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Conference Speakers

Rep. John Lewis

Representative John Lewis has served Georgia’s 5th Congressional District for thirty years.  He has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties, and building what he calls “The Beloved Community” in America.  Rep. Nancy Pelosi has called Rep. Lewis “the conscience of the U.S. Congress.”  Roll Call has said, “John Lewis is a genuine American hero and moral leader who commands widespread respect in the chamber.”  He was a leader in the civil rights movement, serving as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, an architect and speaker at the 1963 March on Washington, a leader of the 1965 Voting Rights March that became known as “Bloody Sunday,” an organizer of many sit-ins and voter registration drives, and a Freedom Rider.  Despite more than 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries, Rep. Lewis remains a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence.

Bryan Stevenson

 Bryan Stevenson is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative.  A MacArthur fellow, he is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned.  Mr. Stevenson has successfully argued several cases in the United States Supreme Court and recently won an historic ruling that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 and younger are unconstitutional.  He is the author of The New York Times bestseller, Just Mercy, named by TIME as one of the 10 Best Books of Nonfiction for 2014.  He also recently served on President Obama's task force on 21st-century policing.  Mr. Stevenson is also a Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law.

His acclaimed twenty-minute TED Talk is available here.

Kris Perry

Kris PerryKris Perry is Executive Director of the First Five Years Fund, an advocacy organization that works with policymakers, experts, business leaders and advocates to advance federal investment in quality early childhood education for disadvantaged children from birth to age five. She has dedicated her career to bringing resources and support to parents, caregivers, and early learning workforce professionals to ensure children grow up healthy and ready to succeed in school and in life. Ms. Perry was also the lead plaintiff in the Perry v. Hollingsworth legal challenge to California's Proposition 8, the landmark Supreme Court marriage equality case.

Michael Gerson

Michael Gerson is a nationally syndicated columnist whose columns appear twice weekly in The Washington Post.  He is the author of Heroic Conservatism and co-author of City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era.  He appears regularly on the PBS NewsHour, Face the Nation, and and other programs.  He serves as senior adviser at One, a bipartisan organization dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable diseases.  Until 2006, Mr. Gerson was a top aide to President George W. Bush as assistant to the president for policy and strategic planning.  Prior to the appointment, he served in the White House as deputy assistant to the president and director of presidential speechwriting, and assistant to the president for speechwriting and policy adviser.

Ruth Marcus

Ruth Marcus is a columnist for The Washington Post.  She has been with The Post since 1984, joining the national staff in 1986 and covering campaign finance, the Justice Department, the Supreme Court, and the White House.  From 1999 through 2002, she served as deputy national editor.  Ms. Marcus joined the editorial board in 2003 and began writing a regular column in 2006.  She as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007.  She has appeared on the PBS NewsHour, Meet the Press, Face the Nation, and This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

Ray Suarez

Veteran journalist Ray Suarez was most recently the host of Al Jazeera America's daily news program, Inside Story, which covered a wide array of national and international news stories.  He spent 14 years at The PBS NewsHour as a correspondent and anchor, covering some of the biggest stories during that time, including the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, seven poliitical conventions, and four presidential elections.  Prior to that he was the Washington-based host of NPR's Talk of the Nation for 6 1/2 years, when the program's carriage doubled to more than 150 radio stations.  He is the author of the companion volume to the PBS documentary series Latino Americans and The Holy Vote: The Politics of Faith in America.

Mary Beth Tinker

Mary Beth Tinker grew up in Iowa, where her father was a Methodist minister.  In 1965, saddened by news of the Vietnam War, Ms. Tinker and other students wore black armbands to school to mourn the dead and call for a Christmas truce.  For that, they were suspended.  The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the suspension in court, leading to the landmark 1969 Supreme Court ruling for students' rights in Tinker v. Des Moines that neither teachers nor students "shed their constitutional rights . . . at the schoolhouse gate." The Tinker ruling has been cited in more than 6,000 subsequent cases involving students' rights.

Ms. Tinker lives in Washington, DC, but travels the country on a "Tinker Tour" to promote civic education, student journalism, youth rights, and youth voices.  She is a registered nurse with Master's degrees in nursing and public health.

Terrence Roberts

 Terrence Roberts is one of the "Little Rock Nine," who desegregated Central High School in LIttle Rock, Arkansas in 1957.  As a 15-year-old eleventh grader, he joined eight other students and became one of the first nine black students to go to a formerly segregated public high school.  Dr. Roberts is now CEO of Terrence Roberts Consulting, a management consultant firm devoted to fair and equitable practices in business and industry.  He is the author of Lessons from Little Rock, a memoir describing his experience at Central High School and the salient lessons to be learned from that episode.  His second book, Simple, Not Easy: Reflections on Community, Social Responsibility, and Tolerance, consists of essays which seek to guide the reader toward more socially responsible positions in life. 

Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse AndersonLaurie Halse Anderson is The New York Times bestselling author who writes for kids of all ages. Known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, her work has earned numerous national and state awards. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists. Chains also received the 2009 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction. In addition to the YALSA Margaret A. Edwards Award, Ms. Anderson has been honored by NCTE’s National Intellectual Freedom Award and the Free Speech Defender Award from the National Coalition Against Censorship. She lives in Northern New York, where she likes to watch the snow fall as she writes. You can follow her adventures on Twitter @HalseAnderson, or visit her at MadWomanInTheForest.com

Krissah Thompson

Krissah Thompson began writing for The Washington Post in 2001. She has covered business and has also been an enterprise writer on the National staff, traveling the country to interview voters during the 2008 presidential campaign. More recently, she has written about civil rights, race and politics. She now writes for The Post's Style section, covering First Lady Michelle Obama and writing about a broad range of not-so famous people, who, unlike FLOTUS, do not require Secret Service protection. 

