Summer 2018 Speakers

June 26, 2018






Robert Ford is a career diplomat who served as U.S. Ambassador to Syria from 2010 to 2014 and to Algeria from 2006 to 2008, spoke on developments and U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Ambassador Ford is a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC, and a fellow at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University, where he teaches Arab politics and diplomacy.

   Ford served 30 years in the State Department and the Peace Corps, finishing his career as US ambassador to Syria from 2011 to 2014. For his leadership at this posting he received a Presidential Honor award, the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award and the John F. Kennedy Library’s 2012 Profile in Courage award.

   Ford also served as US ambassador to Algeria (2006-2008), where he boosted bilateral cooperation in education and rule of law. He served in Iraq as senior political advisor to the ambassador and later as deputy ambassador (2008-2010), when he helped devise Obama administration plans to establish American diplomatic posts in Iraq after the withdrawal of US military forces in 2010-2011.

   As deputy ambassador in Bahrain (2001-2003) Ford led the embassy team that helped negotiate a landmark free-trade agreement with Bahrain. Ford also served in Cameroon, Algeria, Egypt, and Turkey, and was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco (1980-1982). Fluent in Arabic and French, Ford holds a BA from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and an MA from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

   Ford has appeared on US and Arabic television networks, written articles for the New York Times, the Washington Post and other publications, and presented guest lectures at numerous US and Canadian universities.





July 3, 2018




Jennifer Kermode, Executive Director of the Gunnison Valley Housing Authority, discussed the need for and challenges in providing affordable housing in the Gunnison-Crested Butte community, a timely and critical issue of local importance.

Jennifer Kermode moved to the Gunnison Valley in May 2017 to begin her position as executive director of the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority (GVRHA), whose mission is “to advocate, promote, plan, and provide a long-term supply of desirable and affordable housing in Gunnison County in order to maintain a well-rounded community.”

   Prior to this post, from 2007 to 2016, Kermode served as executive director of the Summit Combined Housing Authority, a nonprofit agency in Breckinridge, CO, committed to helping members of the community find long-term housing. There she created innovative programs to address local residents’ unique housing challenges.

   Kermode’s passion for tackling affordable workforce housing matters in rural and resort communities grew out of a 27-year career in residential mortgage lending, during which she realized the magnitude of positive outcomes people experience when they have good homes and neighborhoods to live in. She has had ownership interest in three start-up companies that grew into successful mortgage brokerage firms.

   Jennifer is currently president of the Colorado Mountain Housing Coalition, a nonprofit based in Rifle, CO, that provides loans to tax-exempt organizations, including the GVRHA, that offer housing assistance to local populations in western Colorado. She also is a member of the Rotary Club of Gunnison County. Kermode enjoys all the beautiful scenery, the variety of outdoor activities and the friendly people in her new home in Gunnison County.





July 10, 2018 



Charles Sykes is a well-known conservative writer, commentator and radio talk-show host who has lately been critical of President Trump and elements of the Republican party, talked about the state of the country and the future of the Republican party

Until he stepped down in December 2016 after 23 years, Charles Sykes was one of Wisconsin’s top-rated and most influential conservative talk-show hosts. Sykes is also author of nine books, including A Nation of Victims (1993), Dumbing Down Our Kids (1996), Profscam (1988), The Hollow Men (1990), The End of Privacy (1999), 50 Rules Kids Won't Learn in School (2007), A Nation of Moochers (2013), and Fail U.: The False Promise of Higher Education (2016). He was co-editor of the National Review College Guide (1991). His most recent book, How the Right Lost Its Mind, published by St. Martin’s Press, was released in October 2017.

   He is currently an MSNBC contributor, a contributing editor at the Weekly Standard, and the host of the magazine’s Daily Standard podcast. In 2017 he was co-host of the National Public Radio show, “Indivisible,” which originated from WNYC. He is an outspoken critic of the Trump administration and of what he calls the conservative “alternative reality” media.

   Sykes has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Politico, Newsweek,, Salon, USA Today, National Review, The Weekly Standard, and other national publications. He has appeared on Meet the Press, the Today Show, ABC, NBC, Fox News, CNN, PBS, and the BBC, and has been profiled on NPR. He has also spoken extensively on university campuses.

   Sykes lives in Mequon, WI, with his wife and three dogs. He has three children and two grandchildren.






July 17, 2018 



Ellen Sweets is a journalist formerly with the Denver Post and other newspapers, former Director of the City of St. Louis Civil Rights Enforcement Agency, author of the best-selling Stirring it Up with Molly Ivins and who has been described by one reviewer as “funny, irreverent, dedicated to social causes and a mighty fine cook,” spoke about the current threats to voting rights and their impact on minority communities.

Ellen Sweets grew up in a St. Louis newspaper family. Her father helped found one of the nation's oldest black weekly newspapers, the St. Louis American, now in its 90th year.

   In addition to working as a reporter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Dallas Morning News, the Denver Post, and the Austin American Statesman, she has written for the magazines Edible Austin and Texas Co-Op Power.

   Sweets also has edited corporate publications for AT&T, written editorial copy for Neiman-Marcus, and served as executive director of the St. Louis Civil Rights Enforcement Agency. In that position she managed a multi-million-dollar budget and a staff of 40 investigators tasked with tracking compliance with the city’s minority hiring practices.

