Watch highlights from our first-ever Democracy Forum. You can read President Obama's full remarks here Opens in a new tab .
12:35PM ET | Welcome Obama Foundation leadership, alongside partners Columbia University and University of Chicago, welcome guests to the Forum.
12:45PM ET | Panel: Tackling Disinformation, Protecting Democracy
1:45PM ET | Lightning Talk: Dismantling Hate in the Digital Age
1:50PM ET | Lightning Talk: Youth and the Future of Democracy
1:55PM ET | Lightning Talk: Lessons from New York and Chicago
2:25PM ET | Fireside Chat: Embracing a Culture of Democracy
A conversation on the benefits of a democratic culture, and the importance of demonstrating democracy’s value again and again.
2:35PM ET | Panel: Pluralism, Identity, and Democracy
With polarization increasing in democracies across the globe, how can leaders across sectors work to advance a sense of belonging, resiliency, and connection among disparate groups within communities and nations? As societies become more diverse, what are the tools, resources, and policies that can help us break through the limitations of identity politics and build a unifying political identity rooted in our common values?
3:30PM ET | Lightning Talks: Democracy and Climate Change
4:15PM ET | Panel: Toward a More Inclusive Capitalism
A conversation on the resources and approaches at hand to build more inclusive economies—making sure every person from every walk of life has a fair shot and can participate fully in their democracy.
5:10PM ET | President Obama in Conversation with Obama Foundation Leaders
President Obama gives remarks on the state of democracy around the world and the importance of a new generation of leaders to safeguard institutions and build a more sustainable future. He then joins a conversation with emerging Obama Foundation leaders from across the globe.
Dr. Paul Alivisatos
14th President, University of Chicago
A celebrated chemist and accomplished administrator, Paul Alivisatos became the 14th president of the University of Chicago on September 1, 2021. As President of the University, Alivisatos serves as Chair of the Board of Governors of Argonne National Laboratory and Chair of the Board of Directors of Fermi Research Alliance LLC, the operator of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. He is also the John D. MacArthur Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Chemistry, the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, and the College. Alivisatos previously served as the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost (EVCP) of the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to his role as EVCP, Alivisatos was the Samsung Distinguished Professor of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, founding Director of the Kavli Energy Nanoscience Institute, and from 2009-2016 served as Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). A member of Berkeley’s faculty from 1988-2021, he held professorships in the departments of chemistry and materials science, and served in several administrative roles, including Vice Chancellor for Research.
Dr. Anael Alston
Assistant Commissioner, Office of Access, Equity, and Community Engagement in the New York State Education Department
Born and raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn, Dr. Anael Alston “Dr. A” is currently the Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Access, Equity, and Community Engagement in the New York State Education Department. In this capacity, he informs educational policy across the state and administers nearly $200 million dollars to help support students across New York State from pre-Kindergarten through college. This includes oversight and management of the historic New York State My Brother’s Keeper movement to improve outcomes for boys and young men of color created by President Obama. Under his watch, with a talented team, hundreds of thousands of young men of color are given opportunities, insights, strategies, and support to improve their school and life outcomes.
Tabata Amaral grew up in Vila Missionária, on the outskirts of São Paulo. During high school, she represented Brazil in five international science Olympics. She graduated in Political Science and Astrophysics from Harvard University, with a full scholarship. She is an activist for education and cofounder of VOA! Project and the movements Mapa Educação, Acredito, and Vamos Juntas. In 2018, when she was 24 years old, she ran for a seat at the Brazilian House of Representatives. She was the sixth most voted person in São Paulo and the second most voted woman in Brazil. In her first year in office, she received the Congress in Focus Award for best representative in the House. She was also elected one of the 100 young leaders who are changing the world by Time Magazine and one of the 100 most influential women in the world by the BBC. In 2022, Tabata Amaral was reelected with 337,873 votes, becoming the most voted progressive woman in Brazil.
Co-Founder of MAKEOUT
Nick is the Co-Founder of MAKEOUT, an antidiscrimination project empowering the LGBTQ community in Belarus, and co-founder of ICanHelp.Host, a solidarity platform to provide free accommodation within Europe and beyond for Ukrainians who fled the war. He fled Belarus because his life and personal safety were at risk there. As a political exile in Berlin, Nick continues to assist and strengthen LGBTQ activists in cities across Belarus. Nick is passionate about empowering communities that face discrimination and believes in their creative potential to change the world.
