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April 20, 2021
Walter Isaacson is a professor of history at Tulane. He has been CEO of the Aspen Institute, chair of CNN, and editor of Time. He is well known for his biographies Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, and Steve Jobs.
Isaacson is out with a new book, The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race. In it he profiles Dr. Jennifer Doudna, the scientist behind the gene-editing technology CRISPR, a tool that makes it possible to edit DNA the way one might edit a letter in a word processor.
CRISPR offers nearly limitless potential, and deep moral questions. It could allow us to make humans less susceptible to viruses, heading off another COVID-19 like pandemic. Yet it also opens the door to parents selecting certain traits for their children like higher IQ, enhanced height or increased strengthen, before they are even born.
The book is also the story of Dr. Doudna and her journey to the cutting edge of scientific research. From an early age, she was driven to understand how nature works. In sixth grade, her dad gave her a paperback copy of The Double Helix, a dramatic retelling of the competition to decipher the structure of DNA. She was hooked, and even though her high school counselor told her girls didn’t become scientists, she decided she would and ended up changing the world in the process.
March 23, 2021
Barbara Coombs Lee is president emerita/senior adviser of Compassion & Choice, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit focused on expanded choices for patients at the end of life. In her most recent book, Finish Strong: Putting YOUR Priorities First at Life’s End, Lee offers a guide for a more patient-driven healthcare system, particularly at end of life, based on her 50 years of firsthand experience in nursing, medicine, law, public policy and advocacy.
Lee’s journey began with 25 years as a nurse and physician-assistant, often caring for terminally-ill patients. Through years as a private attorney, a healthcare executive, and as staff at the Oregon State Legislature, she advocated for more patient choice and agency at the end of their lives.
In 1994 she co-authored the Oregon Death with Dignity Act and served as spokesperson through two statewide campaigns to get it passed. Oregon approved the measure in 2008, making it only the second state to permit aid in dying. She kept working, including defending legal challenges against aid in dying in Montana, and helping pass the California End of Life Option Act in 2015.
Lee studied literature at Vassar College, nursing at Cornell University, and earned advanced degrees in law and medicine from the University of Washington and Lewis & Clark College. She is a member of the Oregon State Bar.
January 28, 2021
Marine biologist Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a writer, policy expert, and organizer. She is the co-founder of The All We Can Save Project which brings together and supports women at the forefront of the climate movement. She is also co-editor of the anthology All We Can Save, a collection of essays by those feminist leaders.
She has been a resident at TED, a scholar at the Aspen Institute, a fellow at Emerson Collective, a science scholar at Pioneer Works, and named to the Grist 50, UCSD 40 Under 40 Alumni, and Elle’s 27 Women Leading on Climate.
Dr. Johnson founded of the Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank focused on the future of coastal cities. She is the co-host of the podcast How to Save a Planet alongside journalist Alex Bloomberg. Together they tackle how we can solve the climate crisis by looking all over the world for solutions.
Previously, Dr. Johnson served as executive director of the Waitt Institute, where she led the Caribbean’s first successful island-wide ocean zoning effort, resulting in the protection of one-third of Barbuda’s coastal waters. In 2017, she helped lead the March for Science in Washington D.C. and in 600 partner cities across the globe.
Dr. Johnson earned a B.A. from Harvard University in Environmental Science and Public Policy, and a Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in marine biology. Her research focused on the ecology, socio-economics, and policy of sustainably managing coral reefs.
November 10, 2020
Eddie Glaude Jr. is the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor at Princeton University and chair of the Department of African American Studies. He is the former president of the American Academy of Religion, the largest professional organization of scholars of religion in the world. He is the author of two award-winning books, In a Shade of Blue: Pragmatism and the Politics of Black America and Democracy in Black: How Race Still Governs the Soul of America. His most recent book, Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own, was published this summer. He is a columnist for Time magazine and a regular contributor on MSNBC. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Morehouse College, a master’s degree in African American studies from Temple University, and a Ph.D. in religion from Princeton University. His scholarly pursuits and public service were shaped by his years growing up in the coastal town of Moss Point, Mississippi.