   The last 15 years of her 50-year career were devoted to food writing, for which she was twice nominated for the James Beard Award -- and winning as part of a three-member team. After retiring from the Denver paper she returned to Texas to write a culinary memoir about her 20-year friendship with the late political columnist Molly Ivins. The book, Stirring it up with Molly Ivins (2011), was based on a mutual love of cooking. She is currently writing a book about growing up in a newspaper family -- when not feeding her addiction to Facebook.







July 24, 2018 




Bryan Cunningham, a  former NSA and CIA official and globally recognized expert, spoke on the threats to cybersecurity and what can be done to respond to them.

As the first executive director of the University of California-Irvine’s multidisciplinary Cybersecurity Policy & Research Institute, Cunningham is a leading international expert on cybersecurity law and policy, a former White House lawyer and advisor and a media commentator on cybersecurity.

   Cunningham has extensive experience in senior US government intelligence and law- enforcement positions. During the George W. Bush administration he served as deputy legal advisor to then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. He also served six years in the Clinton administration as a senior CIA officer and federal prosecutor. He drafted significant portions of the Homeland Security Act and related legislation, helping shepherd them through Congress. He was a principal contributor to the first National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, worked closely with the 9/11 Commission, and provided legal advice to the President and other senior government officials on intelligence, terrorism, cyber security, and related matters.

   Cunningham is a founding partner of Cunningham Levy Muse, a law firm based in Washington, DC, and Los Angeles. His law practice has included assisting Fortune 500 and multinational companies to comply with legal regulations under US federal law, myriad state laws and the numerous specific requirements in the European Union and other overseas jurisdictions. He was founding vice-chair of the American Bar Association Cyber Security Privacy Task Force and was awarded the National Intelligence Medal of Achievement for his work on information issues. Cunningham has served on the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Biodefense Analysis and is the principal author of legal and ethics chapters in several cybersecurity textbooks.






July 31, 2018 




Jon Bailey is a well-known composer, and award-winning teacher who  taught music at the Yale School of Music, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Pomona College, talked about the musical Hamilton and its impact on American culture.

Jonathan Bailey is well-known as a conductor, composer and teacher in the field of music, art and architecture. He holds degrees in music from Northwestern, UC Berkeley, and a doctorate from Stanford University. He was dean and professor of music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music prior to teaching at the Yale School of Music, where he conducted the Yale Concert Choir and the New Haven Chorale and taught courses in the history of music. Currently Jon is professor emeritus at Pomona College in Claremont, CA, where for 10 years he was chair of the music department and conducted the College’s choral ensembles. Twice he won the coveted “outstanding teacher of the year” award determined by the student body.

   Bailey currently teaches at the Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning at the University of San Francisco in such subjects as musical theater and the history of music -- his courses always filled with cross-cultural experiences of art and architecture. He has been a program consultant for National Public Radio, and an arts commissioner with the city of West Hollywood, CA. A recipient of two Fulbright research grants, he has traveled and studied in Europe and Australia.






August 7, 2018



David Hawkins, Director of the Climate Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, talked about climate change and the political challenges of addressing it.

David G. Hawkins, director of climate programs for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), began his work in “public interest” law upon graduation from Columbia University Law School in 1970. He joined the NRDC’s Washington, DC, office in 1971 as one of the organization’s first staff members.

   In 1977 Hawkins was appointed by President Carter to be an assistant administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency, where he initiated major new programs under the 1977 Amendments to the Clean Air Act. With President Reagan’s election in 1981, Hawkins returned to NRDC to co-direct NRDC’s clean air program.

   In 1990 Hawkins became director of NRDC’s air and energy program, and in 2000 he became the director of NRDC’s Climate Center, which advances policies and programs to reduce the pollution responsible for global warming. Hawkins has worked with Congress, the Executive Branch, and members of the business community to design policies that will slow, stop, and reduce the emissions of global warming pollution. Recognized as an expert on advanced coal technologies and carbon dioxide capture and storage, he assumed his current position as director of NRDC climate programs in 2011.

   Hawkins currently serves on the boards of the Woods Hole Research Center, Resources for the Future, the Center for Clean Air Policy, and the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York. He participated in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage and in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report on climate change. Hawkins received the California Air Resources Board’s Haagen-Smit Legacy Award in 2018.






August 14, 2018




Jeremy Sure is a distinguished professor at the University of Texas and author of nine books on contemporary politics and foreign policy, most recently The Impossible Presidency, discussed the challenges of the presidency in modern America.

Jeremi Suri holds the Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a professor in the university's department of history and the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

   Prof. Suri is the author and editor of nine books on contemporary politics and foreign policy. His most recent book is The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America’s Highest Office. His other books include Henry Kissinger and the American Century, Liberty's Surest Guardian: American Nation-Building from the Founders to Obama, and Foreign Policy Breakthroughs: Cases in Successful Diplomacy (with Robert Hutchings). Suri writes for major newspapers and magazines and various online sites and blogs. He is a popular public lecturer, and he appears frequently on radio and television programs.

   Of his work Suri writes, “I am a child of the global transformations that remade societies in the last century – war, migration, nation-building, and mobility through higher education. All of my research, writing and teaching seeks to explain these transformations…. I am a proponent of historical and political studies that are broad, compelling, creative, and, ultimately, useful. We should research with monkish rigor, as we write (and lecture) with novelistic flair.”