President Lee C. Bollinger
19th President, Columbia University
President Lee C. Bollinger became Columbia University’s 19th president in 2002 and is the longest serving Ivy League president. Under his leadership, Columbia is redefining what it means to be a great research university in the 21st century, distinguished by comprehensive academic excellence, an innovative and sustainable approach to global engagement, two of the largest capital campaigns in the history of higher education, and the institution’s most ambitious campus expansion in over a century.
Dean of the Columbia Journalism School
Jelani Cobb joined the Columbia Journalism School faculty in 2016. He has contributed to The New Yorker since 2012, and became a staff writer in 2015. He is the recipient of the 2015 Sidney Hillman Award for Opinion and Analysis writing and writes frequently about race, politics, history and culture. He was most recently an Associate Professor of History and Director of the Africana Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut where he specialized in post-Civil War African American history, 20th century American politics and the history of the Cold War.
Authour, Mary Winton Green Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago
Cathy J. Cohen is the David and Mary Winton Green Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago. She formerly served in numerous administrative positions, including chair of the Department of Political Science, director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture and deputy provost for Graduate Education at the University of Chicago.
Head of Glitch and VP of Developer Experience at Fastly
Anil Dash leads the team behind Glitch, the friendly developer community where coders have collaborated to create and share millions of web apps, serving as CEO of Glitch until its acquisition by Fastly. Honored by the Webby Awards with its lifetime achievement award in 2022, Dash is recognized as a leading advocate for more humane, inclusive and ethical technology through his work as an entrepreneur, activist and writer.
Technical Research Manager at Stanford Internet Observatory
Renée DiResta is the technical research manager at Stanford Internet Observatory, a cross-disciplinary program of research, teaching and policy engagement for the study of abuse in current information technologies. Renee investigates the spread of narratives across social and media networks, with an interest in understanding how platform algorithms and affordances intersect with user behavior and factional crowd dynamics. She studies how actors leverage the information ecosystem to exert influence, from domestic activists promoting health misinformation and conspiracy theories, to the full-spectrum information operations executed by state actors.
Juan Carlos Monterrey Gomez
Director of Geoversity’s School for Biocultural Leadership
Juan Carlos is the Director of Geoversity’s School for Biocultural Leadership and served as vice chair for the implementation of the UN Climate Convention for 2022. He previously served as lead climate negotiator for Panama, chair of the Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC) and co-coordinator of the ambition agenda for AILAC and the Cartagena Dialogue. At COP26, he led the youngest delegation in history to represent a country at the UN Climate Negotiations. His work is informed by his upbringing in El Pájaro de Pesé, a rural community in Panama’s Dry Corridor. He is the founder of Climate Resilient, a policy think tank based in the Dominican Republic, and has vast experience on climate transparency, carbon markets and nature-based solutions.
Monterrey Gómez co-authored the executive decrees that established the national carbon market of Panama and the national low-emissions development and climate transparency program. He was a core member of the teams tasked with the development of the 2016 Panamanian Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and its 2020 update. At 22, Juan Carlos was the youngest deputy head of a country delegation in 2015 during negotiations of the Paris Agreement. He is a member of the inaugural class of Obama Foundation Scholars and currently coordinates a World Bank technical assistance to support the implementation of the national carbon market in Panama.
Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics, University of Chicago
Austan D. Goolsbee is the Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago. He previously served in Washington as the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and a member of President Obama’s cabinet. His research has earned him recognition as a Fulbright Scholar and an Alfred P. Sloan fellow. In prior years he was named one of the 100 Global Leaders for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum, and one of the six “Gurus of the Future” by the Financial Times. His ability to explain economics clearly has made Goolsbee popular in the media. Jon Stewart describes him as “Eliot Ness meets Milton Friedman” and he has twice been named as a “star” professor by BusinessWeek’s “Guide to the Best Business Schools.” Goolsbee serves on the Economic Advisory Panel to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and has previously served on the Panel of Economic Advisors to the Congressional Budget Office, the U.S. Census Advisory Commission and as a special consultant for Internet Policy to the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice. He joined Chicago Booth in 1995.
Pulitzer Prize-Winning Investigative Reporter
Nikole Hannah-Jones is the Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of the 1619 Project and a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine. She has spent her career investigating racial inequality and injustice, and her reporting has earned her the MacArthur Fellowship, known as the Genius grant, a Peabody Award, two George Polk Awards and the National Magazine Award three times. Hannah-Jones also earned the John Chancellor Award for Distinguished Journalism and was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists and the Newswomen’s Club of New York. In 2020 she was inducted into the Society of American Historians and in 2021, into the North Carolina Media Hall of Fame. Nikole was named as one of the Most Influential People in 2021 by Time Magazine. In 2016, Hannah-Jones co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, which seeks to increase the number of reporters and editors of color. She holds a Master of Arts in Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina and earned her Bachelor of Arts in History and African-American studies from the University of Notre Dame. Hannah-Jones is the Knight Chair in Race and Journalism at Howard University, where she has founded the Center for Journalism & Democracy.