Kenneth C. Davis

Kenneth C. Davis is The New York Times bestselling author of America's Hidden History and Don't Know Much About History, along with other books for adults and children in the "Don't Know Much About" series.  He published The Hidden History of America at War in 2015.  He has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Smithsonian, and other national publications.  A frequent media guest, Mr. Davis has appeared on CNN, Today, Fox & Friends, the CBS Early Show, and numerous radio shows, including NPR's "All Things Considered," "Diane Rehm Show," and "Here & Now."  During the past five years in his outreach to teachers and students, he has visited more than 150 classrooms around the country via Skype, discussing the critical connection between past and present, linking history and the headlines.  His latest book, In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives is his first work of narrative nonfiction for Young Adults.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz grew up in rural Oklahoma, the daughter of a tenant farmer and part-Indian mother. She has been active in the international Indigenous movement for more than four decades and is known for her lifelong commitment to national and international social justice issues. After receiving her PhD in history at the University of California at Los Angeles, she taught in the newly established Native American Studies Program at California State University, Hayward, and helped found the Departments of Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies. Her 1977 book, The Great Sioux Nation, was the fundamental document at the first international conference on Indigenous peoples of the Americas, held at the United Nations’ headquarters in Geneva. Dunbar-Ortiz is the author or editor of seven other books, including Roots of Resistance: A History of Land Tenure in New Mexico and, most recently, An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States.

Jeffrey Rosen

Jeffrey Rosen Jeffrey Rosen is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Constitution Center, the only institution in America chartered by Congress "to disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a non-partisan basis. He is also a professor at The George Washington University Law School, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and a contributing editor for The Atlantic. His newest book is Louis Brandeis: American Prophet, published on June 1, 2016, the 100th anniversary of Brandeis's Supreme Court confirmation. Mr. Rosen is also the author of The Supreme Court: The Personalities and Rivalries that Defined America, The Most Democratic Branch: How the Courts Serve America, and The Naked Crowd: Reclaiming Security and Freedom in an Anxious Age. He received the 2012 Golden Pen Award from the Legal Writing Institute for his "extraordinary contribution to the cause of better legal writing."

Warren Zanes

Warren Zanes has been on the faculty at several American universities and is currently teaching at New York University. His writing has appeared in the Oxford American, The Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, and more. He has written books about the history of Warner Bros. Records and Dusty Springfield’s Dusty in Memphis, and coedited a collection of writings on Jimmie Rodgers. His most recent book, Petty: The Biography, was released in 2015 and quickly became a New York Times bestseller. He was a consulting producer on Morgan Neville’s Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom and conducted interviews for Martin Scorsese’s George Harrison: Living in the Material World. A former vice president of education and programs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, he is currently the executive director of Steven Van Zandt’s Rock and Roll Forever Foundation.

Daniel Feller

 Daniel Feller Daniel Feller is a Professor of History, Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, and Editor/Director of The Papers of Andrew Jackson at the University of Tennessee. His books include The Public Lands in Jacksonian PoliticsThe Jacksonian Promise: America, 1815-1840, and a new edition of Harriet Martineau’s 1838 American tour narrative Retrospect of Western Travel. Dr. Feller was the lead scholar for the PBS special “Andrew Jackson: Good, Evil, and the Presidency,” and he has also appeared on the PBS show “History Detectives,” TLC’s “Who Do You Think You Are,” and most recently CNN’s “Race for the White House.” Since 2004, Dr. Feller and his team have produced four volumes of The Papers of Andrew Jackson, covering the presidential years 1829 through 1832.

David L. Hudson Jr.

David L. Hudson Jr. is a First Amendment expert and law professor who serves as First Amendment Ombudsman for the Newseum Institute's First Amendment Center. He contributes research and commentary, provides analysis and information to news media. He is an author, co-author or co-editor of more than 40 books, including Let the Students Speak: A History of the Fight for Free Expression in American Schools and The Handy Supreme Court Answer Book. He has written several books devoted to student-speech issues and other areas of student rights. He has served as a senior law clerk at the Tennessee Supreme Court, and teaches First Amendment and Professional Responsibility classes at Vanderbilt University School of Law and various classes at the Nashville School of Law.

Gene Policinski

 Gene Policinski is chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute and of the Institute's First Amendment Center.  A veteran multimedia journalist, he also writes, lectures and is interviewed regularly on First Amendment issues.  He is a longtime proponent of diversity in journalism as an esential characteristic of a free press.  He co-srties the weekly, nationally distributed column, "Inside the First Amendment."  He is host of the online news program "Journalism/Works," produced by the Newseum.  He is also a contributor to the American Bar Association book, Whistleblowers, Leaks, and the First Amendment, providing a section on First Amendment issues and a free press.  Mr. Policinski was Washington editor of USA Today when it launched in 1982, and held several news executive positions at the newspaper, including managing editor of sports, beginning in 1989.

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