the United States. He is a trustee of the Casey Foundation and the Baltimore Community Foundation, chairman of the board of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, an executive committee member for both Living Cities and the East Baltimore Development Initiative, and a trustee on the board of Bryn Mawr College. Prior to his becoming president and CEO, McCarthy was the Casey Foundation’s senior vice president. In that capacity, he oversaw the foundation’s work in the areas of health, reproductive health, mental health, substance abuse, juvenile justice, education, early childhood, youth development, child welfare and income security, as well as the foundation’s Strategic Consulting Group and the direct service agency, Casey Family Services. He was the initiative manager for the foundation’s Mental Health Initiative for Urban Children, promoting neighborhood-based strategies for improving the emotional well-being of kids and families. Prior to joining the Casey Foundation, McCarthy was senior program officer at the Center for Assessment and Policy Development, where he worked with foundations, states, and cities on system reform and strategic planning. He served as the director of the Division of Youth Rehabilitative Services; director of the Division of Program Support; administrator of Case Management for the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families; and director of the Delaware Family Preservation Project. He taught child and family practice, research methods, and statistics at the graduate schools of social work of Bryn Mawr College and the University of Southern California and has experience as a family therapist and administrator in programs for emotionally disturbed youth and drug addicted adults. McCarthy has a Ph.D. in Social Policy from the Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Montclair State University.
Paul Singer is the founder and president of Elliott Management Corporation, a New York-based trading firm. Launched in 1977 with $1 million of capital, total assets under management for the Elliott funds have grown to over $34 billion today. Elliott also has affiliated offices in London, Hong Kong and Tokyo. The Wall Street Journal has recognized Elliott for its early forecasting of the systemic economic crisis of 2008. The New York Times has written that “of all the hedge fund managers on Wall Street, [Elliott] is one of the most revered.” In his philanthropic activities, Mr. Singer has played a leadership role in supporting research and scholars in the areas of free-market economics, rule of law and transparency, health care delivery innovation, U.S. national security, and the future of Israel. Mr. Singer is also active in supporting LGBT equality efforts. According to The New York Times, he was “instrumental in the successful campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in New York.” Mr. Singer is co-founder of Start-Up Nation Central, an organization committed to solving global problems through deepening ties between Israel’s start-up ecosystem and the global innovation economy. He is on the boards of Harvard Medical School and of Commentary Magazine. Mr. Singer is also chairman of The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.
Sarah Stranahan has more than 20 years of experience in mission related investing, community organizing, and social change philanthropy. As a long term Board member of the Needmor Fund, she helped design and oversee its philanthropic support of community organizing and its integrated mission related investment program. She served on the Finance Committee of the Council on Foundations from 2008-2012, where she helped design and implement an investment policy aligned with the Council’s mission. Sarah’s experiences as a fiduciary led her to study finance, and she passed her level one Chartered Financial Analyst exam in 2009. She co-founded the New Economy Network in 2010, to increase collaboration between individuals and organizations working to accelerate the transition to an economy that supports people and the planet. She served as the Network Coordinator from 2010 through 2012, and then as co-chair of its Board. Sarah is a Board member of the Stranahan Foundation and Free Speech for People, a non-profit working to challenge the misuse of corporate power and restore republican democracy to the people. Sarah works at Bolder Giving, a non-profit that encourages exceptional philanthropy, where she manages their Bold Investing and Environmental Justice Initiatives. She lives in New York City and Tyringham MA with her husband, Henry Richardson, a glass sculptor. They have three adult sons.
Steven Olikara is a political entrepreneur and the Founding President of the Millennial Action Project (MAP), a national, nonpartisan organization dedicated to activating millennial policymakers to overcome partisan gridlock. In this role, he organized the nation’s first and only bipartisan caucus for young members of Congress, the Future Caucus, and has grown MAP into the largest nonpartisan organization of millennial policymakers in the U.S. Steven’s leadership in this movement has led to pioneering achievements on entrepreneurship, education, the environment, and other key issues affecting millennials in America. Steven also serves as Senior Adviser to multi-platinum recording artist Akon’s Lighting Africa, an initiative that has electrified over one million homes in Africa with solar power. A nationally recognized leader and political commentator, Steven has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NBC News, NPR, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and many other media outlets. Previously, Steven served as Truman Fellow at the World Bank focusing on sustainable energy and advised eight-time Grammy winner Usher’s Foundation on global youth initiatives. He also served as the Harry Ott Fellow on Coca-Cola’s Environment Team, spearheading public-private water projects with USAID in Africa. Steven frequently speaks on next generation leadership at venues such as the White House, Aspen Ideas Festival, Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, Yale College, SXSW, the United Nations, National Press Club, and numerous State Capitols. He serves on the Boards of The Constitution Project, Issue One, the University of Wisconsin International Division, and the African Middle Eastern Leadership (AMEL) Project, as well as the Leadership Council of the Service Year Alliance and the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards Committee. He is also a member of the National Press Club, which honored him with the Vivian Award for service. Raised in Wisconsin, Steven graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a Udall and Truman Scholar, the nation’s highest undergraduate honor for public service leadership. In 2012, the Wisconsin Legislature recognized Steven with the State Assembly Citation for outstanding contributions to his home state. Steven has been recognized as a Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum, Forbes 30 Under 30, the Millennial of the Year, an Aspen Institute Ideas Scholar, and one of the Most Influential Leaders Under 40 by Washington Life magazine.