Strategy Advisor at the Government of the City of Buenos Aires
Natalia Herbst is an Obama Scholar alumni who has over 10 years of experience in government at the local and national levels. She currently serves as Strategy Advisor at the Government of the City of Buenos Aires, Argentina, with a focus on innovations for civic engagement and democracy. Her previous work focused on developing youth-centered public policy focused on social inclusion, sexual and reproductive health and rights, culture and employability, and environmental sustainability so that young people are empowered to define their own goals and reach their full potential, impacting over 1.5 million youth across the country. She served as a Senior Advisor on youth engagement to the Minister of Public Space and Urban Hygiene of the City of Buenos Aires, as National Director for Community Organizations at the National Youth Institute of Argentina, as an international consultant at Making All Voices Count, and as an advisor on diversity and inclusion policies at the Secretary of Citizen Development under the Deputy Chief of Government in Buenos Aires. Natalia received her bachelor’s degree in international studies from Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, her master’s degree in development studies from IDS-University of Sussex, and was a 2019-2020 Obama Foundation Scholar at Columbia University. She is also a JICA and Fulbright alumna.
Sydney Stein Professor in American Politics, University of Chicago
William Howell is the Sydney Stein Professor in American Politics at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, a professor in the Department of Political Science and the College, and the director of the Center for Effective Government. He has written widely on separation-of-powers issues and American political institutions, especially the presidency. He currently is working on research projects on Obama’s education initiatives, distributive politics, and the normative foundations of executive power. Howell is the author, most recently, of Presidents, Populism, and the Crisis of Democracy (University of Chicago Press, 2020).
Chief Executive Officer, The Barack Obama Foundation
Valerie Jarrett is Chief Executive Officer and a member of the board of directors of the Barack Obama Foundation. She is also a Senior Distinguished Fellow at The University of Chicago Law School. She is the author of the New York Times bestselling book Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward, published in April 2019. She serves as Board Chairman of Civic Nation and Co-Chair of The United State of Women. Jarrett serves on the boards of Walgreens Boot Alliance, Inc., Ralph Lauren Corporation, Lyft, Inc., Sweetgreen, Ariel Investments, The John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, Sesame Street Workshop and the Economic Club of Chicago. Jarrett also serves on the Goldman Sachs One Million Black Women Advisory Board member.
Representative Ro Khanna
U.S. Representative, California’s 17th congressional district
Representative Ro Khanna is a leading voice in the House working to democratize the digital economy, bring advanced manufacturing jobs to factory towns, and advance U.S. leadership on climate, human rights, and diplomacy around the world. Khanna proudly represents California’s 17th Congressional District, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, and is serving in his third term. He sits on the House Agriculture, Armed Services, and Oversight and Reform committees, where he chairs the Environmental Subcommittee. Khanna is also the Deputy Whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; serves as an Assistant Whip for the Democratic Caucus and is the Democratic Vice Chair of the House Caucus on India and Indian Americans.
Foreign Policy Adviser to the President of Slovakia Zuzana Čaputová
Jana Kobzova is a foreign policy adviser to the President of Slovakia Zuzana Čaputová. Until summer 2019, she worked as the policy director at Rasmussen Global, where she oversaw international policy and advocacy projects and advised the Transatlantic Commission on Elections Integrity, a high-level group of political leaders founded to address foreign interference in democratic processes. She also worked for the Brussels-based European Endowment for Democracy, where she developed and oversaw the EED grant making in Eastern Europe with a focus on Ukraine, Georgia and Belarus. Prior to that, Kobzova was a policy fellow and coordinator of the Wider Europe programme at the London office of the European Council on Foreign Relations think-tank, writing analyses and managing ECFR advocacy efforts on Eastern Europe. Before that, she led the Belarus democratization programme at the Pontis Foundation in Slovakia. She has co-authored several books and reports on EU policy-making, Eastern Europe and democratization processes in the region.