October 27, 2020
Bill McKibben is an environmentalist, educator, and author. He is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. A prolific author, his 1989 book, The End of Nature, is regarded as the first book for a general audience on climate change. He is the founder of 350.org, the world’s largest grassroots campaign to counter the effects of climate change. He writes for a variety of publications, including The New York Review of Books, National Geographic, and Rolling Stone. He has earned numerous honors for his writing, including membership in the Literature section of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the John Steinbeck Award. He is the recipient of the Gandhi Prize, Thomas Merton Prize, the Right Livelihood Prize, and honorary degrees from 18 colleges and universities. He lives in the mountains above Lake Champlain in Vermont with his wife, writer Sue Halpern.
October 6, 2020
María Teresa Kumar is the founding president of Voto Latino, a grassroots organization committed to engaging, educating, and empowering a new generation of Latinx voters and to creating a robust and inclusive democracy. By leveraging youth, technology, social platforms, and influencers, Voto Latino reaches 6.5 million people monthly and strives to register 500,000-plus voters before the 2020 election. She is vice chair of the board of EMILY’s List, a resource for women running for elective office, and she serves on the board of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers and the Latino Leaders network. She is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and a Life Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She received a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of CA, Davis, and a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
September 22, 2020
Victoria Sweet is Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California in San Francisco and a prize-winning historian with a Ph.D. in history and social medicine. For more than twenty years, she worked in San Francisco’s Laguna Honda Hospital, a rehabilitation center providing skilled nursing and therapeutic services to under-served populations. At Laguna Honda, she learned that health care works best when it is personal, face-to-face, and attentive to both the body and the soul, a practice she has dubbed “slow medicine.” Her first book, God’s Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine, traces her evolving understanding of the body as “a machine to be fixed” to an older, pre-modern understanding of the body as “a garden to be tended.” Her second book, Slow Medicine: The Way to Healing, explores her insights into medicine as both an art and a science that is relational, personal, even spiritual.
November 16, 2019
Parker Palmer is a writer, teacher, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal, a nonprofit organization committed to creating a more just and compassionate world by nurturing personal and professional integrity. His bestselling books include, among others, A Hidden Wholeness, Let Your Life Speak, The Courage to Teach, Healing the Heart of Democracy, and On the Brink of Everything. A graduate of Carleton College, he holds a PhD in sociology from the University of California at Berkeley. He is the recipient of 13 honorary doctorates and numerous awards for achievement and excellence. At the Forum, he will be in conversation with Sondra Samuels, president of the Northside Achievement Zone in North Minneapolis.
November 12, 2019
André Thomas is the former Professor of Choral Music Education, Director of Choral Activities, and the Owen F. Sellers Professor of Music at Florida State University. He is the conductor of a variety of choral organizations throughout the country and has served as the artistic director for the Tallahassee Community Chorus. He is in demand as a choral adjudicator and clinician and has conducted 48 Honor and All-State Choirs as well as the World Youth Choir. As a composer, his works have been published by seven publishing companies, and he is the author of the book Way Over in Beulah Lan’: Understanding and Performing the Negro Spiritual. He earned a B.A. from Friends University, an M.M from Northwestern University, and a D.M.A. from the University of Illinois.
October 22, 2019
Jim Sciutto is CNN’s chief national security correspondent and co-anchor of the weekday program CNN Newsroom. He reports and provides analysis on all aspects of U.S. national security, including the military, foreign policy, the intelligence community, and the ongoing Russia investigation. An award-winning journalist, he has received the Headliner Award for the documentary Targeting Terror: Inside the Intelligence War, a Citation for Excellence from the Overseas Press Club, and the Edward R. Murrow Award for his reporting from Iran. Prior to joining CNN, he served as ABC News’ senior foreign correspondent. His new book, The Shadow War, explores Russia and China’s secret efforts to undermine the U.S.