Ted Cruz became the junior U.S. senator from Texas in 2013 and ran for the Republican nomination for U.S. president in 2016. Ted Cruz’s mother was from Delaware, his father from Cuba, and Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta in 1970 when his father was working in the oil industry in Canada. Cruz grew up in Texas and got his education in the Ivy League, graduating from Princeton University (1992) and then Harvard Law School (1995). He was as a law clerk to Chief Justice William Rehnquist before landing a job at the Washington law firm of Cooper, Carvin & Rosenthal, where his jobs included helping to prepare testimony for the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton. In 1999 he joined the campaign of George W. Bush as a domestic policy advisor; after Bush’s victory in 2000, Cruz worked as associate deputy attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice, and then director of the Office of Policy Planning for the Federal Trade Commission. Cruz was appointed Solicitor General for Texas in 2003, serving until 2008, when he began practicing corporate law in the Houston firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. He surprised political experts by winning a seat as the state’s U.S. senator in 2012, replacing the retiring Kay Bailey Hutchinson. As a new senator, Cruz made a splash in 2013 by leading an ill-fated charge to repeal the Affordable Care Act (AKA “Obamacare”), even taking the Senate floor for a 21-hour speech in which, among other things, he read from Dr. Seuss’s book Green Eggs and Ham. The incident cemented his reputation as a conservative rebel with a knack for finding the spotlight and the power to irritate both Democrats and his fellow Republicans; in April of 2013, Foreign Policy magazine called him “the most hated man in the Senate.” Cruz is an outspoken opponent of abortion and gay marriage, a fierce supporter of gun rights, and is well-known for his disbelief in global warming. His official biography calls him “a passionate fighter for limited government, economic growth, and the Constitution.” Ted Cruz announced on 23 March 2015, in a speech at Liberty University, that he would run for the Republican nomination for U.S. president in 2016. A year later he was one of three GOP candidates remaining in the race, along with Donald Trump and John Kasich. However, both Cruz and Kasich dropped out in May of 2016, leaving Trump as the presumptive GOP nominee.
Wesley Clark is a Senior Fellow at UCLA’s Burkle Center and a Co-Chairman at Growth Energy, an ethanol lobbying group. He also leads a Democratic political action committee known as “WesPAC,” which he formed after dropping out of the 2004 race for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. Though now retired, Clark served in the U.S. army for 38 years, commanding at the battalion, brigade and division level, and serving in a number of significant staff positions. As the Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO, Clark commanded Operation Allied Force in the Kosovo War, saving the lives of roughly 1.5 million Albanians from the threat of ethnic cleansing. After graduating as valedictorian of his class at West Point, Clark was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, where he obtained a degree in philosophy, politics and economics. He later graduated from the Command and General Staff College with a master’s degree in military science.
William Ruger serves as the Vice President for Research and Policy at the Charles Koch Institute and the Vice President for Research at the Charles Koch Foundation. Before coming to CKI and CKF, he was most recently an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Texas State University and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin. He earned his Ph.D. in Politics from Brandeis University and an A.B. from the College of William and Mary. Ruger is the author of a biography titled Milton Friedman and co-author of two books on state politics: The State of Texas: Government, Politics, and Policy and Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom. His recent scholarly articles appeared in International Studies Quarterly, Civil Wars, Review of Political Economy, and State Politics and Policy Quarterly. Ruger has been interviewed frequently for television and radio, including appearances on MSNBC, Fox News, and Fox Business; his op-eds have been published across the country by, among others, USA Today, Investor’s Business Daily, and the New York Daily News. His research has been highlighted or cited by over a hundred news outlets, including ABC News, CNN, NPR, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, and the New York Post. He is also currently a Research Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Ruger is a veteran of the Afghanistan War and an officer in the U.S. Navy (Reserve Component).