Head of the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning department at Accountability Lab Mali
As the Country Director at Accountability Lab Mali, Doussouba Konaté is catalyzing a new generation of active citizens and responsible leaders to develop and implement positive ideas for integrity. Mali has faced a multidimensional crisis since the 2012 coup d’état and so this work is timeous and important. The weakness of the government has allowed the occupation of terrorists and rebel groups in Northern Mali. In this kind of context, it is extremely important to return to the local populations who have been impacted by this conflict, to elevate their voices and support them in contributing to the national dialogue. Accountability Lab’s Civic Action Teams program works to strengthen community dialogue and feedback processes to ensure accountability in development cycles. Accountability Lab works with communities to co-create solutions to different challenges including misinformation, youth development concerns and peace efforts. Community bulletins and other advocacy work then informs decision-making at different levels to create policies that are better adapted to the needs of the population. Konaté is an Obama Foundation Leader and Feedback Labs Fellow.
Chief of Staff, Office of the President of the Republic of Palau
Landisang Kotaro is the chief of staff at the Office of the President of the Republic of Palau. She is the youngest and first female to serve in this role. Prior to her work at the Office of the President, Landisang worked as a senior legal researcher and committee advisor at the House of Delegates of Palau. There, she worked closely with state governments to help them strengthen their organizational structures, grow civic engagement in policy debate, and ensure adequate representation of interests and concerns of constituents. She also served as a United Nations representative for Palau in matters relating to the ocean and law of the sea. She is passionate about steering Palau through the challenges of being a new democracy, and she is committed to being a part of continued change.
Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value, University College London
Mariana Mazzucato (PhD) is Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value at University College London (UCL), where she is Founding Director of the UCL Institute for Innovation & Public Purpose (IIPP). She is winner of international prizes including the Grande Ufficiale Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana in 2021, Italy’s highest civilian honour, the 2020 John von Neumann Award, the 2019 All European Academies Madame de Staël Prize for Cultural Values, and 2018 Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. She was named as one of the ‘3 most important thinkers about innovation’ by The New Republic, one of the 50 most creative people in business in 2020 by Fast Company, and one of the 25 leaders shaping the future of capitalism by WIRED. She is the author of three highly-acclaimed books: The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths (2013), The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy (2018) and most recently Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism (2021). She advises policymakers around the world on innovation-led inclusive and sustainable growth. Her current roles include being Chair of the World Health Organization’s Economic Council on Health for All and a member of the South African President’s Economic Advisory Council, the Scottish Government’s Council of Economic Advisors, and the United Nations High-level Advisory Board (HLAB) on Economic and Social Affairs, among others.
Yascha Mounk is a writer and academic known for his work on the crisis of democracy and the defense of philosophically liberal values. Born in Germany to Polish parents, Yascha received his BA in History from Trinity College Cambridge and his PhD in Government from Harvard University. He is an Associate Professor of the Practice of International Affairs at Johns Hopkins University, where he holds appointments in both the School of Advanced International Studies and the SNF Agora Institute.
Dr. Dambisa Moyo
Baroness Moyo of Knightsbridge sits in the House of Lords of the United Kingdom. She is a principal of Versaca Investments – a family office focused on growth investing globally. She also serves on a number of global corporate boards including: 3M Corporation, Chevron, and Conde Nast, as well as, the Oxford University Endowment investment committee. Her areas of interest are capital allocation, risk, and ESG matters. She holds a Ph.D. in economics from Oxford University and a Master’s degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Dambisa was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, and is the recipient of the Friedrich von Hayek Lifetime Achievement Award. She was also named to Oprah Winfrey’s O’s First-Ever Power List (2009). Dambisa has published in the Financial Times, WSJ Barrons, and Harvard Business review, has traveled to over 70 countries during her career speaking at conferences including the World Economic Forum in Davos, Bilderberg, TED, World Bank. Dambisa is the author of five (5) bestselling books on the global macroeconomy and geopolitics, namely: How Boards Work And How They Can Work Better in a Chaotic World (2021); Edge of Chaos: Why Democracy is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth and How to Fix It (2018); Winner Take All: China’s race for Resources and What it Means for the World (2012); How the West Was Lost: Fifty Years of Economic Folly and the Stark Choices Ahead (2011); and Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa (2009).
