Past Sussman Lectures



November 2, 2023

“Dignity: The Foundation of a New Patriotism”

Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics International and co-founder of UNITE – an initiative to promote national unity and solidarity across differences

Americans may be more divided than ever, but some say our disagreements aren’t causing the division, but what we do when we disagree. At the Fall 2023 Sussman Lecture, Tim Shriver discussed “The Dignity Index”, which was developed by his nonprofit UNITE, and shared how it can be applied to solve the country’s toxic political and cultural divides. Shriver also explained why dignity is the key to easing divisions, preventing violence, and solving problems.



October 24, 2022

“The U.S. Supreme Court: Yesterday and Today”

Dr. Michael J. Nelson, Professor of Political Science and Social Data Analytics and Affiliate Law Faculty at Penn State University

Dr. Nelson discussed how the Supreme Court has changed over the past few decades in terms of its composition and its workload: there is now a perfect congruence between the ideology of the justices and the party of the presidents who appointed them, and the Court is deciding far fewer cases than in decades past (and using a different process to do so). Dr. Nelson examined the consequences of these trends for the Court’s public standing, the development of American law, and calls to reform the federal judiciary.



October 14, 2021

On Juneteenth

Annette Gordon-Reed, The First African-American Recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for History

Gordon-Reed discussed the end of slavery and the disconnect between “freedom” in legal terms versus lived reality, the unfulfilled promise of the Declaration for Black Americans, and the horrors they have had to endure even after the Emancipation Proclamation. Gordon-Reed also connected the violence and oppression that preceded and followed this celebration, to the current fight for equality. In 2022, Americans will observe Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S., as a federal holiday for the first time. As awareness for this significant date grows, it is important to reflect on the real meaning of freedom for formerly enslaved Americans.


April 08, 2021

A community-wide dialogue about systemic oppression and racial equity

Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Investigative Journalist and Iowa-Native

Nikole Hannah-Jones covered civil rights and racial injustice during a seven-series educational experience, Then. Now. When., offered by the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute. The Then. Now. When. experience, presented by Nationwide, utilized the 1619 Project along with local and national experts to help leaders gain an understanding of how beliefs and systems of racial oppression continue to impact the Greater Des Moines community today as well as what can be done to create a different future.



September 16, 2020

Disability employment and technology in the time of COVID

Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer, Microsoft

Microsoft’s Jenny Lay-Flurrie discussed the company’s commitment to competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities as well as how Microsoft’s tools and software have been integral to creating accessible remote work opportunities for all employees. This event is part of The Harkin Institute’s year-long celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

March 11, 2020

Protecting civilians on the front lines

Dr. Jean-Baptiste Richardier, human rights activist and co-founder, Humanity & Inclusion

Dr. Richardier, co-founder of Humanity & Inclusion, discussed the ongoing daily warfare against civilians, efforts to protect innocent individuals and the importance of providing support and resources for victims. This event was part of The Harkin Institute’s year-long celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).



May 1, 2019

North American Neighbors

  • Guadalupe Sánchez Salazar, Consul of Mexico in Omaha, Neb.
  • Ariel Delouya, Consul General a.i. at the Consulate General of Canada in Minneapolis, Minn.

Representatives from Canada and Mexico provided an insightful discussion about the state of U.S. relations, North American trade and imigration, among other topics.



November 1, 2018

NASA: 60 Years of Exploration

NASA Chief Historian Dr. Bill Barry

Our world has changed dramatically since NASA opened for business on October 1, 1958. Dr. Barry discussed NASA’s impact over the last 60 years, where we are going in the decades ahead, and six things many Americans probably don’t know about NASA history.

April 12, 2018

Keeping America Safe

  • Alex Iftimie, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice
  • Rose Jackson, CEO of RiseUp and former Chief of Staff to the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
  • Anthony Johnson, former Department of Defense liaison and Country Team Lead for the Security Governance Initiative (SGI) at the U.S. State Department
  • Chad Kreikemeier, professional staff member for the U.S Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

A panel of national security experts discussed how we keep America safe from the top global security threats of the day. The discussion addressed existing global security threats to the United States, both at home and abroad, and what is being done to keep the country safe



Octiber 30, 2017

The Evolving Role of American Mayors

Columbia, South Carolina Mayor Stephen Benjamin

Mayor Stephen Benjamin discussed some of the top issues facing American cities and their elected leaders today.

April 18, 2017

Our Future with Britain: How the U.K.’s leave from the EU affects us all

British Consul General Stephen Bridges

British Consul General Stephen Bridges shared insight on how the United Kingdom’s relations with both the European Union and the United States will change after the country voted in June 2016 to leave the EU.



September 19, 2016

The Child Labor Epidemic: A pattern of poverty and illiteracy

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi

Kailash Satyarthi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan (which translates to Save the Childhood Movement), shared his experience of liberating more than 85,000 children from forced child labor and ongoing efforts to rehabilitate and educate those children. Satyarthi discussed ongoing challenges associated with complex trade agreements, international labor standards, global policy on child labor and patterns of poverty, lack of education and classism.

April 19, 2016

The Only Bipartisan Issue in Congress: Sentencing reform

Julie Stewart, president and founder of the nonpartisan, nonprofit organization Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM)

Through storytelling and national expertise, Julie Stewart explored with the audience why policymakers as diverse as presidential candidate Ted Cruz and then President Barack Obama support reforming the sentencing laws that have filled America’s prisons. The attendees left this fascinating event with a new understanding of the impact of tough-on-crime laws and what our options are to address this epidemic of incarceration.



September 3, 2015

Beyond the Invisible Fence: The Making of Ferguson and Baltimore

Richard Rothstein, Economic Policy Institute

Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute and author of The Making of Ferguson: Public Policies at the Roots of Its Troubles took the audience on a captivating journey of the 20th century policies that succeeded in segregating every metropolitan area in the nation.

March 2, 2015

Billionaires: Wealth, politics, and American democracy

Darrell West, Brookings Institution

Using a balanced, bipartisan, and insightful approach, West explored the growing political activism of billionaires in recent elections. West told engaging stories of his personal interactions with the super wealthy and rich anecdotes of their influence. The audience left with an understanding of the implications of the “wealthification” of politics and society on American democracy and the political process.



October 1, 2014

A Conversation with Celine Cousteau: From the Amazon to the Oceans to Iowa.

Celine Cousteau, French explorer, education ambassador and documentary filmmaker

Celine Cousteau, a French explorer, education ambassador and documentary filmmaker invited the audience to dive into the world of water issues, sharing inspiring stories and vivid photographs of the Amazon river and voyages into the deep sea. Cousteau, who describes herself as an “oceanaut,” is the daughter of Jean-Michel Cousteau and granddaughter of the legendary Jacques Cousteau.

Listen to Céline Cousteau’s Iowa Public Radio interview with Charity Nebbe.

March 31, 2014

Edward Snowden vs. The NSA: Leaks, privacy and the surveillance state

Scott Shane, New York Times

New York Times reporter Scott Shane delivered a lecture on Edward Snowden and the National Security Agency, based on his extensive reporting on the NSA. Shortly before the lecture, Shane wrote a portrait of the National Security Agency based on some 50,000 of the secret documents released by Edward Snowden. He has written extensively about American drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen and the debate over targeted killing. Shane’s articles on interrogation, written with several colleagues, were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.

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