Founder and CEO of Moonshot
Vidhya Ramalingam is Founder and CEO of Moonshot, a company working to end online harms using evidence, ethics and human rights. Under her leadership, Moonshot has pioneered new partnerships with tech companies to respond to hate and violent extremism on their platforms, online intervention programs to pull individuals out of violent movements, and the use of automated messaging to disrupt hate groups online. In 2022, Moonshot was named to Fast Company’s prestigious annual list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies. Vidhya is also recognized internationally for her role leading policy responses to white supremacist extremism and terrorism. Following the 2011 attacks in Norway, she led the European Union’s first inter-governmental initiative on white supremacist terrorism and extremism, initiated by the Governments of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and the Netherlands, and launched by the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs. She regularly advises Big Tech and Heads of State on tackling white supremacy online, including recently the Prime Ministers of New Zealand and Norway. She regularly testifies before the U.S. Congress and Canadian Parliament on the global threat posed by white supremacist terrorism. Vidhya currently serves on the Board of Life After Hate, an organization set up by former white supremacists to help individuals leave hate groups and in 2020, she was named an Obama Leader by the Obama Foundation.
Writer, Political Commentator, and National Security Analyst
Ben Rhodes is a writer, political commentator, and national security analyst. He is currently a contributor for NBC News and MSNBC; co-host of Pod Save the World; a senior advisor to former President Barack Obama; and chair of National Security Action, which he co-founded with Jake Sullivan in 2018. From 2009-2017, Ben served as a Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama. In that capacity, he participated in all of President Obama’s key decisions, and oversaw the President’s national security communications, speechwriting, and public diplomacy. He led the secret negotiations with the Cuban government that resulted in the effort to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba, and supported the negotiations to conclude the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran.
14th Vice President of the Philippines
Leni Robredo was the 14th Vice President of the Philippines, serving from 2016 to 2022. During her term, she reinvented the Office of the Vice President from a purely ceremonial one into an advocacy centered office, instituting poverty alleviation programs all over the country, focusing on programs on education, health, nutrition and food security, rural development, women empowerment and housing and resettlement. She was able to do this by focusing on the value of collaboration, private-public partnerships and capacity building of the different stakeholders. The kind of leadership she has long believed in – ethical, empowering, efficient and inclusive – was further highlighted during the pandemic when the Office of the Vice President, under her helm, was in the forefront of Covid Response Operations.
Dr. Austin J. Shelton
Director, University of Guam Center for Island Sustainability and Sea Grant and Steering Committee Co-Chair of Guam Green Growth
Dr. Austin J. Shelton is a marine and environmental scientist, serving as an associate professor and the director of the University of Guam Center for Island Sustainability and Sea Grant. Shelton is an Obama Leader Asia Pacific and one of 50 Under 40: Emerging Leaders in the Government of Guam. Shelton is working to revive island ecosystems and advance the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. He is the steering committee co-chair of Guam Green Growth (G3), the island’s most comprehensive public-private partnership ever created to achieve a sustainable and prosperous future. Shelton is a native of Guam who grew up observing environmental degradation and was inspired to become a marine and environmental scientist. He now conducts research to revive island ecosystems and builds STEM capacity in Pacific Islander communities through the coordination of student research experiences and science fairs. Shelton earned a B.S. degree in marine biology from Hawaiʻi Pacific University and both an M.S. and Ph.D. in zoology with a specialization in marine biology from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.
Co-founder and Executive Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice
Peggy Shepard is co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice and has a long history of organizing and engaging Northern Manhattan residents in community-based planning and campaigns to address environmental protection and environmental health policy locally and nationally. She has successfully combined grassroots organizing, environmental advocacy, and environmental health community-based participatory research to become a national leader in advancing environmental policy and the perspective of environmental justice in urban communities — to ensure that the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment extends to all.
Gift Ostallos Siziba
Citizens Coalition for Change
Gift Ostallos Siziba is the national deputy spokesperson for the Citizens Coalition for Change, a Zimbabwean political party founded in January 2022. He is passionate about educating young people about key national issues so they remain informed politically and ideologically. Gift believes that the call for justice and equality is at the center of community mobilization and is inspired by movements that unite communities around a clear program of action, such as #BlackLivesMatter and #ZimbabweLivesMatter. He is currently leading the #OneMil.
Deputy Chair of the Open Society Foundations
Alex Soros is the deputy chair of the Open Society Foundations. He is the founding chair of Bend the Arc Jewish Action, and sits on the boards of Bard College, the Center for Jewish History, Central European University, the European Council on Foreign Relations, and International Crisis Group. Soros’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, the New York Daily News, Reuters, and Politico, among other publications. Soros graduated from New York University in 2009 with a BA in history and received his PhD in 2018 from the University of California, Berkeley. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and the Humanities at Bard College, an honorary fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Central European University in Budapest, and a visiting fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.
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